I found this article from the September 1996 edition of America's Civil War
(www.thehistorynet.com/AmericasCivilWar/articles/0996_text.htm) while surfing one day and thought you may enjoy a story about an unlikely Union soldier. Unfortunately, this article is no longer available on the Internet.
Ely S. Parker
Lieutenant Colonel Ely S. Parker served as member of Ulysses S. Grant's staff and was present at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia. On the morning of April 9, 1865, Grant insisted that he introduce his staff members to Lee. As each was introduced Lee shook his hand. When he reached Parker, a Seneca Indian, Lee hesitated. It seems he mistook Parker for either a freedman or mulatto but realizing his mistake, Lee extended his hand to Parker and graciously said "I am glad to see one real American here." Parker responded, "We are all Americans."
After the introductions the two Grant and Lee began the task of drafting the articles of surrender. When both agreed on the terms, Parker made multiple copies and placed them in a book and then prepared the final copy in ink to be signed by the two commanding generals. Lee examined the completed document and had an aid draft a letter accepting the terms. Grant accepted the letter signifying the surrender was complete. Parker put a copy of Grant's original draft in his jacket pocket. Later during his presidency, Grant signed the draft attesting to its authenticity making it a favorite Parker family heirloom.
Parker didn't find it easy to become a Union soldier. He first met Grant in 1860 in Galena, Illinois and struck up a lifelong friendship. When the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861, Parker became embroiled in the Civil War. Like Grant, he tried to join the Union Army. In mid-1861, he went to Albany and offered to raise a volunteer regiment of Iroquois to fight for the Union. The governor bluntly told him that Indians were not wanted in the New York volunteers. He then offered himself as an engineer for the Federal government. But he was again turned down. Secretary of State William Seward told him point blank: "The fight must be settled by the white men alone. Go home, cultivate your farm, and we will settle our troubles without any Indian aid." Parker did just that where he tended his crops and worked behind the scenes to gain a commission in the Union Army.
In 1863, after much red tape, Grant who needed engineers breveted Parker as a captain of engineers in the US Army. Finally, Parker achieved his long awaited dream of being a soldier. He began as an assistant adjutant general in Brig. Gen. J.E. Smith's division at Vicksburg, Miss., but after proving himself to be capable at directing volunteer soldiers soon worked his way up the ladder. He served with Grant at Vicksburg and by mid 1864 became a part of Grant's personal staff serving as the commander's de facto personal secretary. In August 1864, Parker replaced Lt. Col. William Rowley and the position became official. With the promotion came the rank of lieutenant colonel, "a partial reward for invaluable services" as New York Herald correspondent Sylvanus Cadwallader put it.
Known as "Grant's Indian," Parker was set apart from the normal officer. Although physically imposing, one observer likened Parker's nature to being "gentle and kind as a woman's." He was a highly intelligent man and as one of his Army friends called him "two hundred pounds of encyclopedia." Soft-spoken and polite, he definitely contributed to Grant's inner circle and he cultivated friendships with notable figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Mathew Brady.
It was not by chance that Parker was selected to draft the articles of surrender at Appomattox. His penmanship was widely recognized as exquisite and he had a command of the English language. After joining Grant's staff he took charge of making the necessary copies of the general's daily orders and correspondence. He normally signed the orders "By Command of Lieut. Gen. Grant, E.S. Parker, Asst. Adj't Gen'l" in his clear and elegant hand.
Parker's last act in the war was in fact the drafting of the articles of surrender. It was the crowning moment of his military career and one of the highlights of his life. After the war, he remained a member of Grant's staff and rose to the rank of brigadier general. He served until 1869, touring military facilities in the occupied South and recommending where he thought the Army could safely cut costs, close facilities and muster out troops.
In 1868, when Grant became President, Parker was appointed commissioner of Indian Affairs and became the logical choice to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). On April 26, 1869, after Congressional confirmation, Parker resigned his Army commission and became the first Indian to hold that office.
After a tempestuous term as head of the BIA, Parker resigned. He was much too honest and forthright to stave off the corruption that ran rampant. His enemies in Congress conspired against him and blamed him for all the corruption. His actions were questioned and he was soon relegated to being a figurehead. In the end he publicly stated that he was leaving voluntarily to go into business but privately told his friends that he had become a "rock of offense" for the administration. Even Grant failed to support him, which hurt Parker even more.
Parker's accomplishments in the BIA were significant. He engineered a peace policy with the Indians for which Grant was to become famous, and he got rid of much of the corruption within the system (albeit temporarily).
Just the fact that he was an Indian impressed the tribes under his care and put them at ease. Additionally, he changed the treaty-making policies which had always been advantageous to the whites. He could honestly boast that while there was some violence during his term, there had not been an Indian war.
After leaving government service, Parker moved to Wall Street and made a fortune on the stock market but lost it quickly in the financially troubled years of 1873-1875. He tried to go back into the engineering field but found that it had left him behind. He finally took a low-paying job as a clerk in the New York City police department. In spite of this he and his wife were well respected in New York social circles.
Parker died on August 30, 1895 at his country house in Fairfield, Conn. and was buried with full military honors at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield. In 1897, he was reburied next to the remains of his famous ancestor, the Seneca orator Red Jacket, at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.
Alternate source accessed 7 October 2005 available from ah.bfn.org/h/parker: Internet
Alternate source accessed 7 October 2005 available from www.amphilsoc.org/library/mole/p/parker.htm: Internet
Alternate source accessed 7 October 2005 available from ely-parker.biography.ms/: Internet
Alternate source accessed 7 October 2005 available from www.defenselinkmil/specials/nativeamerican01/injustice.html: Internet
Once again the tidbits are a bit longer than I thought they were going to be but I hope you enjoy them.
Have a good week, Winnie