A Guide to the Zenas Randall Bliss Papers, 1854-1898
Born in Rhode Island, Zenas Randall Bliss (1933-1900) left his home state in 1850 for his appointment to West Point Military Academy. Bliss' military career began with his assignment to duty as a brevet second lieutenant in the First Infantry at the completion of his training in 1854. Sent to Texas, Bliss served at Fort Duncan until 1855, when he was promoted to second lieutenant and transferred to an Eighth Infantry position at Fort Davis. Bliss was promoted again to lieutenant in 1860 and then to captain in 1861 at Camp Hudson. As the federal forts surrendered in Texas after secession, Bliss attempted to march his garrison to the Gulf Coast but was intercepted by Confederate troops. In 1862, after a brief imprisonment, Bliss was appointed colonel of the Tenth Rhode Island Infantry. He was then breveted to major of the regular army for his service at the battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia later that same year, and to lieutenant colonel in 1864 for his service at the Battle of the Wilderness. After the Civil War, in 1867, Bliss was assigned major of the Thirty-Ninth Infantry. Appointed commander of the Department of Texas, Bliss served at Forts Bliss, Clark, Davis and Duncan between 1871 and 1879. He was appointed lieutenant colonel of the Nineteenth Infantry in 1879, and promoted to colonel of the Twenty-Fourth Infantry in 1886. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1895 and finally major general in 1897, retiring within the same year. Zenas R. Bliss died in Washington, D. C. in 1900.
Correspondence, diaries, printed material, photographs, drawings and military artifacts primarily document Z. R. Bliss' military career. Included are many letters of recommendation on behalf of Bliss in support of his promotion to brigadier general in 1895 and major general in 1897, as well as many congratulatory letters written to Bliss after he received these promotions. Another group of letters testify to Bliss' performance in battle in an effort to secure the Medal of Honor for Bliss after his retirement. Correspondence with friends, family and business associates is also included, as are Bliss' designs for a suppository applicator and a cloth printing machine and "The Ballad of the Apidildoc and the Turtle," a short story written by Bliss. A large collection of photographs documents Native Americans, soldiers, landscapes, the Bliss family, military establishments and training practices.
Z. R. Bliss' reminiscences document his life from the years 1854 to 1876. They consist of recollections of his experiences on the Texas frontier, as a prisoner of was in San Antonio (1861-1862), during the Civil War, occupation service in Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina in the Reconstruction period (1867-1870) and further service on the Texas frontier (1871-1876). The reminiscences also include accounts of hunting, fishing, dances, horse races, scouts, reconnaissance missions, murders, hanging and related military duties.
Glass plate negatives are restricted for use.
Zenas Randall Bliss Papers, 1854-1898, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
Detailed Description of the Papers