Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Henry A. Bloss

Henry A. Bloss was born 1834, in Washtenaw County, Michigan, the son of Lyman (1809-1907) and Phebe (b. 1812).

Lyman and New York native Phebe were marrid in 1831 in Washtenaw County, Michigan and were probably still living in Washtenaw County in 1840. The family eventually moved to the western side of the state and by 1850 Henry was living with his mother and siblings in Gaines, Kent County (no mention is noted of Lyman). In 1860 Henry was working as a farm laborer and living with his mother and two younger siblings on the family farm in Gaines.

Henry stood 5’3” with gray eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, and was a 27-year-old farmer possibly working in Kent County when he enlisted in Company A on November 15, 1861, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered the same day. Curiously he did not enlist in Company C, which was made up largely of German and Dutch immigrants, many of whom lived on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. (This company was the descendant of the old Grand Rapids Rifles, also known as the “German Rifles”, a prewar local militia company composed solely of German troopers.)

In July of 1862 Henry was reported detached as a pioneer, and from August through November was sick in the hospital. In December of 1862 he was again serving as a pioneer, and was back in the hospital in June and July of 1863.

In April of 1864 Henry was still on detached service as a pioneer at Brigade headquarters, and apparently he was wounded by a cannon fragment in the right chest, probably in early May during the Wilderness campaign. Although subsequently absent sick or wounded, he apparently recovered from his wounds and was transferred to Company A, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. In any case, he was serving with the Regiment when he was captured at the Boydton Plank road on October 27, 1864. He was mustered out on November 15, 1864.

Henry eventually returned to western Michigan.

He was married to Michigan native Betsey (1853-1897), and they had at least two children: Frederick (b. 1870) and Mary.

By 1870 Henry was working as a farmer (he owned some $2000 in real estate and more than $1000 in personal property) and living with his wife and son in Gaines.

Henry probably died in Gaines, Kent County, and was possibly buried in South Gaines cemetery, where his father is reportedly buried.

By 1880 his wife had remarried one George Underhill, a farmer, and they were living in Gaines; also living with them was Frederick Bloss, age 10.

In 1889 his widow applied for a pension (no. 399,940), but the certificate was never granted. Subsequently, possibly in 1895, an application was filed on behalf of Mary, a minor child (no. 623,727) but the certificate was never granted.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Andrew Jackson Bloomer

Andrew Jackson Bloomer was born February 2, 1839, in Chateaugay (or perhaps Chautauqua) County, New York, probably the son of William (b. 1812) and Mary (b. 1814).

William and Mary were both born in New York and were possibly married there sometime before 1835 when their first child, Benjamin was born. In 1850 Andrew was attending school and living with his family in Sherman, Chautauqua County, New York, where his father worked as a miller. His parents were still living in Sherman, New York, in 1860.

Sometime before 1864 Andrew left New York and moved westward, eventually settling in Michigan.

He stood 5’10” with blue eyes, auburn hair and a light complexion, and was a 24-year-old farmer possibly living in Allendale, Ottawa County when he enlisted in Company I on January 30, 1864, for 3 years at Grand Rapids, and was mustered the same day. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.)

Andrew joined the Regiment on February 17, 1864, at Camp Bullock, Virginia, and was reportedly admitted to the regimental hospital two days later suffering form influenza. He returned to duty on February 20, although he had not fully recovered from his “inflammation of the lungs” and was treated for said disease through mid-March. He was present for duty, however, when he was wounded in the arm, probably in early May during the Wilderness campaign. He was admitted to Judiciary Square hospital in Washington, DC, on May 11, 1864, transferred to a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 16, and was still absent sick in the hospital when he was transferred to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864.

Andrew eventually recovered from his wounds and joined the Fifth Michigan in the field.

He was taken prisoner on October 27, 1864, while the Regiment was engaged at the Boydton Plank road. He was confined in Richmond, Virginia, on October 28 and remained in Richmond until November 4 when he was sent to Salisbury, North Carolina. He was listed as suffering from tuberculosis, and in February of 1865, he was sent to the prison hospital. On February 23 he was transferred to Richmond and on the 25th was admitted to the prison hospital, suffering from diarrhea.

He was paroled at Cox’s Wharf, on March 10, 1865, and that same day reported to College Green Barracks, Maryland. On March 11, Andrew was sent to Camp Chase, Ohio, and subsequently furloughed. He returned from furlough on April 22, and on April 25 was sent to Columbus, Ohio. He was discharged on May 31, 1865, from Tripler hospital in Columbus.

After his release from the army Andrew returned to Allendale where he was living when he married new York native Ellen M. Parmeter (or Pelmiter, b. 1851), in Blendon, Ottawa County, on April 19, 1866. They had at least five children: Henry H. (b. c. 1868), Ellen E. (b. c. 1870), Emma H. (1871-1877), Ethel and Nora E. (1877-1942).

Emma apparently died of “intermittent fever” when she was about 6 years old. At the time of Emma’s death, it was reported that A. J. was “unfortunate in losing his children”. Although we know that Ethel and Nora survived to adulthood, one wonders how many other children survived childhood.

Andrew eventually left Michigan and moved to Wisconsin, settling in Omro, Winnebago County, where he was living in 1880, working as a farm laborer. He probably remained in Omro the rest of his life. In 1890 he was reportedly suffering from “hemorrhages of the lungs” -- possibly a consequence of tuberculosis which, his widow claimed, he contracted while in the army.

He received pension no. 419,495, drawing $8.00 per month by mid-1897.

Andrew died in Omro on September 14, 1897, and was buried in Omro cemtery, Olin’s addition, section A, plot no. 33 (see photo G-577).

Ellen was living with her daughter (?) Ethel at 518 Delphi road in Omro in 1905. She applied for and received a pension (no. 464918), drawing $12.00 per month by the spring of 1908.

She was apparently never buried with Andrew, and reportedly remarried sometime around 1908.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hiram Blood

Hiram Blood was born 1844 in Kent County, Michigan, the son of Francis Alonzo (1807-1896) and Annie or Amy (Bigelow, 1810-1853).

Massachusetts native Francis married New York-born Annie, possibly in Michigan or perhaps in New York. In any case, Francis came to the Michigan Territory before 1830 and settled in Kent County sometime before 1840. By 1850 Hiram was attending school with his siblings and living with his family on a farm in Walker, Kent County. Francis remarried at least once and possibly twice following Annie’s death: first to New York native Sophia (b. 1808) and then to Eunice. In any case, by 1860 Hiram was working as a farm laborer, attending school with six of his sibling and still living with his family on a farm in Walker (His older sister Rosa was the local teacher.).

Hiram stood 5’8” with blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion, and was an 18-year-old farmer probably living in Walker, Kent County when he enlisted in Company I on August 17, 1862, for 3 years at Grand Rapids. (Company I was made up largely of men from Ottawa County, particularly from the eastern side of the County.) He joined the Regiment on September 8, 1862, at Upton’s Hill, Virginia.

Hiram was shot in the head and killed while the Third Michigan was engaged in the Peach Orchard, on July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Hiram, mistakenly listed as “Herson Blood” on his grave marker, was buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery: section B, grave 5.

