One Door Closes, Another One Opens
With the realization that he could not become a lawyer, Parker decided to turn his sights onto new professional territory, engineering. Just like every other subject Parker had picked up throughout his life, he faced his new adventures head on with firm determination. At first, his focus was with the construction of canals, but in 1857, he was appointed with a new task. The Treasury Department had asked him to manage the development of a marine hospital and custom houses in Galena, Illinois.
It was when he was head of the construction in Galena in which he became friends with another popular historical figure of his time, Ulysses S. Grant. Parker was able to meet Grant because part of his job in Galena was to supervise governmental projects. Therefore, he began working closely with Grant on a couple of projects. Just like Morgan, Grant saw a lot of potential in Parker. In fact, Grant would never forget the determination Parker had, which would also come in handy in Parker’s future career.
The American Civil War
When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Parker was quick to form an Iroquois volunteer regiment to help in the Union efforts. However, Parker was quickly turned down, and his regiment did not officially form. Parker then turned his efforts into trying to help the Union Army differently, by joining as an engineer. Again, Parker was turned down and told he could not participate because he was a Native American. But, like many times before, Parker did not let this rejection stop him from his goal in helping the Union efforts during the Civil War.
Ely Parker then turned to his good friend, Ulysses S. Grant, who was involved in the Civil War. Grant, who remembered Parker’s determination and skill well, immediately worked on getting Parker a place in the Union Army. Because Grant’s forces were suffering from a shortage of engineers, Parker gained a spot under General John Eugene Smith. Parker’s first duty during the Civil War was with Smith’s 7th Division during the Siege of Vicksburg from May through July of 1863.
After Grant became commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, Parker was given a different task. Parker became Grant’s adjutant during the Chattanooga Campaign, and then Parker followed Grant as his adjutant to the United States’ Army headquarters. Parker continued to follow Grant under this title until the Siege of Petersburg when Parker was given the rank of lieutenant colonel as Grant’s secretary. Parker then began writing out most of Grant’s correspondence and orders through the rest of the Civil War.