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b. 17/04/1835 Johnston, Rhode Island. d. 02/01/1900 Washington DC.


DATE OF MOH ACTION; 13/12/1862 Fredericksburg, Virginia.


Bliss was born April 17, 1835 in Johnston, Rhode Island to an upper-middle-class family. His parents were Zenas and Phebe Waterman Randall Bliss. He received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, in July 1850 when he was only fifteen years old.


He graduated from West Point in 1854 and served the next six years in Texas. He was stationed at Fort Davis and Fort Quitman, but his first assignment was as a brevet second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Infantry regiment at Fort Duncan.


He was promoted to the full rank of second lieutenant in the 8th U.S. Infantry on March 3, 1855 and subsequently promoted to first lieutenant on October 17, 1860. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, he was promoted to captain on May 14, 1861.


When the American Civil War began on April 12, 1861 Bliss immediately saw action. He was captured by Confederate forces and spent eleven months as a prisoner of war, first in San Antonio, Texas, and later in Richmond, Virginia.


He was finally exchanged and sent back to Union lines where he subsequently took command of the Tenth Rhode Island Infantry. He received a commission in the volunteer army as a colonel in May 1862. The 10th Rhode Island served for only 90 days and was used in the defenses of Washington, D.C. After the 10th Rhode Island was discharged, Bliss assumed command of the Seventh Rhode Island Infantry on August 21, 1862.


In October 1862 the Seventh Rhode Island joined the First Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Corps, Army of the Potomac. The regiment saw action in December 1862 at the Battle of Fredericksburg, during which Bliss performed actions that earned him the Medal of Honor several decades later. When IX Corps was sent West, it participated in the Siege of Vicksburg. The Seventh served under Major General William T. Sherman in the capture of Jackson, Mississippi.


In April 1864 the Seventh rejoined the Army of the Potomac. Bliss became commander of the First Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Corps. His brigade fought in the Battle of the Wilderness. Bliss was badly injured by a horse at Spotsylvania, but he returned to lead his brigade in the Siege of Petersburg and the Battle of the Crater. The court of inquiry following the fiasco at the Crater censured Bliss, but he remained on duty.




This officer, to encourage his regiment; which had never before been in action, and which had been ordered to lie down to protect itself from the enemy's fire, arose to his feet, advanced in front of the line, and himself fired several shots at the enemy at short range, being fully exposed to their fire at the time.




Zenas Randall Bliss

bliss zenas bliss zenas grave

Section 1, Grave 8-B