No pension seems to be available. (Francis died in 1896 in Grant, Newaygo County and was reportedly buried there.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Zenas E. Bliss

Zenas E. Bliss was born July 4, 1832, in Eaton (or perhaps Podville), Madison County, New York, the son of Obediah (b. 1792) and Priscilla or Morilla or Marilla (Pool, b. 1802).

Massachusetts natives Obediah and Marilla were married, possibly in Massachusetts but they eventually settled in New York. When Zenas was still a child his family moved from New York to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where his father worked as a manufacturer and where he went to school at the Ashbury Seminary. Zenas was probably living at home with his family when commenced his medical studies at the age of 18 in the fall of 1850, serving as an apprentice to a Dr. Harlow and to Zenas’ brother, Dr. D. W. Bliss, and in 1851 continued his studies with his brother who had moved his practice from Chagrin Falls to Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. Zenas attended the 1852-53 session in the medical department at the University of Michigan, subsequently practiced in Lowell, Kent County from June of 1853 until October of 1854, when he returned to Ann Arbor, and attended medical lectures in 1854-55, following which he was graduated as a medical doctor in 1855.

In 1855 he moved to Ionia, Ionia County, where he commenced the practice of medicine and surgery until the war broke out. He married New York native Marion A. Carr (b. 1839) on September 15, 1856, and they had at least one child, a daughter Marian A. (b. 1860). By 1860 Zenas was working as a physician and living with his wife and daughter in Ionia, Ionia County; they were living with Archibald and Jane Carr, probably Marian’s parents.

As a practicing physician in a frontier community such as western Michigan, Zenas was confronted by a vast array of medical problems, some of which could be handled with ease.

On April 30, 1858, the Eagle reprinted an Ionia Gazette story reporting that Drs. Bliss and Cornell had removed a sizable tumor from Julius Babcock. “The tumor occupied a position in front of, and partially under the left arm pit, and when removed left a wound frightful to look upon. The operation consumed about eight minutes, but the patient experienced no pain, as he was put under the influence of chloroform. We learn that he is doing well, and so far recovered that on Monday last he took the cars for Lowell, the place of his residence.”

Trauma was another common hazard of mid-nineteenth century life. On September 26, 1860, the Enquirer wrote that Dr. D. W. Bliss, “assisted by Drs. Shepherd, Bissell, and Mainard, of our city, and Dr. Z. Bliss, of Ionia, and Dr. Daniel Wooley, of Big Rapids, amputated the limb of Mr. James Robinson, of Big Rapids, at the Bridge Street House, on Wednesday last. Mr. R. has suffered several years with what is called ‘white swelling’; and it was found necessary to amputate the diseased limb just above the joint. The operation was quickly performed, while the patient was under the influence of ether.”

Zenas took a keen interest in not only keeping up with the general medical trends of the day. Indeed, he worked to actively further his medical education. Toward that end he spent the winter of 1858-1859 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, studying “techniques in that city’s medical colleges and hospitals.”

He soon returned to Ionia, however, and where he was reported living in 1860 with his wife and small daughter, Mariana, and his father-in-law Archibald, who was a “general dealer”; according to the census of that year, Zenas was worth $1,000 in real estate and $1,500 in personal property.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, shortly after war broke out in April of 1861, and when it was announced that a regiment was forming in Grand Rapids, Dr. Bliss quickly offered his services. Zenas was still practicing medicine in Ionia when he enlisted at the age of 29 as assistant surgeon at organization of the Third Michigan Infantry Regiment, in Grand Rapids, on May 13, 1861, joining his brother D. Willard who was the Regimental Surgeon.

In addition to providing medical inspections to each man who wished to enlist, the regimental surgeons also provided medical information for distribution in the local newspapers. On May 1 the Enquirer published the following notice from regimental surgeons Drs. D. W. and Zenas Bliss, in which they wished to instruct the ladies of Grand Rapids as to how to make bandages, etc.

Actual war exists in our land, and the U.S. is engaged in an attempt to suppress rebellion, which exists in some portions of our Union, and to maintain the laws and support the dignity of the govt., and in this hour of peril, it behooves us all good citizens -- ladies included -- to make known by their deeds, whether they are for or against this, the land of their nativity and adoption. Therefore, the undersigned, as Surgeons of the 3d Regiment of M. V. U. M., and in behalf of the Volunteer Soldiery of said regiment, issue this circular, asking all ladies who feel so disposed, to contribute bandages and lint, for the use of said regiment while in actual service. DIRECTIONS - All bandages should be made of cotton cloth or muslin, bleached or unbleached. Old is preferable to new; if the former, it should be thoroughly washed. It should be soft, yet firm, smooth, strong, and not too yielding, divested of selvige, seams and ravelings, and should be torn (not cut) into strips varying in width from 2 and one-quarter to 2 and one-half inches, the ends of the strips lapped, and sewed together. The length of a bandage may vary from 6 to 12 yards -- ordinarily 10 yards -- and each bandage should be carefully, smoothly, evenly and tightly rolled up and pinned. The lint may consist of old pieces of linen or muslin, divested of selvige, seams and ravelings, varying in size from that of the hand up to any other size convenient. It is hoped and believed that every one can do a little in this noble service, and that a hearty response will be given to this call, and that you will show your devotion and loyalty to this govt. by sending in this small yet acceptable token, to be used if necessary in mitigating the sufferings of those who go, in this hour of peril, to defend the flag and honor of our nation. We request that all donations be completely and carefully made up, and left at the office of Dr. Bliss of Grand Rapids, and the office of Dr. Bliss of Ionia, by Weds. evening, May 1st. Each package to be carefully labeled with the name of donor, the number of yards of bandages, number of pieces of lint, and number of papers of pins.

Bliss wrote later in his official report,

The regiment remained in the state encampment one month and seven days, and was in crowded barracks; and over one hundred cases of measles occurred during this time, some very severe cases, but only one proved fatal, and that not until the lapse of several months’ protracted pulmonary inflammation. None of the cases were marked by anything unusual; but all suffered from bronchial irritation. The ordinary treatment consisted in the mild aperient early in the disease, frequent sponging of the surface, mucilaginous drinks, tablespoonful doses of a solution of three grains of tartarized antimony, and two grains of morphia in three pints of water, administered every two hours for the first few days, after which quinine, wine whey, milk punch, beef tea, and a supporting treatment were employed. Many of the convalescent cases had mumps, and several cases of metastasis occurred, but without serious results. Warm anodyne fomentations to the testes and parotid glands generally gave relief.

The Third Michigan left Grand Rapids for Washington, DC, on Thursday, June 13 and arrived at their first encampment along the banks of the Potomac on Sunday afternoon, June 16. According to Zenas, “The duties were daily drill and work on the fortifications about Washington. There was much diarrhea while in camp, which was attributed to the water, diet, and the great changes of temperature, and the days being very warm and the nights cold.”

The Regiment’s first taste of battle came in late July. Apparently there had been rumors around western Michigan that the men of the Third infantry were not receiving the best of medical care, and certain allegations were made against the Regimental surgeons and their performance during the various actions along the Bull Run in northern Virginia between July 18 and July 21, 1861.

