Another shooting on the streets of Denver
Silas Soule (pronounced “sole”) was born in Maine in 1838, and grew up there and later in Massachusetts. His parents were strong abolitionists who joined a group whose goal was to help settle the Kansas territory and bring it into the Union as a Free State. His Father and brother moved to Kansas in 1854, settling near Lawrence, and one year later Silas, his sisters, and mother joined them. Their house became a way station on the underground railway for slaves fleeing the south.
In 1860 Silas and his brother joined the gold rush to Colorado, and after the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 Silas enlisted in the Colorado Volunteers. He was rapidly promoted, and by 1864 he was a Captain in commanded of a Company of the Colorado Cavalry. Later that year they were transferred to Fort Lyon in southeastern Colorado.
In June 1864 a family of four was killed by Indians 25 miles south-east of Denver, leading to a public outcry for armed protection for the city. The Governor, John Evans, could not get troops from either Kansas or the Federal government, however Colorado was allowed to raise a regiment of volunteers for 100 days. Colonel John Chivington, a former Methodist minister, an avowed Indian hater, and the hero of the Battle of Glorietta Pass was put in charge of the volunteers. He raised a regiment of several hundred, and after Evans went to Washington to try to get troops there, Chivington realized the 100 days were almost up, marched his regiment to Fort Lyon where he commandeered 200 more troops, including Silas Soule’s Company, and on November 29, 1864, he fell on the Indian camp at Sand Creek, which was flying the US flag and a white flag of surrender. Although ordered to attack, Soule could see that the Indians were mainly peaceful women, children and old men, so he ordered his troops to stand fast. The rest of the soldiers killed about 160 of the natives, and after the massacre they scalped and mutilated many of the victims. Chivington branded Soule a coward, and threatened to have him cashiered from the army, but when word of the engagement got back to Washington, it was realized it had been a massacre, and an inquiry was instituted. At the Court of Inquiry, held in Denver in February 1865, Soule testified that the massacre was primarily the fault of Chivington, and all those involved were vilified. Governor Evans was asked to resign, and there was talk that Chivington would be court-marshaled, but instead he resigned his volunteer commission and moved to Nebraska.
Silas Soule was appointed the Provost Marshall of Denver in charge of the military police here. On April first, 1865, he married Hersa Coberly, but just three weeks later, on April 23rd he heard a commotion outside his home. He went out to investigate, two men jumped from some bushes, and one shot him in the head, killing him. The shooter, private Charles Squire, a supporter of Chivington, fled to New Mexico, but one of Soule’s Lieutenants, James Cannon, tracked him down and brought him back to jail in Denver. A few days later Cannon was found poisoned in his room. Later that summer, with inside help, Squire escaped from jail and was not seen in Colorado again.
Soule was originally buried in City Cemetery with full military honors. When that became Cheesman Park his body was removed to Riverside Cemetery where it is buried in the Grand Army of the Republic section. His widow remarried, and is also buried at Riverside beside her second husband.
In 2010 a historic plaque was placed on the east side of the Park Central building at 15th and Arapahoe, near where he was killed, commemorating Silas Soule and his courageous stand.
By Tom Morton
Capt. Silas Stillman Soule is buried at Riverside Cemetery – Denver, Block 27