Grant, Lee, and Parker

April 10, 2015 • 1:12 pm

by Greg Mayer

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the surrender to General Ulysses Grant by General Robert E. Lee of the Army of Northern Virginia. Although some Confederate forces did not surrender for a few more weeks, Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, effectively ended the American Civil War.

There have been various commemorations of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial, including events and publications by the National Park Service, and a four year long series of articles by the New York Times, Disunion, which followed the war on a chronological basis. I think this attention has had very salutary and clarifying effects, especially the republication of the secession ordinances passed by the legislatures of the Confederate states. Although there is rich historical nuance and context in the development of regional differences and antagonism in ante bellum America, the ordinances make plain the cause of the war. As Apu put it, “Slavery it is, sir.

I had noticed some years ago that in many photographs of Grant’s staff, one of his officers was an American Indian. I looked into this, and found that he was a Seneca from upstate New York: Ely Samuel Parker (Seneca: Hasanowanda).

Grant and his staff, Parker sitting at left.
Grant and his staff, Ely S. Parker sitting at far right.

Parker, a lawyer, engineer, and sachem, met Grant before the war in Galena, Illinois, where Parker was working as an engineer for the U.S. Treasury Department. When war broke out, Parker sought to join the Army, but his obligations to the Treasury, and prejudice against Indians, delayed his joining until 1863, when he was commissioned as a captain of engineers. He soon found his way to his old friend Grant’s staff, with whom he served till the end of the war, and later in Grant’s presidential administration. At Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, it was Parker who wrote up the formal copy of the surrender terms that was signed by Grant and Lee.

Grant, lee, and Parker at Appomattox, April 10, 1865.
Grant, Lee, and Parker at Appomattox, April 9, 1865.

In the picture above, the illustrator Tom Lovell puts Parker standing at the right (with George Armstrong Custer standing behind him, and, I think, Phil Sheridan at the far left of the group of Union officers!). More contemporary images usually show Parker seated. Parker’s own account of his meeting with Lee is classic. Grant introduced Lee to his officers, coming in due course to Parker. Parker later wrote (A.C. Parker, 1919, p. 133):

After Lee had stared at me for a moment, he extended his hand and said, “I am glad to see one real American here.” I shook his hand and said, “We are all Americans.”

Ely Samuel Parker.
Ely Samuel Parker (1828-1895). Portrait by Matthew Brady.


Parker, A.C. 1919. Last Grand Sachem of the Iroquois and General Grant’s Military Secretary. Buffalo Historical Society, Buffalo, New York. (online)

Update. I should have posted this yesterday! The signing in the parlor occurred on April 9th. Lee and Grant met again on the 10th, and the formal ceremony of surrender was on April 12th, but the iconic meeting depicted in myriad illustrations, and the cessation of fighting, occurred on the 9th. Mea culpa!

78 thoughts on “Grant, Lee, and Parker

  1. Great stuff, thanks for this.

    I just recently finished a superb (Pulizter Prize winner!) single-volume history of the US Civil War: The Battle Cry of Freedom, which I can most highly recommend.

    1. Forgot to say: that book is by James McPherson.

      Another excellent book about the US Civil War is: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott, about four women during the Civil War who performed espionage. Really well written and interesting stories you’ve never heard before.

  2. Parker’s story is a fascinating one, especially in the light of how Native Americans were treated prior to and post Civil War. I’m curious about General Custer’s relationship with him…did he see equality with the ‘Red Man,’ or hold on to the prejudiced POV of the times?

    1. Can’t say specifically what Custer thought of Parker, but Custer was a bit more complex than he’s been portrayed. He did enjoy the “indian life”, seems to have held his guides, Akrikara like Bloody Knife, in high regards, almost certainly had a native “girlfriend” and perhaps a child with her, and like so many others of the era didn’t mind riding and hunting with them, so long as they were “friendly Indians” so who knows? It’s hard to understand from our vantage point how it wasn’t just “indians” vs “White people”, but “good” indians, “civilized” indians, “christian” indians, or “bad”, “wild”, “heathen” indians. And with rare exceptions (Tecumseh and Pontiac are two) there was very little pan-indian unity and much more competition and warfare (hell, the Dine (Navajo) still don’t much like the Hopi, for instance) and there was plenty of inter- and intra-tribal wars that get overlooked because they don’t fit the simple understanding of racial hatred (like why the Cherokee helped that bastard Jackson defeat the Creeks in the Red Sticks War). Having said that, yeah, almost certainly felt superior to Parker, paternalistic, most likely, as was common, but not necessarily hatred. and that’s the nicest thing I’ve ever said about Custer, I’ll say no more, as I honestly despise the guy, even though he’s been dead more than a few years. but for years I had a bumper sticker on my car that read “My heroes have always killed cowboys”…yeah, I was a bit, um, extreme.