In reply Colonel McConnell, Lieutenant Colonel Stevens, Major Champlin and Quartermaster Collins signed and sent an open letter to the Enquirer, praising the two physicians.

The conduct [wrote the staff officers] of Dr. D. W. Bliss, Surgeon, and Z. E. Bliss, Assistant Surgeon, of this Regiment, during the late retreat from Bull Run, having been severely animadverted upon, and having now fully examined into the subject, we deem it just to those gentlemen to make the following statement of facts. During the battle of Thursday, when there was apprehended need of them by the Regiment, they were both on hand doing what was possible to be done for the wounded of our Regiment, and also of the Brigade; while Dr. Z. E. Bliss contrary to what is required of a surgeon, came upon the field to attend the wounded during the action, remained there for over an hour personally exposed to the musketry, shot, and shell of the enemy and remained there until it was deemed best to have him retire to the rear, where he would be less exposed and could render an efficient service. Dr. D. W. Bliss was all that day at his proper post at the Brigade hospital, established in the rear of the line, attending to his duties as surgeon. On Sunday, the day of the last battle of Bull Run, their services not being required by our Regiment beyond prescribing for a few sick, which duty performed, they were ordered by the Surgeon General to open a hospital at Centreville, and take charge of, and prescribe for the sick, and treat such of the wounded of other Regiments as should present themselves for treatment. They complied with this order, and did their duty faithfully that day, taking care of many sick and wounded. Sunday night the retreat, having been ordered, General Tyler, a general of the division who commanded that portion of the retreat, ordered them to move forward with the ambulances containing the wounded men, and attend to their wants during the retreat. This accounts for their severance from their Regiment during the retreat, and for their arrival in Washington in advance thereof. We think that the officer who ordered them off, under the circumstances, transcended his duty, and that in complying they had no other idea than that they were obliged to obey the order of a superior officer thus given. We make this statement in justice to them, and to end, if possible, whatever unfavorable impression may be entertained toward them by those not acquainted with the facts of the case.

After his brother’s promotion to Brigade Surgeon in the United States Army in the fall of 1861 Zenas was commissioned Regimental Surgeon on October 15, 1861, and Dr. George B. Wilson, a young physician possibly from Ionia County was appointed Assistant Surgeon. Zenas remained Regimental Surgeon until late summer of the following year when illness forced him to leave the Third Michigan.

In his official report of his services during the opening phases of the Virginia Peninsula campaign in the spring of 1862, Zenas wrote;

The regiment was attached to General Berry’s brigade of General Kearney’s division of the Third Corps, and arrived at Fort Monroe on March 26th, 1862, and shortly afterwards moved to Yorktown, and encamped in a thick woods, intermingled with patches of swamp and pools of water, the ground being covered with fragments of fallen trees and decaying vegetable matter. Water could be obtained only by digging holes from two and a half to three feet in depth, and the surface obtained form these was all that the men had. The regiment remained in this camp about five weeks, and was doing picket and fatigue duty on trenches and fortifications all that time. A few intermittents and remittents [fevers] occurred, as also about forty cases of typhoid fever, all very severe, marked by epistaxis tympanitis, and, after a few days, hemorrhage from the bowels, the blood being evidently impoverished. Several of these cases proved fatal. One case of typhus, marked by hemorrhage from the nose and bowels, and with petchiae and hemorrhagic spots on the surface, occurred in the regiment and proved fatal [Hiram Dailey of Company A]. All of these patients had active, supporting treatment throughout. The sick were cared for at a hospital, about a mile and a half to the rear, composed of log huts or barracks, built and formerly occupied by the 53d Virginia Volunteers (Confederate), upon a sandy soil, where we obtained an abundance of excellent well water. These barracks were well ventilated, and accommodated a large number of sick and wounded from both the regulars and volunteers. I saw all of the sick and what few wounded there were at this hospital and had immediate charge of very many sick who were members of various regiments; and nearly all of the cases were either low remittents or typhoid fever. I say remittents, because some of them might be easily classed as such; but I believed then, as now, that they were almost pure enteric fever. I held autopsies of all that died who were under my charge, six in number. No post mortem was held on the case of typhus [Dailey]. All the deaths from typhoid fever occurred late in the course of the disease, and the majority from hemorrhages from the bowels, one from coma, and the others apparently from pure exhaustion. The abdominal viscera were those principally examined. Peyer’s glands were found in each case in a state of ulceration; some very large ulcers; some healing while others were in an inflamed condition. Some of the ulcerations extended nearly through the coats of the intestines. I preserved the specimens in each case, but subsequently lost them during the campaign. The small intestines, through their entire length, gave evidence of previous inflammatory action; but all the other abdominal viscera gave no evidence of either organic or serious functional disease, and the soft parts and glands, when divided with the scalpel, seemed to be almost exsanguined. I wish the blood could have been analysed, because I feel confident that the primary trouble was there. In cases of epistaxis, the blood gave only a faint coloring to the spots on linen, and it did not give to the linen that stiffened feel that we get when it is saturated with ordinary blood, from both of which I infer that the blood was deficient in plasma and coloring matter, or defibrinated. In these cases, quinine, brandy, ammonia, and small doses of opium were given with a view to support the patient. Essence of beef and beef tea, of good quality, and in abundance, was furnished and given. The supply of medicines at this time was ample, but at times we were deficient in hospital stores. On May 5th, during a heavy rain storm, the division arrived within four miles of Williamsburg, and the roads being unintentionally blockaded with artillery and wagons, so that an ambulance could not get through, I ordered eight of the hospital corps to take from the transport wagon the field stretchers, instruments, chloroform, bandages, brandy, candles, and lanterns, and was enabled to render service to a large number of the wounded the ambulances not arriving on the field until the next day, May 6th, at one o’clock p.m. On the evening of the 5th, by direction of Surgeon J. J. Millhau, U.S.A., medical direction of the corps, I erected an extemporaneous table, in a large frame barn, situated about one mile in the rear of the battlefield. During the evening and night of the 5th, by the valuable assistance of Doctor Sparks, a volunteer surgeon from Boston, we dressed the wounds of over eighty officers and soldiers. Among the operations performed were one amputation of the foot, and two amputations of the arm. Surgeon Milhau, U.S.A., being present early in the evening, kindly performed one of these. There were also one amputation of the forearm and one of the hand, besides a number of cases which required the removal of the whole or a portion of one or more fingers. The wounds were mostly received by musketry. On Tuesday afternoon, I dressed wounds of both Union and confederate soldiers, at a barrack bear Fort Magruder, and on Wednesday, May 8th, I dressed wounded of both armies in a church and at William and Mary College in Williamsburg. I am able to recall the number of capital operations which I performed during the two days; but as near as I can remember, two amputations of the leg, one of the arm, and one of the thigh, at the junction of the middle with the upper third. The patient on whom the latter operation was practiced survived only thirty-six hours. No exsections were performed under my observation. A number of bullets were extracted. I believe I dressed the wounds of about two hundred at this battle. The supply of soup and food was very deficient during the first twenty-four hours, because the roads were in such condition that the supply trains could not move up. Pack mules would have been of great service here. Indeed, we sent footmen back to meet the trains, and bring up hard biscuit, sugar and coffee. The wounded were removed, on May 7th, in ambulances. Some few, seriously wounded, were carried on field stretchers to York River, a distance of some seven miles, and placed aboard transports. Chloroform was given in all capital, and other severe operations. Twenty-five days after the battle of Williamsburg, the regiment arrived at Savage’s Station. During this time one officer and eighteen men with fever were sent north on a hospital transport. On May 31st, the battle of Fair Oaks was fought. Early in the engagement, I established a field depot near the field of action; but later in the day I moved back to Savage’s Station. For the triple reason of securing an abundance of good water, better security for the wounded. As well as to have them near the railroad station for removal after operations, I established a depot, erected a table in a large log tobacco house, without floors, about fifteen rods from the railroad depot, and night and day was almost constantly engaged in dressing and operating upon the wounded from various regiments, indiscriminately, from Saturday evening, May 31st, until Wednesday evening, June 4th. Here, as at Williamsburg, a comparatively few were wounded with shell and grape, a large proportion being wounded with the conical rifle ball; but not a few were wounded with the round musket ball and buckshot. I had one disarticulation of a shoulder joint, the case not admitting of excision, and several other amputations, including one of the arm for hemorrhage, in a case where excision of the elbow joint had been performed the night before by some surgeon to me unknown. There was ample supply of water of good quality at the station, and an abundance of food, including Soyer’s concentrated soup and fresh beef. I noticed that Surgeon Frank H. Hamilton, U.S.V. in his report of the battle of Fair Oaks, published in the American Medical Times, states that “Such was the scarcity of food that general Sumner ordered several horses belonging to his orderlies to be killed,” to be used as food for the wounded. I am happy to say that no such exigencies occurred at the depot where I was operating.

