Donation by James Hale brings Commemorative back to the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame
by Tracie Evans
Past Collections Manager
Mr. James M. Hale of Northwest Arkansas recently donated an “Official Texas Ranger Dragoon Colt Revolver” commemorative modeled after the Colt presentation revolver given to Texas Ranger Ben McCulloch January 1, 1848. Colt hoped that McCulloch, a famous Texas Ranger and Mexican War officer, would endorse his firearms and help make them a commercial success.
The firearm commemorates the 1848 Whitneyville Hartford Dragoon, a transitional early colt between the legendary Colt Walker and the 1st Dragoon model.
This firearm was produced by America Remembers for the U. S. Historical Society and authorized by the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Through an oversight at the time, no example of this commemorative—which helped fund the construction of the Hall of Fame—was saved for the collections.
The Texas Ranger Hall of Fame is very grateful to Mr. Hale for bringing this wonderful piece back to the museum.
Mr. Hale, an amateur historian and firearms collector, became interested in the life of Captain Ben McCulloch while learning about his own family history. His Great Grandfather James Wardrup served in the 2nd Arkansas Mounted Rifles under McCulloch during the Civil War.
James Hale acquired and later donated this commemorative because of its association with Captain Ben McCulloch. He had the following to say:
“The original McCulloch Dragoon, the Whitneyville-Hartford Colt no. 1337, is still in existence. I know where it is, and accept the fact that it is well beyond my means to obtain it. I feel no one really owns a pistol like that one. It becomes a form of stewardship at that level of gun collecting.
It is my sincere hope that an investor may one day agree that Ben McCulloch’s old Dragoon belongs to history and to Texas now. It’s true home is here in the Hall of Fame, where generations of young people may learn of the revolver and the Ranger its served so long and so well.”
Benjamin McCulloch was born November 11, 1811 in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Late in 1835 he and his brother Henry, made their way to Texas arriving after the fall of the Alamo. Ben joined the Texan army and at the Battle of San Jacinto manned one of the cannons known as the "twin sisters." He won praise and a battlefield promotion from Sam Houston.
After leaving the army, he worked as a surveyor and joined Jack Hays' company of Rangers. He was involved in many skirmishes with the Indians including the battle of Plum Creek in 1840, and in the campaign against Indians located along the tributaries of the Guadalupe River in 1841. In 1842 he was elected as 1st Lieutenant in Jack Hays' company of Rangers.
During the Mexican War, McCulloch raised Company A of Col. Jack Hays' First Regiment, Texas Mounted Volunteers. Showing great skill in tracking and scouting, he was named Gen. Zachary Taylor's chief of scouts and rose to the rank of Major. In 1849, he caught "gold fever" and traveled to Sacramento, California where he served as sheriff until he returned to Texas in 1852. He was appointed U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Texas and was appointed as one of the commissioners charged with investigating the Mormon troubles in Utah in 1857.
In May 1861, he offered his services to the Confederacy, was commissioned a brigadier-general, and ordered to Fort Smith, Arkansas. During the Battle of Pea Ridge, March 7, 1862, McCulloch commanded the Confederate right wing that overran and drove the Union forces from their position. Later, riding through the undergrowth to ascertain the new Union position, he was shot and killed.