      1. ‘for years I had a bumper sticker on my car that read “My heroes have always killed cowboys”’

        … and you’re still alive?

        Okay, how about (in the spirit of the late lamented Top Gear) you paint “You Lost” in big letters on your car and drive it from Charleston to Albuquerque… 😉

  3. That is very interesting about Parker. I did not know about that.

    Most of Lee’s soldiers that had horses were allowed to keep them because they would certainly need them when they got home to the farms. Four days later Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. So he became the first of four Presidents that were assassinated. Next was Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy. So this little town I went to school in had three grade schools – Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. You would think they might have named the High School – Kennedy, but they didn’t.

    1. I think if Lincoln would have lived, he would have ensured that Reconstruction would have been more compassionate towards the people of the former Confederacy.

      1. It’s true that Lincoln (like his generals U.S. Grant and W.T. Sherman) sought to wage a hard war, in part, in the hope of securing a soft peace — of giving the former Confederate states a gentle landing place back in the Union. But Nick is absolutely correct that the failure of Abe’s successor was hardly a lack of compassion for the former Confederates. If anything, Andrew Johnson was too sympathetic to them (and too weak to do much about it anyway), allowing the former pre-bellum powerbrokers to reassert their authority, thereby begetting the nation the abomination of a century of Jim Crow.

    2. Robert Todd Lincoln, the oldest son of Abraham Lincoln, was present or nearby at the first three and is said to have refused to meet with a president later because he didn’t think it was a good idea for him to be near him.

      1. Even odder, several months before Lincoln was assassinated, his eldest son, Robert, the only one of his four sons to survive to adulthood, was at a train station in NYC and due to the jostling of the crowd he wound up knocked off the platform and could have been killed by an oncoming train but for someone grabbing his coat and pulling him back up. Lincoln immediately recognized the man who saved him as Edwin Booth, one of the most famous actors in the country (and a supporter of the Union cause). Apparently Booth himself was not aware that the man who he had saved that day was the son of the man his own younger brother would later murder. Just another example of why people should be judged on their own merit and not on the behavior of anyone they are related to. And anyone who claims the Rebel Flag is all about “heritage” is full of donkey droppings, as the only heritage that flag embodies is one of hatred and racism. Shame, really, as it’s a lovely flag but forever tarnished by what it represents, in the same way the Nazi flag is.

        1. Yeah, neo-confederates fly the rebel banner to celebrate Southern Heritage the same way neo-Nazis fly the swastika to celebrate the honor of the Wehrmacht in fighting for the Fatherland.

          1. scariest damn thing i’d ever seen was to take my son to a Civil War reenactment in Osceola, Mo, where the reenactors for the south outnumbered the north by at least 10 to 1, rebel flags everywhere, little kids with fake guns running around yelling “die Yankee!” and books like “The Lies of Harriet Tubman” for sale…only thing missing was people wearing white sheets and burning flags. Even though I grew up with members of one side of the family who often remarked that the wrong side won the war and how black americans ought to be thankful for slavery because like here is better than in Africa (i’m not kidding), the experience was as horrifying as it was eye opening.

            1. ‘…how black americans ought to be thankful for slavery because li[f]e here is better than in Africa (i’m not kidding)…”

              Randy Newman has a song where the narrator makes that same claim. (He — Randy, though not the narrator — was kidding.)

              1. I also have to hear on a regular basis from my father how seeing a University of Kansas Jayhawk is as offensive to him as a rebel flag is for black Americans, since “the Jayhawkers burned Osceola” during the war…ignoring that people from Osceola and other parts of Missouri had been attacking Kansas along the boarder and had attempted to force Kansas into being a slave state, including illegally flooding across the boarder to vote in elections, vigilante attacks on newspaper offices, and anyone or thing that was in support of KS being a “free state”, which of course was not there business, but I guess that’s what it really means to be pro-state’s rights…your right to force your beliefs on those of another state?

