Life & Letters


About this Item

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

Date: January 8, 1862

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00586

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

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

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Rocky Mountains
Jan 8th 1862

Friend Walt

Perhaps you have forgotten a wild farmer's scarecrow [illegible] man who used to linger around Thayer & Eldridges Publishing 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 I am writing rather familiar for almost a stranger and writing to a distinguished Poet but I think I have made a sufficient appology when 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 came to Kansas and from there out here among Grizzly bears, Indians Yankees and almost every 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 hardships 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 1st Lieut of Co K 1st Reg Col Vols1 and suppose I shall be a 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 until a few days ago and the man who has that will not dispose of that for any price he brought it out with him to this country.

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

Yours &c
Silas S. Soule

P.S. Please direct

Lieut S. S. Soule
Camp Weld Denver
Col [illegible]

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 Colorado infantry and an accomplice.


1. 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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