Title: Silas S. Soule to Walt Whitman, Summer 1862
Date: Summer 1862
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Drum Beats: Walt Whitman's Civil War Boy Lovers, ed. Charley Shively (San Francisco, California: Gay Sunshine Press, 1989), 188-189. 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.00591
Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Eric Conrad, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Nick Krauter, and Nicole Gray
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.3
The Texans flushed with success having whipped three thousand Regulars and volunteer mexican troops at Fort Craig were marching boldly on towards Fort Union laying the country waste wherever they went. We all eager to try our Reg. marched one hundred miles and met the enemy on their own ground in Apache Country in the mountains our force of nine hundred theirs of two thousand we fought seven hours some times hand to hand over rocks stumps and trees regular bush whacking Indian fighting the Texans loss was about five hundred killed and wounded, ours about one hundred and eighty we burned sixty of their wagons loaded with provisions, clothing, ammunition and valuables leaving them destitute4 they commenced their retreat the next day we followed a few days after joined Gen Canbys5 force at Alberquerque, drove the ensuing two hundred miles like a flock of sheep At Peralta we had another little battle where we took seven wagons and a number of Prisoners they said they did not mind fighting Regular troops but there was no use fighting Chivingtons Grey blouse Pikes Peak Sons of bitches so they burned all they had and fled to the mountains making for Texas with all possible speed and I am inclined to believe that they will never have any inclination to come to New Mexico again. Our Colonel Chivington was a Methodist Preacher Presiding elder in Colorado he is about six feet four inches high and built in proportion a first rate fellow and liked by his Regiment.
We have marching orders now to join Col Carlton's6 California troops about three hundred miles south of here I expect we will start in about a week. we are getting tired of lying still although we have our sports, to night we have a swimming match for a purse of $30. they are to swim across the Rio Grande our Boys have built houses for themselves some of mud some of willow and some have dug houses in the bank by the River and live quite comfortable. I am afraid you will not find much in this letter to interest you for I am in no humor for writing to day. I may do better next time I hope to hear from you before long,
I remain your Friend Lieut Silas S. Soule, Ist Reg Col[orado] Vol[unteer]s In the Field New Mexico
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. Fort Union, Albuquerque, was Henry Hopkins Sibley's next target after the battle of Valverde, February 21, 1862. On March 26, 1862, the Confederate Texas Rangers met the Union forces led by Major John Chivington in a conflict later to be called the Battle of Apache Canyon. On the March 28, 1862, Chivington won a significant victory for the Union in the Battle of Glorieta Pass. [back]
3. Soule's regiment (Company K, 1st Regiment Colorado Volunteers) 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. [back]
4. The Battle of Valverde was fought near Fort Craig, New Mexico, on February 21, 1862. On March 26, 1862, the Confederate Texas Rangers met the Union forces led by Major John Chivington in a conflict later to be called the Battle of Apache Canyon. On March 28, 1862, Chivington won a significant victory for the Union in the Battle of Glorieta Pass. [back]
5. Edward R. S. Canby was commander of the Military Department of New Mexico for the Union. [back]
6. James Henry Carleton was Colonel of the 1st California Volunteer infantry. [back]