The Forgotten Story of Silas Soule, Hero and Friend of Walt Whitman and John Brown

Abolitionist and terrorist John Brown. Wikimedia

2. John Brown became a close friend of the Soule family in Lawrence

After Amassa Soule established his home as a safehouse on the Underground Railroad, John Brown became a frequent visitor and welcome guest. Brown, like Amassa, was a religious zealot who believed his duty to end slavery outweighed the law of the land. He considered violence against the pro-slavery faction, including ambush and murder of slavery supporters, was part of his moral obligation to end slavery, and found Amassa Soule to be in agreement. So was young Silas. He became one of Brown’s allies, and rode with him and his sons in many of their raids against the pro-slavery settlements along the Kansas-Missouri border.

Both sides became known by many names, including Border Ruffians for the proslavery factions, and Jayhawkers for Brown and like-minded groups. Both were derisive terms applied to their enemies by their opponents. Silas Soule developed the reputation of being one of the most dangerous of the Jayhawkers. By 1856 the two sides were engaged in guerrilla warfare, attacking armed parties and raiding settlements, in both Kansas and Missouri. Merciful treatment of opponents, especially by John Brown and his men, was rare. In 1859 Silas Soule took part in a raid which cemented his reputation as one of the most fearsome of the raiders.