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My Search For Capt Abdiel Bliss, Hero of the Revolution. . .But Was He Really A Captain?

May 27, 2019

In honor of Memorial Day I thought I’d share a little bit about one of my military heroes.

This is a picture of my father, Lloyd Bliss. He was a reluctant soldier many years ago. A victim of the draft, he spent his service in Alaska and he and the Army couldn’t wait to part ways.

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(Lloyd V Bliss 1931-2009)

But, my family has a history of military service. My brother was in the Army. My daughter is currently in the Army. But, there was a family story of soldiers from the earliest days of the country.

Every family has the family stories of our earliest immigrants. My family was no different. Bliss is not a particularly common name. We were told that all the Bliss’s in America descended from two brothers who fought in the Revolution. I set out to see if I could find if this was true. The results were both exciting and somewhat disappointing. But more exciting than disappointing.

I went to http://new.familysearch.org to start my search. Here’s the genealogy.

My father, Lloyd V Bliss, pictured above, was born April 4, 1931 in Great Falls, MT. He passed away June 12, 2009 in Olympia, WA.

 My grandfather Charles William Bliss was born 13 November 1910 in Creston, IA. He died in 1983, the year I graduated from high school in Olympia, WA.

 My great-grandfather Howard A Bliss was born November 23, 1884 in Lincoln Township, IA. He died October 1966 in Harloton, MT.

 My great-great-grandfather Charles E. Bliss was born August 24, 1861 in Creston, IA. He died September 26, 1950 in Riverside, CA.

 My great-great-great-grandfather David Bliss Jr was born April 20, 1807 in Calais Township, VT, a town his grandfather helped to found. He died September 25, 1872 in Union County, IA.

My great-great-great-great-grandfather David Bliss was born October 19, 1767 in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. He died March 11, 1853 in Jefferson county, IA.

 My great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Captain Abdiel Bliss was born December 15, 1740 in Rehoboth, Massachusetts. He died June 10, 1805 Calais, VT, a town he helped to found.

He was one of the founding members of Calais, Vermont. The grateful town erected this marker in his honor.
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(Photo courtesy of http://www.findagrave.com)

Additional pictures of Abdiel’s grave are available at the http://www.findagrave.com site. I found that Capt Bliss was at the battle of Lexington, where the “shot heard round the world” started the war. He was at Concord later that day as the colonists won their first victory over British regulars. a few weeks later he helped defend Breeds Hill in the misnamed Battle of Bunker Hill. He served throughout the war.

In researching great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Abdiel, I was introduced to the Society of the Cincinnati. It’s an organization formed shortly after the Revolutionary war by the officers in the Continental Army. They had achieved such a remarkable feat against such overwhelming odds, that they felt a kinship that transcended their service. What made the Society of the Cincinnati unique was that membership was hereditary. It passed from each officer to his oldest son. It then went on to his oldest grandson, and so on down through the generations, always to the oldest surviving male heir, from the male line. If the rightful heir didn’t want the membership, another could take his place.

FamilySearch allows you to search both backwards and forwards through generations. I started tracing Abdiel’s descendants. Slowly, one by one the male lines petered out. I’d trace one line down for 4 or 5 generations and then go back to the next male descendant.

Eventually, I was tracing my line. My father had no brothers. My grandfather had no brothers. Imagine my surprise to find that the oldest male descendant of Captain Abdiel Bliss was my father. When he passed away the next in line was my older brother Charles. Charles never married. Next in line was my brother Howard who has two sons, Jesse and Richard. My older brother Rick has five daughters. And I have five sons.

So, Charles was the rightful heir to the membership slot awarded to the descendants of Captain Abdiel. With no descendants, would he want the honor? And would Howard?

Before I approached them, I decided I needed to figure out exactly how you claim membership. Each state has their own Society of Cincinnati. I found the website for the Massachusetts chapter and emailed them.

I received a response from J Archer O’Reilly III.

Mr. Bliss

I have no record of an Abdiel Bliss in Continental service. I have a Lt. Joseph Bliss who was paymaster of the Corps of Artillery and a Capt. Thomas Theodore Bliss who was in the 2nd Reg. Continental Artillery who is currently represented.

If you can provide a service record for Abdiel or are related to Joseph please let me know.

Membership in Massachusetts requires descent from an eligible officer or one of his siblings. I do not know if Abdiel and Joseph were related.

Thank you for your interest and contact me if I can assist.
J Archer O’Reilly III

Archer was pleasant enough, but was fairly adamant that Abdiel Bliss had never served in the Continental army. I did additional research and found that Massachusetts published a 17 volume record of everyone who served. There was Abdiel serving in various companies from 1776 to 1779.

And that is where the mystery was solved. Abdiel certainly served in the war, but not in the Continental Army. He was in the militia. As Archer explained,

I have done more research, due to your great interest and it confirms what
you have found. Unfortunately, that is that Abdiel Bliss was an officer in three
different Massachusetts militia companies between 1776 and 1779. This service
certainly deserves the title ‘Revolutionary officer’ but not membership in the
Society of the Cincinnati.

The bottom line is that I am now certain that Abdiel Bliss was a militia officer with
substantial service and that he is not eligible to be represented in this Society.

I have to admit I was slightly disappointed that great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Abdiel wasn’t eligible for membership in Society of the Cincinnati. Okay, truth be told, I was disappointed that my brothers and I weren’t eligible. But, finding out your ancestor was one of the original Minute Men is still pretty cool.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2019 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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