On July 2, 1862, Dr. Gunn, acting Surgeon for Berry’s Brigade examined Zenas and noted that he was suffering from “bilious diarrhea for more than two weeks past, during which time he has been unable to do duty, and as the disease arises from climatic causes, I believe that a change of climate is necessary to speedily restore said officer to health, and recommend that he be sent to general hospital.” Dr. Wilson, suffering from the end stages of tuberculosis also resigned from the army in June of 1862.

Zenas was sent home to Ionia, thus leaving the regiment without a surgeon. Zenas was absent on sick leave at home in Ionia when he wrote on July 18 to Adjutant General John Robertson, urging that Walter B. Morrison, then hospital steward for the Third Regiment, be commissioned assistant surgeon in the Regiment “immediately if he has not already been.”

In fact, Dr. James Grove of Grand Rapids was appointed Assistant Surgeon in August and then Regimental Surgeon in September of 1862; Walter Morrison would take over the duties of Assistant Surgeon for the Third Michigan.

Zenas’ concern that a competent medical officer be appointed to the Regiment was very real since he himself remained ill. (Curiously there is no mention of Dr. Wilson in any of the correspondence however.) On August 4, Dr. William Thomas, surgeon for the Twenty-first Michigan infantry in rendezvous at Camp Sigel in Ionia County, examined Zenas and certified that he required an extension of his furlough. He noted that Bliss was still suffering from chronic diarrhea and in a “very much emaciated and generally debilitated from this cause. Said officer is unable to travel, and to attempt to enter the field at the present time would endanger his life. Neither is he able to do duty and I believe he will not be in a less period than thirty days.” He thus recommended that Bliss’ furlough be extended.

Zenas soon recovered, however, and returned to the Regiment. He underwent an examination before the Medical Board at Washington in September for promotion, and on September 24 he was transferred and appointed a United States Army Surgeon (Brigade Surgeon) at Baltimore, Maryland.

He was specifically charged with superintending the fitting up of several general hospitals, and he remained in charge of the Continental Hotel hospital in Baltimore during the winter of 1862-63. In June of 1863 he was placed temporarily in charge of invalid officers and the following month was placed in permanent charge of the general hospital at the National Hotel in Baltimore. On December 31, 1864, he was appointed Medical Surveyor for the United States Army and stationed in Baltimore.

Zenas was brevetted Lieutenant Colonel January 26, 1866 and was mustered out of service on February 2, 1866.

Shortly after his discharge from the military he sailed for Europe in October of 1866 to continue his medical studies in the hospitals of London and Paris, where he spent the winter. He returned to Michigan in the spring of 1867 and began his medical practice in Grand Rapids by opening an office in Bryan’s Block, where he advertised himself as a “General Practitioner of Medicine, Surgery and Diseases of Women and Children.” In 1867-68 Zenas was working at no. 37 Monroe (upstairs) and boarding at the Tanner house, and he remained in that location through the following year. “Dr. Bliss,” wrote the Eagle in late March of 1869, “is breaking ground for a new brick block, 44x80 feet, on the lot next above the Catholic church, on Monroe Street.”

At 2:00 p.m. on the afternoon of December 31, 1869, 27-year-old Elizabeth (or Eliza) Scagel, wife of Edgar D. Scagel and mother of two (Gertie and Franky), died at her home in the northern part of William N. Cook’s house on LaGrave Street in Grand Rapids. She died, it was reported, “after several weeks of painful sickness, in such a manner as to leave suspicion among some of the neighbors of the family that she had been foully dealt with. . . .”

On Wednesday evening, April 27, 1870, Dr. Zenas Bliss, one of the most respected and trusted members of the west Michigan medical community was arrested by Kent County Sheriff Wyckoff and charged with the murder of Eliza Scagel. This case quickly excited “a great deal of interest in the minds of the community, and Dr. Bliss is not without deep sympathy from his many friends in this city.” The doctor was immediately brought before Justice Slauson (or Slawson), but examination was postponed until 2:00 Thursday. It was charged by Mr. Scagel “that Dr. Bliss, sometime in December last, procured, or attempted to procure, an abortion on Mrs. S., death resulting; the particulars of which, as elicited by testimony at the Coroner’s inquest, . . .”

On Wednesday, May 11, Justice Slawson, after hearing both sides of the argument rendered his verdict. The evidence, wrote one eyewitness,

entirely failed to implicate the respondent in any criminal or improper practice is the universal opinion, and his honorable acquittal will be most gratifying to the public. The investigation has been searching, and so little has been shown by the prosecution tending to substantiate the allegation in the information, that we have been surprised that the prosecution did not abandon it. . . . Justice Slauson appeared to have the case well under advisement, and immediately proceeded to deliver his opinion, holding to the evidence sought to be introduced of the declarations of the deceased that, even if it were admissible, as he thought it was not, those declarations contained nothing really implicating the respondent, and generally, that the evidence was insufficient to justify holding him for trial. He therefore ordered that the prisoner be discharged. The decision was greeted with tremendous cheering, the like of which never before waked the echoes of Justice Slauson’s office, and Dr. Bliss received the eager congratulations of his friends. A similar storm of applause followed the conclusion of Col. Gray’s remarks n the previous evening.