                I just feel sorry for the poor people he waylays and rants about “them jayhawkers’ and how the rebel flag is not racist, its about history. and I always think (I’ve given up on arguing rationally) yeah, the history of a racist slave holder society. just another one of those “I’m not a racist but…” stories, or should I say “racist butt”, ah, I might as well just say racist a$$hole and be honest about it!

              2. If anybody should complain about Osceola being burned, it’s Chief Osceola himself, since he got hoodwinked into capture by the palefaces under a false flag-of-truce during purported peace talks to end the Second Seminole War. (Osceola wasn’t really a “Chief,” strictly speaking — but then, strictly speaking, the Seminoles weren’t really “Indians,” either.)

  4. Although there is rich historical nuance and context in the development of regional differences and antagonism in ante bellum America, the ordinances make it plain the cause of the war. As Apu put it, “Slavery it is, sir.”

    Yes, it was ALL about slavery. Having just read The Battle Cry of Freedom I was kind of amazed just how clearly drawn the line was on slavery. I knew from school that slavery was the main issue; but it was really the only issue. As you say, the secession declarations are crystal clear on this.

    The South (having elected a nearly continuous series of Southerners or Southern sympathizers since the start of the nation) thought they had the whip-hand and well meant to keep it.

    They demanded, not just the Fugitive Slave laws (Dred Scott, etc.) but wanted to place legal obligation on every northern citizen to actively pursue escaped slaves on pain of legal sanctions including jail and fines.

    They essentially wanted to be able to kidnap and enslave any free black person in the north (or anywhere else). (See the film 12 Years a Slave or the book on which it is based.)

    They wanted to be able to take slaves owned anywhere to any other part of the nation and to continue their slavery there. In other words, they wanted to manufacture slavery in non-slave states by importing slaves and using them just the way they did in their home states — in defiance of local state laws banning slavery (so much for it being about “States Rights”!)

    They wanted new territories being added to the US to be slave territories. Full stop. They tried to carry slavery into California, Oregon Territory, Utah and New Mexico. Much of the US adventurism in Central America was driven by the South’s desire to expand southward with additional slave states to continue the numerical advantage they had in national government. They especially wanted Cuba brought into the US as a new slave state.

    1. Was slavery the only cause of the war? Perhaps yes and no is the correct answer. The friction between North and South undoubtedly originated in that issue, however it was the threat of secession which triggered the war. The North would probably not (at least not if Lincoln had a say) have gone to war to abolish slavery. Lincoln was clear that the goal was to keep the Union.

      1. Sometimes the events can seem confusing but slavery was not only the cause, it was the only cause. Secession was caused by slavery. Go back and start with South Carolina and go from there because they were first to secede. Several states followed and this was specifically triggered as soon as the voting was done but long before Lincoln even took office.

        If not for Lincoln, the negotiations would have begun and who knows what would have happened. Most likely the end of the United States.

        Southerners and southern writers have come up with all kinds of reasons for the war and secession other than Slavery but when reasoned out and a closer look at history – Slavery was it and it is the evidence. Take a good look at the Confederate Constitution as well.

        1. ‘… slavery was not only the cause, it was the only cause.’


          The immediate casus belli for the war may have been the election of Lincoln (for the South) and maintaining the Union (for the North). But the issue that drove it all was whether slavery would be expanded into the West. Southerners knew if they could not expanded it, they could not keep it — that they would lose the political advantage built into the nation’s founding for just that purpose — and they sure-as-shit wanted to keep it.

      2. I’ve read quite a bit about the U.S. Civil War, and slavery was the only cause for which the rebellious states were willing to pack up and leave the Union. Period. Not tariffs, not states rights – they opposed states rights when it meant free states not wanting to hunt down runaway slaves for their former masters. It was all about slavery. Granted, not all northerners were willing to fight to end slavery, and many were initially motivated simply to keep the Union intact. But in the end, the war would never have happened had slavery somehow been abolished when the nation was founded. But even then, there were several former British colonies that would have refused to join the Union if they had to give up slavery beforehand. Yeah, so there was much yelling about being free from British rule, but also about keeping other people as slaves and stealing ever more land from yet other people.
        BTW, during Andrew Jackson’s 1st term, South Carolina made a big stink about tariffs and insisted it had the right to leave the Union. Jackson, who was born in the border regions of North & South Carolina and was a Southerner through and through, threatened to personally lead an army into South Carolina and hang anyone who attempted to lead a secession movement. His first Vice-President, John C. Calhoun (who had also been President John Quincy Adams’ V-P and the only man to serve as V-P under two Presidents) was of South Carolina himself and favored secession, although he was rather discreet about it while serving under Jackson. No other state at the time gave South Carolina any support — in less than 30 years they would join S.C. in a revolt for the right to maintain and expand slavery, but not over tariffs.

