I just got a new book, Grant by Ron Chernow, and thumbed through it to find a couple of my favorite Grant moments. This one caught my eye during this season of both Thanks and National Anger at those who don’t agree with us politically or, even, morally. The story takes place in the McLean house at Appomattox, Lee has capitulated to Grant’s unconditional surrender demand, Grant has written a short Agreement in pencil with terms that surprised Lee in their generosity, and the pencil copy is given to Grant’s aid, Ely Parker, a full-blooded Senecan, to copy in ink.
When introduced to the swarthy Parker, Lee blushed deeply, eyeing tensely his complexion. “What was passing in his mind nobody knew,” Porter said, “but the natural surmise was that he first mistook Parker for a negro, and was struck with astonishment to find that the commander of the Union Armies had one of that race on his personal staff.” Another onlooker thought Lee momentarily offended since he believed “a mulatto had been called on to do the writing as a gratuitous affront.” Evidently, Lee relaxed when he realized Parker was a Native American. “I am glad to see one real American here,” he ventured, shaking his hand. To which Parker retorted memorably: “We are All Americans.”