November 29th is the anniversary of the Sand Creek massacre, and you may be wondering why I bother to keep such horrible things in my memory.
I could say it’s because I am a horrible person, and my brain gravitates to terribly sad events to hold in its memory.
I could also make a claim that such an event should be remembered as a lesson of man’s cruelty to his fellow humans, but that sounds patronizing and insincere.
I could tell you the gosh honest truth — that I was reading a book of Cololrado ghost stories, and for the first time, absorbed the date of the attack, in large part, because it sunk in that it’s the day before my birthday.
Yes, that means I’m over 150 years old.
When I first heard the story of this dark spot in Colorado history, I was in grade school, and it was covered in the 4th grade state history curriculum. We learned that soldiers attacked and killed defenseless old men, women and children in the small village of peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne living on the banks of the Sand Creek.
The massacre was led by Colonel John Chivington in 1864. It was a national scandal.
What I didn’t learn in school was that not all the soldiers present joined in the attack. Two officers, Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer refused to follow Chivington’s orders, and told their men to hold their fire. Later, the two men provided testimony of the terrible mutilation of the bodies. Despite their testimony, no charges were ever brought against Chivington.
A few weeks after giving testimony in this case, Soule was murdered downtown by Charles Squires. Most people “knew” that the trigger man, a soldier loyal to Chivington, was probably hired or acting on orders by Chivington. Lt. Cannon tracked Squires, and brought him back to Denver to stand trial. Squires escaped jail, and Cannon was poisoned. Squires was never again captured or tried.
Silas Soule, a fascinating character in not only Colorado history but in US history, was from a famous family of abolitionists, who were good friends with John Brown. He was active in the border wars leading to the Civil War. His death came shortly after he’d been wed.
Originally, Soule was buried in Mt. Prospect cemetery, and a huge monument graced his burial spot. When that area became blighted, and bulldozed to make way for Cheeseman Park, Soule’s body was relocate to Riverside Cemetery. Today, only a military marker marks his resting place. It’s among the most often visited graves in the cemetery.
I went to the spot this weekend to get a picture, and was successful on that score, but, I failed to be able to get it posted in time to include her. I’ll try and add it at some point.
Usually, every year in late November, there is a healing walk, sponsored by the Cheyenne and Arapaho, that stops by the grave of Soule. They stop to honor the man who had refused to attack defenseless civilians, and who eventually, lost his life for taking this stand.