Memorial for Captain Silas Soule Finally a Reality

This article first appeared in the Broomfield Enterprise.

If you’ve read my previous columns, you’ll remember the story of Silas Soule, a true Colorado hero who blew the whistle on John Chivington after the massacre of peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho at Sand Creek in 1864.

Every year, the Cheyenne and Arapaho hold the Sand Creek Massacre Spiritual Healing Run to commemorate the massacre and honor Silas Soule and others who spoke up against the actions of the cavalry that day.  Every year the event is both moving and distressing, but for many, this year’s was particularly emotional — for two reasons.

After nearly a dozen years of bureaucratic wrangling, the Colorado Historical Society and other history activists have finally succeeded in placing a memorial marker for Captain Silas Soule on the building at the northwest corner of Fifteenth and Arapaho in Denver. This is the spot where Soule was assassinated several months after testifying against his former commander, John Chivington. At ten a.m. on Saturday, November 27, 2010, Colorado State Historian William Convery unveiled the plaque, which reads:

“Silas S. Soule. At this location on April 23, 1865, assassins shot and killed 1st Colorado Cavalry officer Capt. Silas S. Soule. During the infamous Sand Creek Massacre of November 29, 1864, Soule had disobeyed orders by refusing to fire on Chief Black Kettle’s peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho village. Later, at army hearings, Soule testified against his commander, Col. John M. Chivington, detailing the atrocities committed by the troops at Sand Creek. His murderers were never brought to justice.”

As part of the unveiling ceremony, Lee LaForce Lonebear, a descendant of Sand Creek victim Chief White Antelope of the Cheyenne, sang White Antelope’s song in honor of Captain Soule.

Silas Soule memorial marker

Byron Strom, left, a descendant of the Soule family, and Lee Laforce Lonebear, a descendant of Cheyenne chief White Antelope who was killed at Sand Creek, read the marker erected in Soule’s honor.

After the traditional walk to the capitol steps, the Cheyenne and Arapaho hosted a reception for participants at the beautiful Trinity United Methodist Church at 18th and Broadway. This brings us to the second reason why this year’s healing run was particularly special. The Methodist church has been reaching out to the Arapaho and Cheyenne, and one reason is because John M. Chivington, the central perpetrator of the massacre, was a Methodist minister.

As Bishop Elaine Stanovsky movingly says, “Methodists were key leaders of the massacre. We need to come to understand how Christian people could engage in these acts of wanton violence.  We need to understand that Methodist churches in Colorado are built on a foundation of injustice.  We can’t change the past.  But we can form new relationships of mutual respect and honor.  I’m here to build relationships that offer hope for the future.” Words that bring hope indeed.

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7 thoughts on “Memorial for Captain Silas Soule Finally a Reality

  1. Pingback: Captain Silas S. Soule: Paid with his life to do the right thing « Intriguing Faces and Places from Colorado's Past

  2. Soule should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for defying Chivington.
    Chivington should be court-martialed posthoumously and have his resignation changed
    to a dishonorable discharge.

    Historical Note: on November 27, 1868, almost 4 years to the day after Sand Creek,
    Black Kettle’s band was again attacked, this time by Custer and the 7th cavalry. Custer
    had been following a Kiowa war party and apparently mistook Black Black Kettle’s village
    for the Kiowas’ camp. About 40 Cheyennes were killed in this affair, which was called the
    Battle of the Washita, including Black Kettle and his wife, and 53 more were taken prisoner.
    (Custer’s orders were to kill “all warriors”–i.e.all adult males but to take the women and
    children captive. That did not stop Custer’s men from killing women and children–in some
    some cases, at least, the women, remembering what had happened to those who had tried
    to surrender at Sand Creek armed themselves and shot at the soldiers who were trying
    to get them to surrender. Of course, the soldiers shot back in self defense.) 4 of Custer’s
    men were killed in the attack on the village including a grandson of Alexander Hamilton and
    14 more were wounded. Another officer, Major Joel Elliot, took a detachment consisting
    of a sargeant and 15 enlisted men to investigate reports of further encampments a few
    miles away. Elliot and his detachment were ambushed and wiped out just as Custer
    would be at the Little Big Horn 8 years later. Custer made no attempt to retrieve the
    bodies of Major Elliot and his men, something for which he was much criticized.

  3. I propose that Mt Evans which was named for Governor Evans who was himself partially reponsible for the Sand Creek Massacre – be renamed Mt. Soule in honor of a true American hero.

  4. I am a distant relative of Silas Soule and have attended 2 of the Healing Run tributes at Riverside cemetery. They truly love Capt. Soule who was quite a courageous man considering the culture at the time. I have enjoyed the book ” Forgotten Heroes and Villains of Sand Creek”.
    Thank you, June Reilly

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