Surrender of Lee to Grant, Appomattox Court House

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Louis-Mathieu Didier Guillaume, Surrender of Lee to Grant, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, VA.

Lieutenant Colonel Ely S. Parker (standing in the picture below just behind Grant’s right shoulder) was a Seneca Indian who served as General Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary toward the end of the war. When General Robert E. Lee arrived at the McLean House in Appomattox to surrender, he shook hands with the assembled officers. Apparently surprised to see the Native American among Grant’s staff, he said reportedly, as he extended his hand to him, “I am glad to see one real American here.” Parker replied, “We are all Americans.”

Grant himself had intervened with civilian authorities in Washington to get an officer’s commission for Parker. A grandson of a Seneca veteran of the War of 1812 (on the American side), Parker studied both law and civil engineering, opting for the latter career after being refused admittance to the New York State bar because as a tribal member, he was not a U.S. citizen. Parker had met Grant while working as a U.S. government engineer in Galena, IL in 1860. At Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, after General Grant drafted the surrender terms for the Army of Northern Virginia, Ely Parker made the emendations Grant agreed to at Lee’s request and then wrote out the clean copy of the agreement.

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