William W. S.
History. --- Cadet at the Military Academy, Sep. 1, 1829, to July 1, 1833,
when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to
Bvt. Second Lieut., 4th
Infantry, July 1, 1833.
garrison at Ft. Mitchell, Ala., 183-34; in Operation in Cherokee Nation,
(Second Lieut., 4th
Infantry, Mar. 31, 1834)
at the Military
Academy, 1834-40, as Asst. Professor of Mathematics, Oct. 2, 1834, to June
1, 1837 – and as Principal
(First Lieut. 4th
Infantry, Sep. 21, 1836)
Asst. Professor of
Mathematics, June 1, 1837, to Jan. 4, 1840; in the
(First Lieut., Top.
Engineers, July 7, 1838: Declined)
(Bvt. Capt., Staff –
Asst. Adjutant-General, Oct. 26, 1839)
Florida War, 1840-41,
as Chief of Staff of the Commanding General, June 12, 1840, to May 31, 1841;
as Asst. Adjutant-General, 2d Military Department, headquarters at Ft.
Wayne, I. T., Feb. 11 to Mar. 11, 1842, and at Ft. Smith, Ark., Mar. 11,
1842, to May 23, 1844, -- and of 1st Military Department,
headquarters at Ft. Jesup, La., June 28, 1844, to July 18, 1845; as Chief of
Staff of General Taylor, Aug. 6, 1845, to Jan. 25, 1849, -- in Military
Occupation of Texas, Aug. 6, 1845, to Apr. 24, 1846, -- in the War with
Mexico, Apr. 24, 1846, to Nov. 25, 1847, being engaged in the Battle of Palo
Alto, May 8, 1846,
(Bvt. Major, May 9,
1846, for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct
in the Battles of Palo
Alto and Resaca-de-la-Palma, Tex.)
Resaca-de-la-Palma, May 9, 1846, -- Battle of Monterey, Sep. 21-23, 1846,
(Bvt. Major, Staff –
Asst. Adjutant-General, July 7, 1846)
Infantry, July 12, 1846)
and Battle of Buena
Vista, Feb. 22-23, 1847, -- and the Western Division,
(Bvt. Lieut.-Col., Feb
23, 1847, for Gallant and Meritorious
Conduct in the Battle
of Buena Vista, Mex.)
Nov. 25, 1847, to Jan.
25, 1849; as Private Secretary of President Taylor, Mar. 4, 1849, to July 9,
1850; and as Adjutant-General of the Western Division, headquarters, New
Orleans, La., Nov. 19, 1850, to Aug. 5, 1853.
History. – Degree of A. M. conferred by Dartmouth College, N. H., 1848.
Presented by the Sate of New York, + 1849, with a Gold Medal, for his
gallant services in Mexico, at “Palo Alto,” – “Resaca-de-la-Palma,” –
“Monterey,” – and “Buena Vista.” Member of the Royal Society of Northern
Antiquaries of Copenhagen, Denmark, Feb. 15, 1851; and Honorary Member of
the American Ethnological Society, New York, 1849.
Died, Aug. 5, 1853, at
East Pascagoula, Mis.: Aged 38.
*Was the son of
Captain John Bliss, who was graduated at the Military Academy in 1811.
+Resolved, March 22,
1849, by the Assembly and Senate of the State of New York: “That
Lieut.-Colonel William Wallace Smith Bliss, by his noble and gallant bearing
in the service of his country, has reflected distinguished honor upon this,
his native State, and is, therefore, entitled to the thanks of his people,
which are hereby tendered him; and that, in token of their appreciation of
his worth as a soldier and a man, the Governor be requested to procure a
Gold Medal, with suitable devices and inscriptions, and present the same to
Colonel Bliss in the name of the people of this State, together with a copy
of this resolution, and that one copy of said Medal should be deposited in
the Military Academy at West Point, and one copy of such medal shall be
deposited in the State Library.”
