February 23, 2016 § Leave a comment
General Ely Samuel Parker (Hasanoanda) wearing his ancestor Red Jacket’s (Sagoyewatha) peace medal given to Red Jacket by President Washington in 1792.
Undated photo in the public domain.
Cheryl A. Robinson’s family oral history is that Seneca leader and Civil War General Ely Samuel Parker (Seneca name Hasanoanda) was named after Cheryl’s fifth paternal grandfather Eli Stone.
Extreme caution must be taken with family oral history especially when it involves European-Americans and American Indians. Much of such oral history turns out to be family mythology.
Research suggests that is not the case with this family oral history.
In his 1919 biography, The Life of Ely S. Parker: Last Grand Sachem of the Iroquois and General Grant’s Military Secretary, Arthur C. Parker states that:
(Hasanoanda) was named Ely after a prominent white citizen of the day.
Two sources identify that “prominent white citizen” as e Eli Stone, Cheryl’s fifth paternal great-grandfather.
Eli Stone was a Baptist missionary and one of the local founders of the mission on Seneca’s Tonawanda Reservation in New York.
Ely Samuel Parker (Hasanoanda) studied engineering and worked as a civil engineer.
Before the Civil War, the future General Grant and Ely Parker met in Galena, Illinois where Ely Parker was working on civil engineering projects. They became friends.
When the Civil War began, Ely Parker volunteered to serve. His offer was rejected because he was an American Indian. Ely Parker then contacted his friend Ulysses Grant who then a general.
General Grant who often (but now always) transcended the bigotry of his times obtained a captain’s commission for Ely Parker.
Captain Parker served as engineer including at the Siege of Petersburg
During the Siege of Petersburg, Ely Parker became Grant’s military secretary and was promoted to lieutenant colonel.
On April 9, 1865 at the surrender of the Confederates at Appomattox, Virginia, in his role as General Grant’s military secretarty, Lt. Col. Parker drafted the surrender documents for Generals Grant and Lee to sign.
Then Lieutenant Colonel Ely Samuel Grant (seated on the right behind General Grant) at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, April 9, 1865.
From a engraving from a drawing by Alfred R. Waud in the public domain.
After the signing of the surrender, General Lee shook hands with General Grant’s staff.
When he came to Lt. Col. Parker General Lee hesitated, looked at Parker, then said “I am glad to see one real American here.” As General Lee was white supremacist, that remark could have been meant condescendingly rather than positively. In the racist racial hierarchy of the South in which General Lee believed and for which he fought, American Indians were viewed as inferiors barely one step above Africans.
In a moment of greatness, Lt. Col Parker shook General Lee’s hand and replied,
“We are all Americans.”
While Lt. Col. Parker was facilitating the surrender of the Confederates, Cheryl A. Robinson’s third maternal great-grandfather Anson Croman was serving in the 20th Michigan Infantry Regiment securing the railroad station and repairing the rail lines at Sutherland Station, Virginia to the southeast of Appomattox just west of Petersburg.
Anson Croman and the 20th Michigan also served near General Parker at the Sieges of Vicksburg and Petersburg.
Links, sources, and more information:
The Life of Ely S. Parker: Last Grand Sachem of the Iroquois and General Grant’s Military Secretary by Arthur C. Parker. Full text in several digital formats.
Sources that identify Eli Stone as the person after whom General Ely Parker was named:
Ely Parker: Iroquois Chief and Union Officer
“He (General Parker) acquired his unusual first name (pronounced not ‘Ee-lye’ but ‘Ee-lee’) from a Baptist missionary, Elder Ely Stone.”
“Chief William Parker (General Parker’s father) owned a large farm on the reservation and became a converted member of the newly formed missionary Baptist church. Ely reputedly received his first name from Ely Stone, one of the local founders of the mission.”
Anson Croman and the 20th Michigan Infantry Regiment
Includes documentation of General Lee’s white supremacist ideology.