Specifically, the judge based his opinion on five key points. First, that there was no evidence to show that Dr. Bliss had inserted the bougie except inferential evidence. Second that the circumstances of the case went far to disprove the theory of the prosecution -- a theory that was only inferential. Third, that the dying declarations shown in the evidence were not to be received in law as such. Fourth that the circumstances show the deceased to have been determined to have no more children. And finally, that Dr. Bliss’s connection with the cause of death was not proved by the evidence. Dr. Bliss was discharged from custody.

[For more exhaustive details regarding this case contact steve@oldthirdmichigan.org.]

Zenas quickly returned to his medical practice. In 1873 he was living in Grand Rapids when he was appointed a member of the Michigan Board of Health, but declining health forced him to resign in order to seek relief abroad. He also served as an Examining Surgeon for Pensions, and was the president of the local pension board at the time of his death, and he had also been a member of the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the Michigan State Medical Society and was president of the Grand Rapids Medical and Surgical Society (today the Kent County Medical Society). In May of 1874 he was among the attendees at the annual meeting of the State Medical Society held in Coldwater and was noted for being a physician of the “regular school”. He was also a founding member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association. No pension seems to be available.

He was serving as the president of the Grand Rapids Medical and Surgical Society when he spent the winter of 1874-75 in southern France, Italy and Switzerland, again seeking relief for his chronic illness, tuberculosis.

On February 2, 1875, he wrote to the society from Nice, France, a letter which was read by Dr. Hazelwood during the society’s annual meeting. Zenas felt it was his

duty to review the changes occurring in the society during the past year; to note the progress made in its plans and purposes; to make such suggestions for the future as may seem proper, and to submit to you a dissertation upon some theme or subject relating to the honorable profession which your body represents. The latter I shall attempt to do only in a general way, and briefly. The society has five names added to the list of new members; it has lost one by death (the late Dr. E. S. Bienemann) and three by reason of change of residence. Having no information from the society since January 7, 1875, any changes which may have occurred subsequent to that date are not noted herein. Chief among the plans and purposes of the Association, as set forth in its constitution by the original founders, was a desire for the mutual improvement of its members in the profession of medicine and the art of surgery. Thus, an association which might at first seem to have for its object the furtherance of personal knowledge alone, become a public benefactor; for the advancement in the science of medicine, or improvement in the art of surgery, bring with them corresponding benefits to the people, by enabling the members of the profession to carry with them to the bedside of the sick that knowledge which alone renders the physician capable of dealing rationally with disease and the surgeon successfully with the surgical art. As evidence of a growing interest each successive year in the advantages afforded by this Association, we will mention the increased number in attendance at its meetings, the great variety of pathological specimens presented, and in the larger number and variety of papers read, and scientific subjects discussed. At these meetings, our professional thoughts become enlarged, our opinions modified, and our prejudices dispelled, and it is here, through the interchange of sentiments and that sympathy common to all mankind, that we learn to know each other better.

Dr. Bliss then turned to what he considered one of the most pressing health problems in Grand Rapids, the indigent sick. “The time is not far distant,” he wrote, “when some provision must be made by the city, in a moderate way, for the accommodation of the destitute sick; and the subject is alluded to herein simply for the purpose of expressing a hope that the authorities will recognize the wisdom of submitting to this association a request for its opinion as regards a location for such an institution, and plans for buildings. This society would cheerfully respond to such request by giving information that would insure the most healthful and accessible location, and plans that would secure ample and well ventilated buildings, at a comparatively moderate expense.”

The importance of one’s environment as a key component to good health, indeed the very climate of one’s surroundings, was very much on his mind, perhaps as he considered his own predicament.

All civilized nations have long recognized the curative influences of climate on disease, and for ages past it has been more or less customary among the invalids of the different people of the earth, to seek a change of climate as one of the means to secure their restoration to health. Since the discovery of steam as a motive power and the inauguration of railroads as a means of transit, the medical profession has discussed the subject of climate as a curative agent in disease more than formerly, and, fortunately, with increasing interest and profit; and as time brings with it increased facilities of communication between distant points and augmented wealth among the people, this source of relief for certain maladies will be more than every resorted to. Therefore, it becomes the duty of every intelligent physician to inform himself as far as possible upon this subject, that he may be enabled to advise intelligently whenever his opinion is sought. While it is acknowledged that the climate of no one locality is a specific for any known disease, experience has demonstrated that persons afflicted with certain maladies obtain more relief in some climates than in others; experience has also taught that different individuals afflicted with the same class of disease, and apparently in the same condition, are often affected very differently by the same climate. This singular fact is well illustrated by the varied effects of climate on that disease know as pulmonary consumption. One person improves in the invigorating air of Northern Michigan or Minnesota; another in the rarefied atmosphere of Colorado; a third in the warm valleys, or on the arid plains of California; another finds relief in summer on the Atlantic coast; while a fifth, perhaps aged, feeble, unable to resist cold, experiences relief during the months of winter in the warm, humid and balmy atmosphere of Florida. It is the province of the physician to explain this apparent contradiction by classifying the cases coming under his care, and assigning the climate most appropriate for the relief of each. Having passed several weeks of the present winter in Nice, it may be well to say something of its climate. According to traditional accounts, Nice was founded 300 years before the Christian era. The city, containing 50,000 inhabitants, faces south toward the Mediterranean Sea, the waters of which wash its southern boundaries for a distance of over two miles. Its soul is composed of detritus from the rocks of the surrounding mountains, which rise in the numerous spurs in the rear of the city, to the height of 500 to 2,000 feet, thus protecting the inhabitants from the cold winds of the north, which come from more distant, snow-capped peaks of the Alps. The Temperature never reaches lower than twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit in winter and rarely above seventy-eight degrees in summer -- the highest recorded is eighty-two degrees. These observations were all taken in a northern exposure and in the shade. The average temperature of Nice during the month of January (taken during eight years) was 47 degrees and a fraction. The mean temperature the whole year round, is nearly the same as at Florence, Rome and Naples, viz.: 59 degrees and a fraction. There has been neither snow nor ice at Nice this winter. Dryness of Climate is one of its most marked characteristics; the annual rainfall, however, is twenty-four inches, more than at either London or Paris. The explanation is a simple one; the greater proportion falls at the two periods of the equinox and within the limits of a few weeks. It has rained but four times during the past eight weeks, then in the night time and sparingly. Clear Days, or those characterized by clear sunshine, have been reckoned at one hundred and eighty in the year. These are distributed among the four seasons as follows: winter, forty-two; spring, forty-two; autumn, forty; and summer, forty-six. A cloudy day has been the exception during my stay here. Among Further Proofs of the mildness of this climate are the following: Swallows are seen here during these winter months, and as they are said to feed upon flying insects, you can imagine the warmth necessary for the support of insect life. The olive grows here in profusion, groves of these trees being seen stretching high up and for miles along the mountain sides, while in the valleys below are gardens devoted to the culture of tropical fruits, as the fig, lemon and the orange. One orchard of the latter contains 10,000 trees, whose fruit matures late in February. Here grows the palm, and myriads of roses in full bloom, which, with other flowers, lend their fragrance to every passing breeze. But this Elysium, this delightful climate, has some disagreeable features. There is a variation of fifteen degrees in temperature between sun exposed places and those in the shade. This sudden change, to a sensitive invalid, is very trying. The sun’s rays, which are cheering to all mankind, are here frequently inconveniently warm; they dazzle the eyes and irritate the skin, when exposed, resulting in the very general custom of carrying sun umbrellas. The inequality of temperature between the land and the sea during the daytime, frequently causes disagreeable breezes and counter currents in the air. A cool east wind frequently prevails during a portion of many days, in winter, resembling in character and effect the March winds of our own country; varying only in degree. The dryness of the atmosphere, before alluded to, makes it very stimulating, especially to the air passages. This is one of the principal reasons why I believe this climate is not well adapted for the relief of bronchitis or pulmonary consumption, unless it be some chronic cases, in aged people, accompanied with excessive expectoration. I believe the climate is well adapted for the relief of certain forms of gout, rheumatism, paralysis, nervous disability, lymphatic maladies, dyspepsia, and various other diseases unattended with sever organic lesions. Although Nice is more a resort for pleasure seekers, and, notwithstanding the disagreeable features of the climate which I have mentioned, there are few places, if any, which most invalids might better pass a winter. Please accept my grateful acknowledgements for the uniform courtesy you have shown me as presiding officer of your association, and for the marked proofs you have given me, of your confidence and sympathy. I bespeak for your association continued success, and as individuals, I wish you that peace and happiness which springs from the consciousness of a well-spent life. Pardon a person allusion to myself. I am glad to inform you that I am improved in health, and hope in a few months to return and resume my professional duties among you. At the date of your annual meeting I shall probably be in Naples, Italy; but wherever I journey I experience a growing affection for home, friends and country.