        1. I whole-heartedly agree with you. any time someone tries to say it wasn’t slavery, it only takes a little digging to find that no matter what the claim, slavery was always tied to it, economics, culture, religion, the election, everything. Slavery was everything to the south, even to those who didn’t own slaves, it was a cancer that had corrupted every putrid part of the southern experience and cannot ever be separated from it. slavery was the direct cause of the war, and behind and intertwined into every indirect cause of the war. without it, there would have been no war as we know it. The better question to ask is, as we were by no means the only nation to have slavery, specifically imported African slaves, why is it that we were the only ones (except Haiti I suppose, though not a civil war, a slave revolt) who needed to murder each other over it? Why us and not Brazil, England, France, Portugal, or any other nation heavily invested in slavery at the time?

          1. I’ve also read about a predominantly German community in Texas, most of whom were freethinkers and other progressive types who opposed slavery — they had immigrated to the U.S. after the failed revolutionary movements in Europe in 1848. Although they posed no threat whatsover to anyone, a pro-Confedrate mob invaded the community and murdered many members of the community. Yeah, confederate bigots really just wanted to “be left alone.”
            I think somehow in the U.S. there was a greater sense of seperateness of most whites from both the African-Americans and the Native Americans than in the Latin American countries. And the slavocracy had a lot more political power in the U.S. than slaveowners ever had in England or France — in both cases, the slaveowners were predominantly in the colonies rather than in the home country. Of course, in France, Napoleon brought back slavery after it had been abolished during the revolution but eventually it was abolished again after he met his Waterloo.

            1. There were similar German Freethinker communities in a few hours drive from me central Missouri who had issues with the rest of the pro-slave state, in fact, my former philosophy instructor was a product of them and is the guy who introduced me to Richard Dawkins’ and Christopher Hitchens’ works. I don’t know how much violence they suffered but they were very much against slavery. Missouri didn’t have a lot of slave holders outside of the rich floodplain lands around the Missouri river, called “little dixie”; at most others in the state had one or two slaves, otherwise they were far too poor to own much of anything much less anyone, but they still wanted to fight wholeheartedly for it.

              and if you ever find a copy in a library, check out the book “Free-Thought on the American Frontier” edited by Fred Whitehead and Verle Muhrer (my frmr Prof).

              1. German hunting clubs in St. Louis, founded by refugees from the Revolutions of 1848, acting as militia, rallied to loyal Federal officers who kept Missouri in the Union by moving against its pro-Confederate governor. (A nice article about this here.)


              2. I added Freethought on the American Frontier to my book collection years ago, early ’00s I think. Fascinating book.

      3. Lincoln abhored slavery but he knew that if he made the war about ending slavery right away, the war would have been lost then and there. The four border slave states would have joined with the Confederacy (three of them almost did anyhow) and many northerners would not have been willing to fight a war to end slavery, although many were willing to fight a war to keep the Union intact. That was one reason that Lincoln sold the Emancipation Proclamation as part of the war effort, hurting the rebels by declaring their slaves were forever free. Of course, the war had to be won to make that effective, but also remember that Lincoln rightly considered himself the President of the entire nation, including those states that were in rebellion. He knew that per the Constitution he had no authority to end slavery on his own, but as Commander in Chief reacting to a violent rebellion against the nation he did have the right to confiscate the property of rebels. Also remember, in 1862 the Supreme Court was still dominated by slaveowners, including Chief Justice Roger Taney, who had attached his opinion to the Dred Scott decision in 1857 that no black person, free or slave, had any rights that any white person had to respect.

    2. Oh come on, everybody knows that the Civil War was fought over the ownership of coal mines in West Virginia! Conspiracy claim of Internet troll Don Williams.

  5. “We are all Americans.”

    I wonder if he was the first to use that phrase in such a context. I often it (or a variation) myself when asked, for example, “what” somebody who isn’t lily-white is.

    “What is Tiger Woods?”

    Well, he’s a great golfer.

    “No, I know that. I mean, where’s he from?”

    He’s an American.

    “No, no. What’s his race?”



    1. “We are all Americans.”

