Silas Soule and the Reassuring Words Every Mother Wants to Hear

For as much as we focus on the battles of the Civil War, actual combat made up a tiny fraction of the typical soldier’s lived experience. And while training, marching and other duties filled some of their days, they were also left with an immense amount of time to fill in camp, particularly between campaigns.

Writing letters home was a popular way to fill that void, and it served any number of purposes for soldiers. It was a way to pass the time and to stay in touch with loved ones. Other letters are attempts to process traumatic events; the horrors of a Civil War battlefield are scarcely imaginable for most of us today.

But this Mother’s Day, I want to take a moment to appreciate that for Silas Soule of the 1st Colorado Volunteers, writing home was also an opportunity to heckle his mother. In June of 1864, he sent her a very tongue-in-cheek latter that included the note, “I may go to fight Indians… if I do I will write first so you can be worrying while I am gone.”[1]

Memorial plaque to Silas Soule in downtown Denver. Photo by author.

By this time, Soule was well into his three year enlistment. He had seen hard fighting at Glorieta Pass in 1862, followed by skirmishing and hard marching. Since then Soule’s war had been mostly a mix of recruiting, administrative and frontier garrison duties, which his mother no doubt appreciated over him being in active combat.

Perhaps worried that he had been too reassuring in his previous letter, the next month Soule wrote again: “Don’t fret if you don’t hear from me once a year, for if I get killed you will hear of it soon enough.”[2]

I’m sure these are the reassuring words that every mother wants to hear.

A few months later, Soule would become famous for refusing to participate in the Sand Creek Massacre. Tragically, he was shot and killed on the streets of Denver in April 1865.


  1. Silas Soule to Sophia Soule, 2 June 1864, box 1, Silas Soule Collection, Denver Public Library.
  2. Silas Soule to Sophia Soule, 29 July 1864, box 1, Silas Soule Collection, Denver Public Library.

3 Responses to Silas Soule and the Reassuring Words Every Mother Wants to Hear

  1. Soule was a good man who consistently fought for his beliefs. I think it’s fitting the marker is along Arapahoe Street.

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