Ely S. Parker, a Native American, Drafted the Surrender Documents for the Civil War

Ely S. Parker’s homestead on Tonawanda Reservation. Accessgenealogy.

Parker and a Notable Civil War Document

While Parker wrote much of Grant’s correspondence throughout the last couple years of the Civil War, Parker’s most famous contribution to the Civil War would be the ending of the war. Parker was at the meeting in April 1865, where Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse. In fact, Parker was the one who wrote the draft of the surrender documents. Of this meeting, Parker stated that General Lee “stared at me for a moment” before extending his hand towards Parker and stating, “I am glad to see one real American here.” Parker noted that everyone was a real American.

Post-Civil War

After the Civil War, Parker and Grant remained close. On July 1, 1866, Parker was appointed as an officer in the 2nd United States Cavalry. And once again, with the rank of colonel, Parker became Grant’s military secretary. Parker then began to renegotiate treaties with Native American tribes who had sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. In 1867, Parker married a white lady, and together they had one child. On April 26, 1869, Parker resigned from the United States Army with the rank of brigadier general of Regulars.

Ely S. Parker with his daughter. Pinterest.

Grant’s Presidency

One of the first people Grant appointed once he took office in March of 1869 was Parker. Grant had Parker on his team during and after the Civil War and wanted to continue that relationship as Grant knew Parker would do wonders during his presidency. Therefore, Parker was appointed as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, which he served from 1869 until 1871. On top of being one of the first people named by Grant, Parker went down in history as being the first Native American in this position.

One of Parker’s biggest responsibilities during this time was Grant’s Peace Policy. Parker took the lead on the policy and worked on the condition towards the Native American in the West. Under Parker’s leadership, the conditions were improved. One of the most significant improvements was that Parker was able to get help for the Native Americans during their transition to living on reservations. Another notable development was reducing the amount of military action against the Native Americans in the west.

End of Life

Once Parker was done in politics, he turned his sights onto the stock market. Like most everything Parker did in his life, he succeeded in the stocks until the Panic of 1873 when Parker lost everything. In order to support himself and his family, Parker used his connections to gain a position in the Board of Commissioners of the New York Police Department’s Committee on Supplies and Repairs section. However, Parker’s life did not turn after the Panic of 1873, and he died in poverty in Fairfield, Connecticut on August 31, 1895. But while the end of Parker’s life might not have been his greatest moments, he will forever remain a real American in the history books.

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Ely Parker: Iroquois Chief and Union Officer.” Floyd B. Largent, Jr., Historynet. June 2006.

“Ely S. Parker: Straddling two cultures, he saved two nations.” Tom Augherton, True West Magazine. April 2015.

“Ely S. Parker 1828-1895.” Historical Society of New York Courts.

“Biography of Ely S. Parker.” Daryl Watson, Galena and U.S. Grant Museum.

Featured Image:
Ely S. Parker. Thedailybeast.