William Lewis Cabell, Confederate general and mayor of Dallas, son of Benjamin W. S. and Sarah Epes (Doswell) Cabell, was born on January 1, 1827, in Danville, Virginia. The elder Cabell was a veteran of the War of 1812 and a member of the Virginia General Assembly. William Cabell graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1850 and entered the United States Army as a brevet second lieutenant with the Seventh Infantry Regiment. In March 1858 he was made a captain in the quartermaster's department. On July 22, 1856, he married Harriet A. Rector in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The couple had seven children.
In March 1861 Cabell resigned his commission in the United States Army and traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, where he was commissioned a major in the Confederate Army. He was assigned to Richmond, Virginia, with the responsibility of organizing the quartermaster, commissary, and ordnance departments. Upon completion of that task, he was made chief quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac. In January 1862 he was transferred to the Trans-Mississippi Department and served on the staff of Gen. Earl Van Dorn. Later he was promoted to brigadier general. Cabell was wounded during the battles of Corinth and Hatcher's Bridge in the fall of 1862. He was captured near Mine Creek, Kansas, on October 25, 1864, and remained a prisoner of war until August 28, 1865, when he was released at Fort Warren, Massachusetts.
Upon his release Cabell joined his family in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1868. He and his family moved in 1872 to Dallas, Texas, where he served as agent of the Carolina Life Insurance Company. In 1874 he was elected mayor of the city, a position he held until 1876. He was elected mayor again in 1882. He was a delegate to the Democratic national conventions of 1876, 1884, and 1892. From 1885 to 1889 he was United States marshall for the Northern District of Texas. For four years he served as vice president and general manager of the Texas Trunk railway.
After the organization of United Confederate Veterans, Cabell devoted increasingly larger amounts of his time to that group. In 1890 he was elected commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department. He remained in that position until he was elected honorary commander in chief shortly before his death. He died in Dallas on February 22, 1911.