      Parker making that statement, particularly when one considers the context, i.e. that time, that place, those circumstances, was being inhumanly generous, tolerant and forgiving. In light of what happened to Native Americans in the years following the Civil War, it is beyond shameful how thoroughly his generosity was spurned.

      1. Many people of varying political persuasions have been inspired by the nobility of the *claims* the US founding documents have in them – even if they are also riddled with other problems (to understate it) and were and are a work in progress.

        Also, “diplomat” comes to mind, too – which Parker of course was.

  6. I recently read “The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant”, available for free here.

    Reading further I discovered that he was regarded by many as an alcoholic, and that he died of throat cancer, so that he probably enjoyed a cigar. I daresay he was an inspiration to Winston Churchill, but I am not sure that Grant ever took champagne whilst in his bathtub.

    Interestingly, during WWII, the British named
    their American tanks after American Civil War generals. The M3 light tank became the Stuart, the M3 medium tank became the Lee, and when modified it became the Grant, and the M4 became the Sherman.

    1. He did have a reputation for drinking but some of those who did not like the guy spread it around to Lincoln in attempt to get him fired. Lincoln would not do it. Said something like “He fights” and Lincoln would not get rid of him. Lincoln as usual, was the smartest guy in the room.

      1. Once when Grant’s drinking proclivities were point out to Lincoln, he replied, “find out what his brand is so I can send a case of it to my other generals”.

        1. From what I’ve read (although I can’t remember where), there’s no evidence Lincoln ever actually said that, although the quote was attributed to him during the war and may have been included in books published during the war compiling jokes that either Lincoln actually said or at least seemed to be the sort of jokes he might have told. A few decades earlier, popular publications included mostly far-fetched adventure stories starring Davy Crockett, supposedly as told by Davy himself and published before and long after his demise at the Alamo.

    2. Grant did drink a fair amount, but probably not more than was common for people in his line of work during his early military career. His problem was that he had a small stature, a lower tolerance for alcohol, and his vulnerability at showing the effects of alcohol was seen by the wrong people including higher ups and his enemies. He would also drink in excess when bored for extended periods, and when separated from his family. This is described in some detail here.

      1. From what I’ve read, Grant was a relatively light drinker, and usually only drank when he was separated from his family and depressed. His main problem, apparently, was that he didn’t have a strong tolerance for alcohol so the little he did occasionally drink would make him seriously drunk. As President, his primary fault was that he was far too trusting of so-called friends who took advantage of his naivity. But he did come down hard on the KKK during his two terms, although his successor, Hayes, became President only because the Republican Party made a corrupt bargain to end Reconstruction in return for the legislatures of 3 Southern states throwing their support behind Hayes, who had lost the popular vote, but due to the bargain got just enough votes in the electoral college to become President.

    3. Would that his predecessors at the head of the Army of the Potomac had drunk a barrel of whatever Grant imbibed. Might’ve been a much shorter war.

      1. The historian T. Harry Williams in his book, “Lincoln and His Generals”, opined that General Hooker, who was known as a heavy drinker, suddenly went on the wagon when appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac. He was subsequently defeated in the Battle of Chancellorsville. Williams opined that Hooker might have been better off if he had had a few drinks before the battle.

        1. ‘He was subsequently defeated in the Battle of Chancellorsville.’

          Right, but at least Hooker took Stonewall Jackson’s left arm — and, thus, Lee’s right arm — with him in defeat, leaving Lee’s ass exposed at Gettysburg (as George Pickett’s boys found out the hard way on Cemetery Ridge}.

          1. Actually, Jackson was accidentally shot by one of his own men when he ordered a night attack. In those days, before the advent of night vision equipment and star shell, night attacks were to be avoided just for this reason.

            1. I didn’t mean to suggest that Hooker shot off Jackson’s arm in a feat of personal marksmanship, or that he literally carried it off in his own gunnysack. Only that, to the same extent Hooker can be blamed for the Union defeat at Chancellorsville, he should be credit with weakening Lee’s army before REL made his second foray across the Mason-Dixon line, into Pennsylvania. After all, so-called blue-on-blue (or grey-on-grey, as the case may be) friendly-fire casualties are part of what Clausewitz called the a href=””>”Friction of War.”

              1. Stonewall Jackson was also known for his extreme piety. Then there was Leonidas Polk, 2nd cousin to President James K. Polk, and both an Episcopal Bishop and a Confederate general. Not a particularly effective general, he was killed in battle in 1864. Guess god wasn’t watching out for them any more than He was watching out for anyone else, despite their piety. Of course, it must be difficult for god to respond to anyone when He only exists in human imagination.

