Ely Samuel Parker was a Seneca Indian. He felt passionate about both his heritage and learning about the white man. Although his original passion was for law, he was denied entrance based on his heritage. He had met Ulysses Grant prior to the civil war after he had begun exploring engineering and the two had gained respect for one another. It was because of his relationship with Grant, that he was allowed to fight in the war after previously being denied. Because of his respect for him, when “Grant became commander of the Union forces, he requested that Parker be appointed to his staff” (Holland Purchase Historical Society 1985). It was because of this that Parker was able to help score the victory of Chattanooga, obtain the surrender documents and became the commissioner of Indian Affairs.
One of the stronger reasons that the North won the civil war was due to the military tactics of general in chief Ulysses Grant and the reason that Grant was appointed this title was due to victories in the west. These western victories started with the Union’s win at Chattanooga which was not going well until Grant and his military secretary Ely Parker showed up and helped to break the Confederacy lines. “As a result of its success in the battle of Chattanooga, the North was poised for an invasion of Georgia” (Devine, Pg 303). With most of the South now open for attack, and Grant in charge, there was little option left but for Confederate general Robert Lee to surrender.
Lee surrender at the Appomattox Court House to Grant and Parker. As military secretary, Parker “took down Grant’s dictation concerning the surrender orders, as he was the only person in the room calm enough to write” (Vail, 1967). It was because of Parker’s recording of the Lee’s surrender that the South knew that they had lost the ‘total war.’ Even after this, Parker stayed by Grant’s side and “eventually rose to the rank of brigadier general” (Gilmore). After the war, he remained close to Grant and became a representative to western Indian tribes until Grant was appointed president.
“Parker was one of Grant’s first political appointments when he became President” (Vail, 1967). He was appointed the commissioner of Indian Affairs. Under this appointment, Parker worked diligently in order to bring the two cultures together which was no easy task since there had been long standing problems between the two groups. “Parker fought fraud and injustice perpetrated against the Indians by corrupt government agents and officials” (Vail, 1967). Parker eventually retired after being charged with defrauding the US government. After his leave, corruption returned to the Indian affairs office and within Indian leaders, which eventually led to war.