Silas Soule (7/27/1838-4/23/1865), The Soule of a Man
Silas Soule was granted only 26 years on this planet, but he lived them to the fullest. Born 180 years (and one day) ago, killed in the streets of
Denver for taking a stand against powerful enemies, his short life was marked by tremendous feats of bravery and an ardent desire to fight the evils
of his day. Let’s take a moment to honor the brilliant flash of life which briefly visited this planet and left a lasting (even if little known)
impact, the life of Silas Soule.
Captain Silas Soule, c. 1865
The Soule Family Legacy
Silas Soule was born in Maine to abolitionist parents. His formative years were spent in Maine and Massachusetts, until, perhaps prompted by a lively
family reading of Uncle Tom’s Cabin
, the family decided to move to the still-forming state of Kansas and working towards establishing it as a
slave-free state. The Soule family moved to Coal Creek, Kansas in 1854, and although the harsh living conditions and illness soon convinced the
ladies to return to the Northeast, Silas, his father, and his brother remained and established a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Soule family
were among the founders of Lawrence, KS., and young Silas is also credited with being part of a small group of young men who raised money and
established the oldest continually operated library in Kansas--the Coal Creek Library.
Silas was 17 when he began actively participating in the bold rescue of humans stuck in bondage. He joined the anti-slavery militant group “The
Jayhawkers.” He was considered quite the skilled jailbreaker, and, along with a band of young men later coined “The Immortal Ten,” rescued Dr.
John Doy who was incarcerated after being caught trying to guide a group of slaves to their freedom.
Soule, second from right, with “The Immortal Ten.”
After family friend John Brown refused the Soules’ request to break him out of jail (he chose to martyr himself for his cause), Soule travelled to
Virginia in an attempt to free two of Brown’s accomplices from certain death. He feigned intoxication to gain access to the two men, who refused to
leave, preferring to join John Brown as a martyr to the cause. Silas later expressed his dismay at the men not wanting to live to fight some more.
Soule met Walt Whitman in Boston around this time, and the two men struck up a friendship and a correspondence. You can read one of Soule’s letters
to Whitman later in this piece.
Striking Out for Adventure
While Silas was away on his rescue attempt, his father heard word that he was a marked man. Silas was convinced not to return to Kansas. He decided
to join his brother in Colorado for the great gold rush. Silas saw no great success as a miner, tried his hand at blacksmithing, and then when the
war broke out in 1861 chose to sign up as a member of the Union Army in the First Colorado Volunteer Infantry.
Through great success at the Battle of Glorieta Pass (known by some historians as “The Gettysburg of the West”), Silas earned a name as a brave
and skilled tactical soldier. He was promoted to Captain as a result of this pivotal battle, while the entire Colorado Infantry was bestowed with the
title Cavalry, and his commanding officer Maj. Chivington was promoted to General. During this time, Soule wrote to his friend Walt Whitman
pertaining to some of his adventures. Here is an excerpt, but please follow the link to read the letter in full:
Well here I am camped on a sand bank on the Rio Grande River the weather is hot and we have seen little of the good things of America in the shape
of Grub and Clothing but we have a Regament composed of natures Noblemen. we left Denver poorly clothed and equipped in the month of February, marched
to Fort Union a distance of four hundred miles in fifteen days, two days we marched forty miles a day and then hearing that the Texans were marching
on Fort Union we marched over seventy miles in twenty four hours. I believe that was the best marching made by any Reg in the Service. We being short
of provision and destitute of Clothing our men stood it bravely and never murmured.
An Envoy for Peace
Silas Soule joined his friend Maj. Wynkoop (founder of Denver) and his commanding officer General Chivington in numerous peace talks with the Arapaho
and Cheyenne in the early 1860s.
Soule, bottom right, pictured with Wynkoop, bottom left, and an envoy of peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne. (Also in the picture are General
Chivington, Black Kettle, and John Smith).
As a result of these talks, Territorial Governor Evans granted the Cheyenne and Arapaho some acres Southwest of Denver where they could reside in
peace, under the protection of the Colorado regiment. Among the notable figures of Cheyenne warriors is Black Kettle, pictured below, who continued
to advocate for peace despite horrific breaches of treaties until he was killed in a massacre in Oklahoma, several years after escaping, with his
wounded wife, the massacre I am about to describe which was perpetrated in the early hours of a harsh prairie winter.
Black Kettle, second from left bottom row, and his envoy for peace.
There is no denying the contentious and fearful tension which pervaded many of the territorial states. The mutilated remains of a family of settlers,
widely believed to have been murdered by the hands of a stray band of warring Arapaho, were put on display in Denver in June 1864 and sparked fear and
indignation and prompted Governor Evans to declare war on the Indian nations.
The peace talks I mentioned above were a result of this declaration. Black Kettle and a number of men took to Denver for a number of talks during
which they announced their dedication to peace, and their intention to live with their people in harmony with their new neighbors.
While Governor Evans originally agreed to grant the Cheyenne and Arapaho people some land in Southwest Denver where they could live in amnesty, the
resources needed to maintain the mostly elderly, young, and female tribe members proved to be too much of a strain. Most historians agree that
Chivington had Evans’ full approval when he chose to attack the band in the early hours before dawn on November 29, 1864, less than three months
after attending the meeting with Black Kettle. The “battle” lasted 6-8 hours and ended in an estimated 150 dead, brutally massacred and butchered
majority women and children. During the attack the hungover and sleepless “Bloodless Third” (as they had been dubbed) took trophies of body
parts, accidently killed a few of their own in their frenzied approach, and took extra care to leave none of the wounded alive. The troops then rode
into Denver with their trophies, Chivington claiming to have killed 750 threatening braves.
But for Silas Soule, Chivington and Evans might have had important political careers ahead.
edit on 28-7-2018 by zosimov because: (no reason given)
edit on 28-7-2018 by zosimov because: (no reason
edit on 28-7-2018 by zosimov because: details, lol