Ely Parker was a Chief, Lawyer, Engineer, Union Brigadier General, and an American

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Parker and the Articles of Surrender at Appomattox, Virginia 

Ely Parker

Grant's Staff; Ely S. Parker is seated on far left
Grant's Staff; Ely S. Parker.jpg
Library of Congress Picture

A non-citizen
Parker was educated as a lawyer, but being an Indian had been unable to sit before the bar, as he was not a citizen. He latter became an engineer for the U.S. Treasury Dept. and was sent to Galena, Illinois to superintend the construction of the customhouse.

In Galena, Parker met Grant, an obscure ex army Captain working as a clerk in his brother’s store. The two men became friends and during the war Grant made a position for the able Parker on his staff. At the time of the surrender Parker was a Lieutenant Colonel, but received the rank of Brevet Brigadier General after the War.

General Ely Parker
General Ely Parker.jpg
(Headstone Photograph)

Lieutenant Colonel Ely Parker made the formal ink copy of General Grant’s letter that spelled out the terms of surrender. “Having finished it, I brought it to General Grant, who signed it, sealed it and then handed it to General Lee.” Lt. Colonel Ely Parker

At the surrender meeting, seeing that Parker was an American Indian, General Lee supposedly remarked to Parker, “I am glad to see one real American here.” Parker later stated, “I shook his hand and said, We are all Americans.”

Among members of Grant’s Staff, Parker was known for his fine handwriting, his knowledge of the law, his sense of humor, and as a good fellow to have around in a fight. Parker once described himself as “a savage Jack Falstaff of 200 weight.”

Sources: National Park Service; Appomattox Court House National Historic Park

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