By April Bliss was in Serrano, Italy when he wrote to Dr. Wooster of Grand Rapids describing his present situation, and the Democrat reported on May 12, that his health “is still slowly improving though his cough still continues to bother him occasionally. There, as here, the weather has been unusual and quite disagreeable cold, damp and chilly. The doctor was to have started for Florence on the 1st inst. He reports his wife and daughter in good health and enjoying themselves.” By the end of June it was reported that Bliss would start home about the middle of July, and the Bliss family was in Paris when Zenas wrote to Dr. Wooster that his health was still improving although the Parisian weather was very bad. In early August he was reported to be back in the United States, having just recently landed at New York City, and by August 14 he was visiting friends in Ionia.

However his health continued to fail and by December of 1875 he was still generally confined to his home on Park Place in Grand Rapids. “Dr. Bliss,” wrote the Democrat in early December, “is once more able to take his meals with the rest of the Park Place family. He hopes to be able to attend to business again in a few days.” And on February 1, 1876, the paper noted that “Dr. Bliss has been feeling somewhat indisposed for the past several days, and obliged to remain within doors.”

Zenas never recovered and in fact his health steadily deteriorated until he died of consumption at his home on Sheldon Street in Grand Rapids on April 23, 1877. “Thus has passed away,” wrote the Eagle on April 24, “in the prime of life one who had seemed destined to reach the highest honors in the noble profession of medicine, and who, despite his long struggle against the insidious destroyer, had already won a place of distinction, and in many ways demonstrated his love for the well-being of his fellow men. . . . To say that he was highly esteemed by all classes in the community does not fully express that feeling of kind regard and affection engendered by his always modest walk and deportment, his quiet and unassuming ways, his love for and devotion to the highest art and skill in his profession, his noble uprightness as a man, and his tender solicitude and ever-active sympathies as a physician.”

The funeral services were held at his home at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday April 26, performed by Elder Errett, formerly of Ionia and one of Zenas’ long-time personal friends. “The choir rendered the chant, ‘Lord let me know mine and the number of my days’, very touchingly, the music by Mr. P. R. L. Peirce, Mrs. Church directing. The hymn, ‘Abide with me’, was also sung. A very large concourse of people assembled at the house and followed the remains to Fulton cemetery. The pall-bearers were among our prominent physicians, and the Medical fraternity attended in a body. Thus in the prime of life and in the zenith of his fame as a physician, has passed away from earth a true man, a devoted practitioner, and an honored and upright citizen. Peace to his ashes.”

Zenas was buried in Fulton cemetery, Grand Rapids: block 15 no. 3.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

William C. Bliss

William C. Bliss was born June 24, 1819, in Onondaga County, New York.

William’s father was reportedly born in Connecticut and his mother in New York. In any case, William eventually left New York and may have been living in Pennsylvania when he married Ohio native Lucinda Rosetta Lord (1826-1913) on November 11, 1845, in Lineville, Pennsylvania; they had at least four children: Eliza (b. 1847), Emma (b. 1850), Amelia (b. 1851), Estella (b. 1857) and William (b. 1866).

In 1847 William was still living in Pennsylvania, but he eventually moved his family westward and by 1850 was residing in Wisconsin where he remained until about 1858. By 1860 he had apparently settled in Michigan and was working as a farmer and living with his family in Ravenna, Muskegon County.

William stood 5’8” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was 41 years old and living (and/or working) in Muskegon County when he enlisted as a Musician, probably a Fifer in Company I on May 13, 1861. (It is curious that William did not join the “Muskegon Rangers”, a local militia company which would serve as the nucleus for Company H, if in fact he was residing in Muskegon County. Instead he joined Company I which was made up predominantly of men from the Ottawa County area.)

According to a statement William made in 1876, “Sometime in the fall of 1861, while encamped with his regiment at Arlington Heights, he contracted the disease of rheumatism and heart disease from exposure while in the service. . . . That about the 1st of February, 1862, he was sent to the regimental hospital at Arlington Heights, where he remained most of the time, unable to do any duty, until the latter part of March, 1862, when he was sent to [the] general hospital at Philadelphia, & remained there until discharged.”

He claimed in 1883 (or thereabouts) that he contracted rheumatism in October of 1861 at Fort Lyons near Arlington Heights, “caused by exposure to the wet weather. That about the same time he was attacked by heart disease, caused (so the Regimental surgeon Dr. Zenas Bliss stated to him) by the rheumatism, partially.” William further claimed “that he was removed to Regimental hospital at Camp Michigan in February of 1862, where he staid [sic] until about the 15th of March 1862 when the Regiment was ordered south and he was left at the hospital at Alexandria for two or three days and then sent to general hospital, Philadelphia from which he was discharged April 22, 1862 by reason of surgeon’s certificate of disability so the discharge papers say.”

William was in fact sent to the Regimental hospital in February of 1862 at Camp Michigan, Virginia, and from there he was sent to Alexandria, Virginia on or about March 14. He remained in Alexandria for three or four days before being transferred to a hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in early July of 1862 it was reported that Bliss had been a patient in Buttonwood Street hospital but had recently recently left the hospital. He was alleged to have deserted in August, but was in fact discharged for chronic rheumatism on April 22, 1862, at Philadelphia.

