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The Burnside Zouaves

Zenas R. Bliss

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Zenas Randall Bliss

 Born 17 April 1835
Providence, Rhode Island
 
Father Zenas Bliss, Mother Phebe W. Bliss
 
Middle name Randell after mother's maiden name.
 
In 1850 at the age of 15 years young Zenas was sent to West Point with an appointment by the Hon. Nathan F. Dixon of Rhode Island. In 1854 Zenas R. Bliss graduated from West Point and was appointed brevet 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Infantry and was ordered to report to Fort Duncan in Texas, where he remained until 1855 when he was transferred to Fort Chadbourne in Texas. He was than promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of the 8th United States Infantry and ordered to report to Fort Davis in Texas where he served until 1858. While at Fort Davis he found himself often in command of a detachment of mounted infantry scouting for hostile Indians. From Fort Davis he was ordered to Fort Hudson in Texas and was detached to several other forts on the frontier until 1860, at this point he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and placed in command of his company and the post of Fort Quitman on the Rio Grande. In March, 1861while in command of Fort Quitman, he received orders to march to San Antonio, Texas in order to transfer to the North. He than received orders to await Colonel Reeve's 8th US Infantry, on the 5th of April he joined under the command of Colonel Reeve and the 8th set out to march to San Antonio, Texas some six hundred and fifty miles away. On the 9th of May about fifteen miles outside of San Antonio the 8th US Infantry were stopped by a force of about two thousand rebel troops under the command of General Earl Van Dorn, including a regiment of infantry, a regiment of cavalry and a six gun battery of artillery with a company of infantry for support of the guns. A council of war was held ( of which Lt.Bliss was not a member ) and the 8th US Infantry was surrendered by Colonel Reeve. While Lt. Bliss and other junior officers were not a part of the discussion to surrender, all officers were held to task for this surrender by the government and none of them received any promotions through out of war even though many including Zenas R. Bliss were recommended for gallantry and good conduct on more than one occasion. Zenas remained a prisoner of war in San Antonio until February, 1862 when he was removed to Richmond, Virginia for the purpose of exchange which did not occur until the 5th of April 1862 after eleven months of being held prisoner.
He returned home to Rhode Island with the rank of Captain ( a prisoner of war promotion), on the 25th of May 1862 he was appointed to the command of the 10th Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers with the rank of Colonel. He served as commander of the 10th Reg RI Vols until the 5th of August 1862 when he was appointed Colonel of the 7th Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers. He was command of the regiment while on the Fredericksburg campaign and was recommended for promotion by all of his superiors to the rank of Brigadier-General for gallantry and skillful handling of his troops while under fire, the promotion was not granted.
He then in 1863 went with the corps to Kentucky, Vicksburg and Jackson, Mississippi in the campaign after General Johnston and again at the conclusion of it was recommended for the rank of Brigadier-General  by many of his superiors including General U.S. Grant. Again this promotion was not granted.
He was ordered to take command of the department of Tennessee by request of General Ammen. This command was responsible for keeping the supply line intact for General Sherman's advance, again at the end of this duty he was recommended for promotion to the rank of Brigadier-General. Again his promotion was not granted although all others who were recommended were granted.
He than reported to Annapolis, Maryland and was assigned command of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps and commanded in the Wilderness, where he was brevetted to Brigadier for gallant and meritorious services( a field promotion). He mustered out of Volunteer service on 28 June 1865. He resumed his Army duty at the reduced rank of Captain and was placed on recruiting duty and was placed in command of the Schuylkill Arsenal and Fort Porter, New York until May of 1866 when he went with his company to South Carolina and was assigned command of the district of Chester. In August he was again assigned to recruiting duty in South Carolina.
 
In 1867 Zenas became a father when his wife Martha gave birth to his son Zenas W. Bliss.
 
In August of 1867 he was promoted to Major of the 39th Infantry and put in command of posts at Forts Jackson, Fort Saint Philip and Ship Island, Miss., until 1870.
 
During this time frame Zenas and Martha gave birth on 02 October 1868 to their second son Lewis L. M. Bliss, sadly Lewis died on the 10th of July 1869 at the age of 9 months, 8 days.
 
 He was transfered with his regiment back to Texas and placed in command of the posts in Forts Duncan, Clark, Stockton, Davis, And Bliss until 1878. He was ordered again to recruiting duty at David's Island, New York Harbor and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel of the 19th Infantry.
 
In November of 1879 Zenas became a father again when his wife Martha gave birth to his third child, a daughter Alice P. Bliss.
 
 He remained here until 1880 when he was ordered to command Fort Hays, Kansas. In 1881 he was transferred with his regiment back to Texas and placed in command of Ringgold Barracks. In 1882 was placed in command of Forts Duncan and Clark until 1886 when he was promoted to Colonel of the 24th Infantry. 
 
Zenas Randell Bliss died on 02 January 1900 in Washington DC. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
 
After Zenas's death his son Zenas W.Bliss took in his mother Martha and his sister Alice.

Reference material listed below;
Military Records of Individual Civil War Soldiers
1850 US Federal Census
1860 US Federal Census
1870 US Federal Census
1880 US Federal Census
1890 Veteran's Schedules
1900 US Federal Census
Rhode Island Vital Records Birth Records
Rhode Island Vital Records Death Records
History of the Ninth and Tenth R.I. Vols. by William A.Spicer @1892
 
 

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The Burnside Zouaves Association of Rhode Isalnd
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