The “Reminiscences” of Maj. Gen. Zenas R. Bliss are a remarkably detailed account of his army service in Texas before and after the Civil War. Many scholars consider Bliss’s recollections to be one of the best from a soldier of the Old Army. It has become a staple primary resource for Texas frontier research for the last three decades.
Bliss’s memoirs serve as a rare and important window into Texas’ military, political, cultural, and geographical history. The memoirs cover Bliss’s graduation at West Point in 1854, his antebellum service at Fort Duncan, Camp Hudson, and Fort Davis, as well as his return to the Texas frontier in 1870, and end with his duties at Fort Davis in 1876. Details also describe his capture by Texas Confederate forces in 1861, his tribulations as a prisoner of war, and his subsequent Civil War experiences as a Union regimental commander at Fredericksburg, Vicksburg, and Petersburg, where he was at the battle of the Crater. For gallantry at Fredericksburg, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
While commanding buffalo soldiers at Fort Duncan in 1870, Bliss conceived the idea of enlisting Seminole-Negro Indians from Mexico as army scouts. After successfully lobbying the departmental commander and the War Department for approval, Bliss formed the first band of Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts in August of 1870. The unit served the army with extraordinary devotion and distinction until 1912.
Bliss served in Texas longer than any other army officer (twenty-three years) and rose in rank from second lieutenant to departmental commander. Possessing a keen sense of humor, an eye for detail, and a boisterous social nature, his lively account of the people and places of the antebellum and post-Civil War Texas frontier is among the very best of Texas history.
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