Capt. Silas S. Soule (USA)

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Silas Stillman Soule

Birthdate: (26)
Birthplace: Bath, Sagadahoc, Maine, United States
Death: April 23, 1865 (26)
Denver, Colorado Territory (Shot and killed on a street in Denver. )
Place of Burial: Denver, Denver, Colorado, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Amasa Soule and Sophia Soule
Husband of Thersa A. Soule
Brother of William L. G. Soule; Emily Norwood Soule; Ann Julia Prentiss and Amasa Edwin Soule

Occupation: Massachusetts abolitionist, Kansas Territory Jayhawker, Commander of Company D, 1st Colorado Cavalry, US Civil War
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Capt. Silas S. Soule (USA)

Silas Stillman Soule (July 26, 1838 – April 23, 1865) was a Massachusetts abolitionist, Kansas Territory Jayhawker, and a soldier in the Colorado infantry and cavalry during the American Civil War. Captain Soule, as commander of Company D, 1st Colorado Cavalry, was present at the Sand Creek Massacre on November 29, 1864. He refused an order of his commander, Colonel John Chivington, to fire on defenseless Indians, primarily old men, women, and young children. Soule later testified against Chivington for the atrocities committed by him and his troops. He was shot and killed on a street in Denver soon afterward; the shooting was believed to have been a premeditated assasination by Chivington loyalists.

Early life and "Bleeding Kansas"

Silas Soule was born into a family of abolitionists in Bath, Maine. He was raised in Maine and Massachusetts and, in 1854, his family became part of the newly formed New England Emigrant Aid Company, an organization whose goal was to help settle the Kansas Territory and bring it into the Union as a free state. His father and brother arrived in Kansas, near Lawrence, in November 1854. Silas, his mother and two sisters came the following summer.

Border war

Shortly after the family's arrival at Coal Creek, a few miles south of Lawrence near present day Vinland, Amasa Soule, Silas's father, established his household as a stop on the Underground Railroad. At the young age of 17, Silas was escorting slaves, escapees from Missouri, north to freedom. Silas's sister, Anne Julia Soule Prentiss, tells of her family's early experience in Maine, Massachusetts and Kansas in a 1929 interview. "Our house was on the 'Underground Railway'. John Brown was often there... My Brother, Silas, and Brown were close friends. Silas went out on many a foray with him. I recall well when Brown came to our cabin one night with thirteen slaves, men, women and children. He had run them away from Missouri. Brown left them with us. Father would always take in all the Negroes he could. Silas took the whole thirteen from our home eight miles to Mr. Grover's stone barn..."

During these pre-war years pro-slavery forces from Missouri and abolitionist forces from Kansas were engaged in open warfare. The fight was whether Kansas would be admitted to the Union as a slave or as a free state. This conflict, often called Bleeding Kansas, enhanced the reputation of Silas Soule as a brave and resourceful fighter.

In July, 1859, Soule was part of an action on the Missouri Border. Twenty pro-slavery men had crossed into Kansas to look for escaped slaves. They ambushed a party led by Dr. John Doy, a physician in Lawrence, escorting 13 former slaves, 8 men, three women and two children toward safety in Iowa. The men from Missouri arrested Dr. Doy and sold the former slaves. Doy was soon tried and convicted in Missouri for abducting slaves and sentenced to 5 years in the penitentiary. Soule and a group of other men from Lawrence decided to free Doy. Soule was sent into the jailhouse in St. Joseph where Doy was being held. Soule convinced the jailkeeper that he had a message from Doy's wife. The note, in fact, read "Tonight, at twelve o'clock." Later that night, they overpowered the jailer, freed Doy, and led him across the Missouri back to Kansas. When they reached Lawrence, they had their photo taken.

His skills at prison escapes came into use once again when John Brown, a friend of the Soule family, was captured after his raid on Harper's Ferry. Soule found his way into the prison where Brown was being held, some say by posing as a drunk. Once inside, he tricked the jailer into letting him see Brown. When Soule explained the plans to Brown, Brown refused to be rescued, himself having developed a new plan to end slavery. Brown had decided to become a martyr for the abolitionist cause and allowed himself to be hanged, hoping his death would help bring on a war between north and south.