Lieut.-Colonel William W. S. Bliss, son of Captain John Bliss, a graduate in
1811 of the Military Academy, was born, Sep. 7, 1815, at Whitehall, N. Y.,
and became a Cadet at West Point, Sep. 1, 1829, and hence was not eighteen
years old, July 1, 1833, when he was graduated and promoted, by his own
choice, to the Infantry. After a year’s service in the Cherokee Nation, he
was ordered to the Military Academy as an Assistant Professor of
Mathematics, and was relieved, Jan. 4, 1840, having been appointed, Oct, 26,
1839, as Assistant Adjutant-General.
In his new
office he became, June 1, 1840, the Chief of Staff to the Commanding General
in the Florida War, where he served a year, and then at various frontier
stations till he became, Aug. 6, 1845, the Chief of Staff to General Taylor,
continuing with him throughout the Military Occupation of Texas, the Mexican
War, and while commanding the Western department.
Taylor’s becoming President of the United States, Mar. 4, 1849, Bliss, then
his son-in-law, was appointed his Private Secretary. After the President’s
death, he was assigned, Nov. 19, 1850, as Adjutant-General of the Western
Division of the Army, continuing as such till he died of yellow fever, Aug.
5, 1853, at the early age of 38.
living but a single score of years after leaving his Alma Mater, few men in
so brief a period have left such a brilliant record of military service,
liberal culture, and varied accomplishments. While a Cadet, Bliss exhibited
marked mathematical ability, and, upon becoming a teacher a West Point,
proved himself to be equal to the best qualified of the many competent
instructors of mathematics who had preceded him, and, it may safely be said,
no superior has succeeded him.
Adjutant-General of sundry commands, Bliss was always noted for his
efficiency; but under General Taylor, in Texas and during the Mexican War,
the amplitude and force of his powers manifested their pre-eminence. In
arranging military movements, drawing up orders, and conducting a voluminous
correspondence he showed himself a master, particularly in the latter
sphere. His elegance of diction and vigor of expression in the dispatches
of Taylor, all written by Bliss, are not surpassed by those of Wellington,
edited by Colonel Gurwood, nor by those of any other famous general.
Bliss’s style, in pure and lowing English, was simple, energetic, and
picturesque, unblemished by any chain-mail armor of ponderous
polysyllables. Without circumlocution, he always aimed directly at the
mark, often illustrating his subject by some familiar allusion. A
well-known instance of this was in Taylor’s celebrated letter to the
Secretary of War near the close of the Mexican War. When the general’s
military achievements had elevated him to be a probable candidate for the
Presidency, the administration at Washington, jealous of his popularity,
decided to lessen it by censuring proceedings for which the Government and
not Taylor was responsible. Bliss quickly took in the situation, and,
though he had to encounter the practiced polemic pen of Governor Marcy,
replied to his complaint by suggesting that it was a case of “the well-known
fable of AEsop,” where the u-stream wolf accused the down-stream
lamb of muddying the water, and, therefore, the culprit merited
graceful pen was often employed in other than military matters, and his
capacious mind reached out to cultivate other fields of literature,
particularly the study of languages, of which he could read thirteen and
fluently speak many. George P. Marsh, the great philologist, said that
Bliss was the best linguist in America.
healthful and well-proportioned intellect Bliss added a natural cheerfulness
and vivacity, with a sweet and affectionate disposition. Hence he was a
favorite with the public, from which he won plaudits, and from his native
state a golden testimonial; while in the Army he was the recipient of two
well-earned brevets and the universal esteem of his companions. The
sentiment is fittingly conveyed by his commanding general in the conclusion
of the Obituary Order issued on the day of Bliss’s death: ---
Narrative of the brilliant services of this lamented officer would be
superfluous here. They are familiar as household words to his comrades of
the Army, often on the lips of his fellow-citizens, and graven on the
records of eventful periods of his country’s history. In many official
writings are preserved the evidences of a mind powerful, acute, and adorned
with taste and learning.
blameless morals, upright and affectionate in private life, he has, in zeal
and devotion to public duty, left an example still more worthy of emulation
than the brilliancy of his fame.
enlightened exactness and attention, in even the smallest duties of life,
could only equaled in merit by the modesty and temperance which he displayed
in the noon day of reputation and at the height of success.”