    1. Now all we need is hipsters to adopt those swingin’ 1860’s Sideburns again! beards are soooo last year!

      as for “deadline”, at some point that might have been the better option than trying to survive the camps themselves. with conditions that bad, i’m sure it didn’t take my ancestor (with the delightful first name of Varnum) to switch sides after being captured and agree to fight FOR instead of against the Union.

  7. A bit of a diversion, but I often ask my American friends – ‘What does the ‘S’ stand for in Ulysses S. Grant? It’s tricky. Anyone know without looking it up?

    1. As I recall, the “S” stands for “S,” and he adopted the initial for political reasons so he could be known as “US Grant.”

      …that’s without looking it up, so take it with a grain of salt the size of your thumb….


      1. I’m not exactly sure on that but I know that

        U.S. Grant Became Unconditional Surrender Grant during the war.

      2. Without looking it up either, I believe you’re thinking of the S in Harry S Truman. Grant’s S, IIRC, is for Simpson.

    2. Grant’s birth name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. A politician who submitted a recommendation for Grant to attend West Point got his name mixed up and submitted it as Ulysses S. Grant, believing that the S stood for Simpson, his mother’s maiden name. When Grant arrived and found out about the mix-up, he ultimately decided to let it stand as that proved a lot easier than trying to correct it. Another part of his reasoning was that as U.S. Grant, he got tagged with the nickname “Sam” (as in “Uncle Sam”) whereas if he had gone by his birth name he would have been stuck with the nickname HUG. As it was, his full legal name became Ulysses S. Grant, with the S. not standing for anything. I first read that years ago.

  8. I love this stuff!
    According to an entry in the New York Historical Society:
    “Grant goes on to explain that the misnomer originated from the congressman who assisted his application to West Point. According to Grant, Senator Morris of Ohio had erroneously named him as “Ulysses S. Grant.” Simpson was Grant’s mother’s maiden name and the name of his brother, but had never been in his own. In fact, he was baptized Hiram Ulysses Grant, though known from the very beginning as “Ulysses.”

    It seems the last straw was his diploma and commission from the academy, both of which were issued with the erroneous “S.” Apparently, Grant tried to rectify the problem but his efforts to have the S excised from West Point records proved fruitless, so he resigned himself to signing his name that way.”

  9. I have always thought that the surrender of the Confederates should be a national holiday. It was the greatest threat ever to the United States, and yet throughout the South there are statues of confederates in every town. When friends have visited the south from other countries, they are so perplexed that such people would be honored. It would be like erecting a large statue of Guy Fawkes in the middle of London. Very odd.

    1. One of my uncles did some historical resarch on our family down the patriarchal line and was deeply disappointed to find that although much of the family resided in the South during the Civil War, they were not avid supporters of the Confederacy. This same uncle, who currently lives in Waco, TX, was also a member of the Gideon’s Bible Society and tells racist jokes in front of his bi-racial grandchildren. He’s one of my dad’s elder brothers and my dad can’t stand him. On my mom’s side of the family, she told me about her sister-in-law going on and on about how her ancestors had been very wealthy but lost a lot of property due to the outcome of the Civil War — took a while for my mom to figure out my aunt was talking about human property. This was in the 1960s, and this woman, who was about 10 years older than my mother, was bemoaning the damned yankees setting her family’s slaves free a century earlier. Oh, but she and her ancestors were all good Christians and the war was about Northern agression, not about the fear that Lincoln might try to set their human livestock free.
      My mom & dad were hardly perfect, but they had a far greater sense of humanity and decency than some of their elder relatives.

      1. There’re some of that ilk in every family — just as there are whores and thieves (and the occasional hero, too) if you look hard enough.

        1. Hey, go easy on the whores. If it were possible to define an ‘average whore’ I’m sure she’d be far superior, morally, to latter-day Confederate sympathisers anguishing over their lost slaves.

          1. The same thought occurred to me; I wasn’t able to work it in felicitously while keeping the vernacular “whores and thieves.”

            You’re right, though, and my apologies to ladies of the evening for the implied pejorative comparison.