In any case, William eventually returned to western Michigan and settled his family on a farm in Barton, Newaygo County where they were living in 1870. Later that year or in early 1871 he reportedly moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, and in 1873 to Mitchell County, Kansas. He returned to Michigan the following year, first to Courtland, Kent County and then to Barton, Newaygo County, and was living in Howard City, Montcalm County in 1876, in Coral, Montcalm County in 1878, in Winfield working as a farmer and living with his wife Lucinda in 1880, in Coral, Montcalm County in 1881 and in Howard City or Coral, Montcalm County in 1883, and for many years worked as a carpenter. By 1894 he was residing in Big Rapids where he lived through 1901.

He applied for and received pension no. 243,145.

William apparently fractured his femur sometime before mid-October of 1908 and he never recovered from th einjury.

He died on October 13, 1908, possibly in Paris, Mecosta County and was reportedly buried in Davenport cemetery, Barton, Newaygo County.

His widow received pension no. 672,148, and she was living in Paris, Mecosta County in 1908.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Doctor Willard Bliss

Doctor Willard Bliss was born April 18, 1825, in Brutus, Cayuga County, New York, the son of Obediah (b. 1792) and Priscilla or Morilla or Marilla (Pool, b. 1802). (Yes, his given name was "Doctor," reportedly named after "Doctor Willard" of Auburn, New York who delivered him. (According to the New York Times.)

Massachusetts natives Obediah and Marilla were married, possibly in Massachusetts but they eventually settled in New York. As a young man his family moved from New York to Ohio, probably Chagrin Falls, where D. Willard (as he was commonly known) entered the medical department of Western Reserve College and was graduated in 1845 as a physician. He began his medical practice in Chagrin Falls, Ohio (where his parents were living in 1850 and where Obediah was working as a manufacturer) but eventually moved to Cleveland where he attended the Cleveland Medical College from which he graduated in 1849.

On May 23, 1849, he married Ohio-born Sophia Prentiss (1825-1888) in Cleveland, and they had at least five children: Dr. Ellis Baker Bliss, (b. 1850) a dentist, Dr. Clara Bliss Hinds, Willie (1854-56), and Eugenia (b. 1856, Mrs. George R. Milbourn). By 1850 D. W. and Sophronia were living with their infant son in Chagrin Falls, where D. W. practiced medicine.

In August of 1856 Dr. Bliss and his wife suffered the loss of their two-year-old son Willie.
In 1851 Willard and his wife moved to Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan, and sometime between 1852 and 1854 Willard settled in Grand Rapids where he quickly became an established member of the medical community. By August of 1859, Dr. Bliss had located his office in Nevius’ Block on the east side of Monroe between Pearl and Justice Streets where he practiced as “Surgeon, Occulist and Aurist”, and he remained in that location through 1860, while he and his family were residing on the third floor of Miller’s Boarding House in Ledyard & Aldrich Block, also on Monroe Street and on the same side of the Street as his office.

The vast majority of labor in the middle of the nineteenth century was performed by hand, and trauma was one of the more common occupational hazards. Loss of a finger, a toe or sometimes a whole limb was an all-too-frequent occurrence in areas such as logging and indeed in agriculture in general, then still the predominant occupation in the United States. On January 5, 1856, the editor of the Enquirer reported the results of a recent surgical operation undertaken by Drs. Henderson and Bliss.

The poor fellow who was the subject is a Hollander well known about town under the appellation of “Jelka”, and until within the last year or two, was for a long time in the employ of A. D. Rathbone, Esq. Nearly a year ago, he was kicked on the left leg by a horse, since which time the limb has continually grown worse, until at last it became necessary to amputate it, in order to save his life. Doctors Bliss and Henderson performed the operation in capital style -- Dr. B., wielding the knife, and taking it off above the knee. The patient being under the influence of chloroform was not aware until told, that the major part of his limb was detached from his body. It was a painful sight to witness, and “it were well when done, that it should be done quickly”, which was done by the above named gentlemen, neatly and skillfully. We never saw chloroform administered before in a surgical operation, and we never wish to see another, unless it is administered. It is truly the sufferer’s solace, and a blessed painkiller.

In March of 1857 John Sliter, of Wyoming, Kent County, died following an accident while working as a sawyer in Mr. Haire's mill, in Georgetown some four miles below Grandville. Sliter had his right leg sawed off “through the upper portion of his thigh by a circular saw. The attendance of Dr. Bliss . . . was procured as soon as possible, who found the bone so severely fractured that he deemed amputation necessary. This operation was immediately performed, severing the leg as closely to the body as possible. The unfortunate patient lived but about an hour after the amputation was performed.”

And in late September of 1860, Dr. Bliss, “assisted by Drs. Shepherd, Bissell, and Mainard, of our city, and Dr. Z. Bliss, of Ionia, and Dr. Daniel Wooley, of Big Rapids, amputated the limb of Mr. James Robinson, of Big Rapids, at the Bridge Street House, on Wednesday last. Mr. R. has suffered several years with what is called ‘white swelling’; and it was found necessary to amputate the diseased limb just above the joint. The operation was quickly performed, while the patient was under the influence of ether.”

During the month of October of 1859 much of his time was taken up with testifying during a murder trial in Grand Rapids.

In addition to his professional interests, before the war Bliss had also been very active in several of the city’s musical circles and was well-known for his fine singing voice. Not surprisingly, Bliss was also involved in various musical productions in Grand Rapids and in February of 1858 was appointed along with several others to set up a school for amateur singers. The session was nine weeks long and was to be held at the New Church Temple.

Dr. Bliss also took a keen interest in the growing militia movement in western Michigan and in 1860 was appointed Regimental Surgeon for the Fifty-first Regiment, Michigan Militia, under the command of Colonel Daniel McConnell, and which was headquartered in Grand Rapids.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, shortly after war broke out in April of 1861, and when it was announced that a regiment was forming in Grand Rapids, Dr. Bliss quickly offered his services. He enlisted at the age of 36 as Regimental surgeon at the organization of the Third Regiment on May 13, 1861, and was soon joined by his brother Dr. Zenas Bliss, a physician then living in Ionia County, who served as assistant Regimental surgeon.

In addition to providing medical inspections to each man who wished to enlist, the regimental surgeons also provided medical information for distribution in the local newspapers. On May 1 the Enquirer published the following notice from regimental surgeons Drs. D. W. and Zenas Bliss, in which they wished to instruct the ladies of Grand Rapids as to how to make bandages, etc.

Actual war exists in our land, and the U.S. is engaged in an attempt to suppress rebellion, which exists in some portions of our Union, and to maintain the laws and support the dignity of the govt., and in this hour of peril, it behooves us all good citizens -- ladies included -- to make known by their deeds, whether they are for or against this, the land of their nativity and adoption. Therefore, the undersigned, as Surgeons of the 3d Regiment of M. V. U. M., and in behalf of the Volunteer Soldiery of said regiment, issue this circular, asking all ladies who feel so disposed, to contribute bandages and lint, for the use of said regiment while in actual service. DIRECTIONS - All bandages should be made of cotton cloth or muslin, bleached or unbleached. Old is preferable to new; if the former, it should be thoroughly washed. It should be soft, yet firm, smooth, strong, and not too yielding, divested of selvige, seams and ravelings, and should be torn (not cut) into strips varying in width from 2 and one-quarter to 2 and one-half inches, the ends of the strips lapped, and sewed together. The length of a bandage may vary from 6 to 12 yards -- ordinarily 10 yards -- and each bandage should be carefully, smoothly, evenly and tightly rolled up and pinned. The lint may consist of old pieces of linen or muslin, divested of selvige, seams and ravelings, varying in size from that of the hand up to any other size convenient. It is hoped and believed that every one can do a little in this noble service, and that a hearty response will be given to this call, and that you will show your devotion and loyalty to this govt. by sending in this small yet acceptable token, to be used if necessary in mitigating the sufferings of those who go, in this hour of peril, to defend the flag and honor of our nation. We request that all donations be completely and carefully made up, and left at the office of Dr. Bliss of Grand Rapids, and the office of Dr. Bliss of Ionia, by Weds. evening, May 1st. Each package to be carefully labeled with the name of donor, the number of yards of bandages, number of pieces of lint, and number of papers of pins.