Sand Creek Massacre

In May, 1860 Silas, along with his brother William L.G. Soule, and his cousin, Sam Glass, went to the gold fields in Colorado. "When I arrived here I found a party waiting for me to go to pikes peak. My Brother and cousin were in the gang going with a quartz machine belonging to Solomon and Parker of Lawrence and there was no way but I must go."[3] Soule dug for gold and worked in a blacksmith shop, and then in December, 1861, he enlisted in Company K, 1st Colorado Volunteers. He made his way up the ranks, and in November 1864, was named commander of Company D, 1st Colorado Cavalry. On November 29, 1864, Captain Soule and his company were with the regiment at Sand Creek, Colorado. Col. John Chivington ordered the cavalry to attack the Cheyenne encampment. Soule saw that the Cheyenne were flying the U.S. flag as a sign of peace, and, when told to attack, ordered his men to hold their fire and stay put. Chivington's men, however, immediately attacked. The resulting action is now known as the Sand Creek Massacre, one of the biggest mass slaughters in U.S. history.

   "I refused to fire, and swore that none but a coward would, for by this time hundreds of women and children were coming towards us, and getting on their knees for mercy. ... I tell you Ned it was hard to see little children on their knees, having their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized."
       - Captain Silas Soule, letter to Major Edward W. Wynkoop, 14 December 1864

Chivington was furious over Soule's refusal to attack the camp and branded him a coward. Soule's men came to his defense, saying that Soule was indeed very courageous in refusing Chivington's order. Witness

The massacre sparked outrage and shock around the country. The United States Army began an investigation into the "battle," and Soule formally testified against Chivington in a court of inquiry.

On April 23, 1865, Charles Squires, a soldier, shot Soule in the head near his Denver, Colorado home, killing him. It is thought that Squires was hired by men loyal to Chivington to kill Soule. One of Soule's men, First Lieutenant James Cannon, tracked Squires down in New Mexico and brought him back to Denver to stand trial. Squires escaped and Cannon was poisoned. Squires was never again captured and escaped punishment.

Soule's testimony against Chivington and about the massacre at Sand Creek led, in part, the United States Congress to refuse the Army's request for thousands of men for a general war against the Native Americans of the Plains States.


U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 about Silas S. Soule

Name: Silas S. Soule

Side: Union

Regiment State/Origin: Colorado Territory

Regiment Name: 1 Colorado Cavalry.

Regiment Name Expanded: 1st Regiment, Colorado Cavalry

Company: K,D

Rank In: Lieutenant

Rank In Expanded: Lieutenant

Rank Out: Captain

Rank Out Expanded: Captain

Film Number: M534 roll 3

Organized by the territory's first governor, William Gilpin, Company K, 1st Regiment Colorado Volunteers began enlisting in August 1861. Nicknamed "Gilpin's Pet Lambs" because of the governor's involvement in their organization, the regiment marched to northern New Mexico from February 1862 to March 1862. There they fought in the battles of Apache Canyon and Pigeon's Ranch (also called the Battle of Glorieta Pass) and at Peralta, New Mexico. Their first colonel was John P. Slough, who resigned and was replaced by Major John M. Chivington in April 1862. The regiment's first and only lieutenant-colonel was Samuel F. Tappan.


U.S., Returns from Military Posts, 1806-1916 about S S Soule

Name: S S Soule

Post Name: Lyon, Fort

Post Location: Colorado

Post Commander: E W Wynkoop

Military Place: Fort Lyon, Colorado Territory

Return Period: Dec 1862

U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006 about S S Soule

Name: S S Soule

Service Info.: US ARMY CIVIL WAR

Cemetery: Riverside Cemetery

Cemetery Address: 5201 Brighton Blvd Denver, CO 80216

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Capt. Silas S. Soule (USA)'s Timeline

July 26, 1838
Bath, Sagadahoc, Maine, United States
April 23, 1865
Age 26
Denver, Colorado Territory
Denver, Denver, Colorado, United States