    2. I’m all in favour of erecting a large statue of Guy Fawkes in London. Keep the politicians on their toes.

      (I think Robin’s analogy is flawed. Guy Fawkes was so long ago that nobody except historians and possibly politicians remembers what it was all about, we all just think of Guy Fawkes Night aka Bonfire Night and fireworks, so there’s no political significance attached to it. This is unlike the Confederacy).

    3. On the other hand, we Canadians have things (e.g. schools) named for Louis Riel, who was *executed for treason*. I’m not in favour of the death penalty, and Riel’s uprising was more justified by far than what became the US Civil War, but …

  10. Some very unfamiliar words in that :

    (Seneca: Hasanowanda).

    Place name? Branch of the tribe? Ah – OK, got that as his birth name (with several spelling variants reported, as normal for a non-written language. same issue with a lot of Gaelic.)
    “Parker, a lawyer, engineer, and sachem”sachem
    noun: sachem; plural noun: sachems
    (among some American Indian peoples) a chief.
    A new word for the day. Good enough contribution to the brain cell.

  11. Yes, Hasanowanda was his Seneca name (spellings vary). After becoming sachem, he was also known in Seneca as Donehogawa, although the sources I’ve checked differ as to whether this was a personal name or an honorific associated with his position.

    ‘Sachem’ is a term for a chief or leader used in eastern North America, borrowed into English from Narragansett. In the latest movie version of the Last of the Mohicans, Daniel Day-Lewis (the Anglo-Irish actor who has become the leading portrayer of Americans, including Abraham Lincoln, in historical film) and Wes Studi (the Cherokee actor who is a leading portrayer of American Indians) address the paramount chief of the Huron as “Sachem”. Sachem is also used as a place name– a large school district on my home island in New York is so named.


    1. ‘… Daniel Day-Lewis (the Anglo-Irish actor who has become the leading portrayer of Americans…)’

      Including the Civil-War-Era Know-Nothing anti-immigrant prototype for nativist jerkwads from the America-Firsters to the Tea-Partiers — “Bill the Butcher” Cutting, in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.

    2. Daniel Day-Lewis (the Anglo-Irish actor who has become the leading portrayer of Americans, including Abraham Lincoln, in historical film)

      Reaching beyond my knowledge of movies and their work forces. Didn’t DDL have a big hit (if financial catastrophe) with “My Left Foot”? That’s the only film name I’ve got associated with him.
      [Googles] Oh, “There will Be Blood” too. A great comedy that was, I could hardly refrain from rolling in the aisles, helpless with mirth.

    3. I don’t know about that particular group, but in many native american groups, chiefs were also “for a given task”. I add this comment because people sometimes think of them as being like a president or a monarch (or other more permenant executive) when sometimes they were not.

  12. Speaking of the Dred Scott Decision, as I mentioned above, President Buchanan apparently colluded with Taney on that, as Old Buck was deluded enough to think that declaring that blacks had no rights whatsoever was the means to end the debate over slavery once and for all. Buchanan was a northerner with southern sympathies and saw no moral problem with blacks remaining in perpetual servitude and believed it was abolitionists who were the sole cause of the problem. In many of the slave states it was a crime to in any way promote abolitionism, the First Amendment be damned and at the time not being regarded as applicable to the states anyhow.

  13. I’m late to the party, but want to express my gratitude for this historical information that I didn’t have. So much to learn, so little time.
    Unfortunately, history doesn’t tell the “truth” and, in addition, is reviewed and modified frequently (approximately every 25 years). However, history (and genealogy) remains fascinating.

    My great-grandfather and three of his brothers who lived in Missouri, fought in the same Union unit in the Civil War. All survived. Unusual. Other members of the family in other states were Confederates. My sister-in-law who lives in Missouri remains adamantly pro- Confederate.

    Missouri was embroiled in Civil War-related issues several years prior to the official beginning of the war. One reason was conflict over the entrance of Kansas as a free vs slave state. Sympathies in Missouri were tragically divided. Families and neighbors injured and killed each other. One of my Great-Uncles was jailed after the war for, supposedly, having tried to kill a Confederate sympatizer who had notified “Bushwhackers” of a Union compatriot’s visit home. (The “Bushwhackers” came to the man’s home to kill him, but he jumped out a second-story window and escaped.) The Sheriff was accused of helping the Great-Uncle to escape from jail. The Great-Uncle moved to Oklahoma. The Sheriff was accused and tried. I haven’t been able to find the results.

  14. Very interesting. Having the 100th anniversary of WW1 one tends to forget other war anniversaries are available!

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