Ely Samuel Parker "Grant's Indian" 1828 - August 31, 1895
Ely Samuel Parker was a Seneca Indian of noble lineage born in Genesee County, NY. He had an encyclopedic mind and enjoyed learning about both the Indian ways and the white man's culture. Educated by white teachers at the local Baptist school, then at the Cayuga Academy in Aurora, NY, Parker went on to study law, even though New York State would not allow an Indian to have a law practice. The imposing 200 pound Indian then learned engineering on the job while working on the Genesee Valley Canal and became a captain of engineers in the New York State Militia in 1853.
Parker's Iroquois title was "Donehogawa", or "Keeper of the western door", which signified that he dealt with outsiders. When Iroquois tried to enlist in New York to join the Civil War effort, they were denied entry. In March 1862 Parker wrote to the commissioner of Indian affairs about the matter; the next month mustering offices in Buffalo were ordered to accept Indian recruits. After Parker received a captain's commission in May 1863, 600 Seneca Indians gathered to wish him well when he departed for the war. Parker was a division engineer before he was assigned to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's personal military staff as a military secretary in September 1863. He had met Grant before the war and now became known as "Grant's Indian". He served with Grant from Chattanooga to Appomattox, where he wrote in duplicate the terms of Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender. He later received a promotion to brigadier general that was backdated to the surrender date.
After the war Parker continued to serve on Grant's staff until 1869, when President Grant assigned him to the post of commissioner of Indian affairs. Investigated for allegations of corruption, Parker was eventually acquitted of the charges, but in June 1871 he resigned his post and retired to private business in Connecticut. Having lost his financial gains in the Panic of 1873, Parker lived many years in poverty before dying in 1895 in Fairfield, Conn. His body was reburied 18 months later in Buffalo, NY, beside the graves of other Indians.
Fascinating Fact: When Parker married Minnie Sackett, a white woman, in 1867, Ulysses S. Grant was his best man.
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