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Ely S. Parker

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Ely S. Parker

Ely Samuel Parker (1828 - August 31, 1895), Hasanoanda, was an Iroquois of the Seneca tribe born at Indian Falls, New York (then part of the Tonawanda Reservation). During the Civil War, he wrote the final draft of the Confederate surrender terms at Appomattox.

Parker began his career in public service by working as a translator to the Seneca chiefs in their dealings with government agencies. In 1852 he was made sachem of the Seneca, Donehogawa, Keeper of the Western Door.

Later, Parker read law in Ellicotville, NY, only to be denied admittance to the bar due to his race. He then studied engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York and worked as a civil engineer until the Civil War.

During Civil War, Parker was first told by the Secretary of War, that he could not join the army since the Civil War was a "white man's war." Parker was, however, admitted into the military after his friend Ulysses S. Grant intervened. He was commissioned a captain in 1863 and rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel. Parker became the adjutant to his friend Ulysses S. Grant, and wrote the final drafts for the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in April 1865. During the surrender, Confederate general Robert E. Lee mistook Parker for a black man, but apologized saying "I am glad to see one real American here." Parker responded, "We are all Americans, sir."

After Civil War, Parker was head of the Federal Commission on Indian Affairs from 1869 to 1871. Leaving government service, he involved himself in the stock market, but eventually lost the fortune he accumulated. He lived his last years in poverty. His body was exhumed and moved to Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York, to lie with other notables of Western New York.

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