Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Silas S. Soule to Walt Whitman, 8 January 1862

Date: January 8, 1862

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Drum Beats: Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers, ed. Charley Shively (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1989), 187. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00586

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Eric Conrad, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Kathryn Kruger, and Nick Krauter

Friend Walt,

Perhaps you have forgotten a wild farmer scarecrow and man who used to linger around Thayer & Eldridge Publishers office Boston in the spring of 1860. But he still remembers you and has been waiting very patiently for a volume of Leaves of Grass which was to be sent to Lawrence Kansas. Perhaps you think I1 am writing rather familiar for almost a stranger and writing to a distinguished poet but I think I have made a sufficient appology and I tell you I have been in the Rocky Mountains for almost two years where every man is an old acquaintance if you never saw him before.

When I left Boston I went to Kansas and from there out here among Grizzly bears, Indians, Yankees and almost every other species of man and beast that inhabit the globe. I have lived on venison and I have lived on bread I have gone hungry for many a day and have had plenty to eat for many more, and for all the hard life I have seen it suits me   I like it   I enjoy myself hugely and I think you would do the same.

I now hold the position of Ist Lieut of Co K Ist Reg Col[orado] Vols.2 I suppose I shall be soldier for the next few years.

I have often heard Leaves of Grass highly spoken of away out here but have never seen a volume and a few days ago the man who has that will not dispose of that possession he brought out with him to this country.

I am in an old dog shanty to night away up in the mountains about forty miles from the valley the wind blows a perfect hurricane and it is cold as Greenland. I am writing by the light of a pitch fire for it is past twelve oclock and I must go to bed as I must march for the valley in the morning & dont want you to forget to do this. Good night.

Yours &c


1. Silas S. Soule (1838-1865) was raised by an abolitionist father, Amasa Soule, who moved the Soule family to Kansas to help fight for Kansas's anti-slavery status. With his father and brother William, Silas was a member of the "Jayhawkers," a band of abolitionists who assisted slaves through the Underground Railroad. Silas was among the Kansas team assembled and brought to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania by Richard Swinton to break John Brown's accomplices Albert Hazlett and Aaron Stevens out of jail in Charlestown, Virginia (now West Virginia). In Harrisburg he would have met William W. Thayer, who helped Richard Hinton and Thomas Wentworth Higginson plan the jailbreak. On February 18, 1860, Soule went to Charlestown from Harrisburg and faked public intoxication in order to be imprisoned in the same jail as Hazlett and Stevens, only to be talked out of the jailbreak by them. Soule attended a public memorial for Hazlett and Stevens in Boston, where Thayer and Eldridge were in attendance. After the death of his father in 1860, Soule followed the gold rush to Denver, but enlisted in the Union army as soon as news of the war reached him. In 1864 Soule defied orders by refusing to join Colonel John M. Chivington's attack on a group of unarmed native americans, which later came to be known as the Sand Creek Massacre. Soule would later testify against Chivington in hearings in Denver. Soule married Hersa Coberly, the daughter of a pioneer family, on April 1, 1865. Three weeks later he was murdered on the streets of downtown Denver by a private from the Second Colarado infantry and an accomplice. [back]

2. 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. [back]


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