Enlisting in the Civil War as a private, he rose to the rank of major in the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry serving with valor and resourcefulness in numerous engagements in the Virginia theater of war. At Waynesboro, Virginia on September 18, 1864, he displayed such heroic action as to merit the Congressional Medal of Honor. According to the citation accompanying the award, Bliss, “while in command of the provost guard...saw the Union lines returning before the attack of a greatly superior force of the enemy, mustered his guard, and, without orders, joined in the defense and charged the enemy without support. He received three saber wounds, his horse was shot, and he was taken prisoner.”
After the war, Bliss became a founder of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Historical Society of Rhode Island and wrote or edited many of the essays in the series Personal Narratives of the Rebellion. Bliss became a prominent attorney, a state legislator and town solicitor of East Providence. In 1872, he began fifty years of uninterrupted service as judge of the East Providence District Court. When he retired in 1922, Bliss had heard over 24,000 cases.
Besides his legal activities, Judge Bliss took an active part in veterans organizations and the Masonic Order. He was the civic leader of East Providence. In addition to writing a history of the town (which became part of Rhode Island in 1862), Bliss was a member of the East Providence School Committee for twenty-five years and superintendent of schools for thirteen years. The Watchemoket Public Library owed its beginning to his efforts as did the United Congregational Church of East Providence
Bliss married Fannie Carpenter of Seekonk in 1850, and the couple had six children. One son, William C. Bliss, became chairman of the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission. On August 29, 1928, Judge Bliss died in his ninety-second year.
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