The Third Michigan infantry left Grand Rapids on Thursday, June 13, and shortly after the Third Michigan arrived in Washington on June 16, the Detroit Free Press carried a story concerning Bliss and his attention to the troops under his care. “Surgeon Bliss,” noted the editor, “deserves a great deal of credit for his untiring efforts to render the sick quarters as comfortable as possible. They are well supplied with straw beds, blankets, and pillows. Those in Michigan who have sick friends in the Third Regiment may rest assured that every care and attention will be bestowed upon them which circumstances permit. A large portion of the Regiment have suffered somewhat from change of climate, water and diet, but they are rapidly becoming accustomed to the change. Adjutant Earle is expected today with those who left behind at Grand Rapids on account of sickness. They accompany the Fourth Regiment.”

Yet apparently there had been rumors circulating around western Michigan that the men of the Third infantry were not receiving the best of medical care. It seems that certain allegations were made against the Regimental surgeons and their performance during the various actions along the Bull Run in northern Virginia between July 18 and July 21, 1861, and in reply Colonel McConnell, Lieutenant Colonel Ambrose Stevens, Major Stephen Champlin and Quartermaster Robert Collins signed and sent an open letter dated August 7, to the Grand Rapids Enquirer, praising the two physicians.

The conduct [wrote the staff officers] of Dr. D. W. Bliss, Surgeon, and Z. E. Bliss, Assistant Surgeon, of this Regiment, during the late retreat from Bull Run, having been severely animadverted upon, and having now fully examined into the subject, we deem it just to those gentlemen to make the following statement of facts. During the battle of Thursday, when there was apprehended need of them by the Regiment, they were both on hand doing what was possible to be done for the wounded of our Regiment, and also of the Brigade; while Dr. Z. E. Bliss contrary to what is required of a surgeon, came upon the field to attend the wounded during the action, remained there for over an hour personally exposed to the musketry, shot, and shell of the enemy and remained there until it was deemed best to have him retire to the rear, where he would be less exposed and could render an efficient service. Dr. D. W. Bliss was all that day at his proper post at the Brigade hospital, established in the rear of the line, attending to his duties as surgeon. On Sunday, the day of the last battle of Bull Run, their services not being required by our Regiment beyond prescribing for a few sick, which duty performed, they were ordered by the Surgeon General to open a hospital at Centreville, and take charge of, and prescribe for the sick, and treat such of the wounded of other Regiments as should present themselves for treatment. They complied with this order, and did their duty faithfully that day, taking care of many sick and wounded. Sunday night the retreat, having been ordered, General Tyler, a general of the division who commanded that portion of the retreat, ordered them to move forward with the ambulances containing the wounded men, and attend to their wants during the retreat. This accounts for their severance from their Regiment during the retreat, and for their arrival in Washington in advance thereof. We think that the officer who ordered them off, under the circumstances, transcended his duty, and that in complying they had no other idea than that they were obliged to obey the order of a superior officer thus given. We make this statement in justice to them, and to end, if possible, whatever unfavorable impression may be entertained toward them by those not acquainted with the facts of the case.

Dr. Bliss returned home to Grand Rapids briefly at the end of July, 1861, possibly to settle his affairs and prepare to move his family east. In September he was promoted to Major and Surgeon, United States Volunteers (probably on September 21), and on October 15, 1861, was transferred and promoted to Brigade surgeon, serving on the staff of Brigadier General Israel Richardson. He claimed after the war that while he was medical director of the Third Division, Third Corps, to which the Third Michigan was attached, he tented with his brother Zenas who had replaced him as regimental surgeon in the third Michigan.

He was reportedly in charge of the division hospital at Savage Station, Virginia, during the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, on May 31, 1862, but by late summer had been placed in charge of Armory Square Hospital in Washington, DC.

According to Allen Foote, a member of Company B, Third Michigan infantry, who had been wounded at Fair Oaks and was being returned to Virginia,

In going through Washington we passed by the Armory Square Hospital, then in charge of Dr. Bliss. I “fell out” and went into his office. Fortunately I found him at his desk. When he looked at me he recognized me at once and said, “See here, young man, this will never do. You will ruin my reputation. I reported you mortally wounded at Fair Oaks and have had you dead and buried in the Chickahominy swamp for six months.” I said, “I will improve your reputation by giving you an opportunity to resurrect me.” I then told him I did not want to be a “condemned yankee” and wanted him to find a way to save me from going to the Invalid Camp. He immediately called the hospital steward, ordered him to put me in a bed and keep me there four days. I protested, saying I was perfectly able to be about. The Doctor said to me in an undertone, “You stay in bed four days; by that time I will have an order reassigning you to do duty in my office.”

Indeed, Dr. Bliss spent most of his military career in the hospitals in and around Washington, but primarily he was in charge of Armory Square hospital (located opposite the Smithsonian Institute in Washington). And according to one postwar report, it was at “Armory Square hospital in Washington, where he won renown by the excellence of his practice, and its large success. In this practice he became thoroughly experienced in the treatment of gunshot wounds in all sorts of cases, and with all sorts of constitutions.”

According to Sarah Low, who had been a nurse at the Union Hotel hospital in Georgetown but who had just transferred to Armory Square,

It was a great improvement in every way over the Union Hotel. “The ward at Armory is bright and cheerful looking compared to the dismal condition at the Union where the air was so bad. This is a new hospital and an excellent one. Amory is nearly always filled as it is near the boat landing. The surgeon, ward master and attendants of my ward are very kind and attentive to patients. The patient’s comforts depend so much on the surgeon.” Dr. D. Willard Bliss, U.S. Volunteer, who had been surgeon in the 3rd Michigan Infantry, was the surgeon in charge of the Armory Square hospital and the doctors in the wards were most considerate. “Dr. Bliss insists his nurses go out into the fresh air and when we have very sick patients, he told us to go out for a walk every day.”

It is quite possible that Bliss moved his family to Washington, DC, shortly after his promotion and transferal since he did not return to Michigan again for over three years.

In late April of 1863, according to Walt Whitman, who served as a hospital steward at Armory Square while Bliss was there, Dr. Bliss was rumored to have been arrested for allegedly defrauding the government. And on May 27, Whitman wrote a friend that “Dr. Bliss was removed from Armory [Square hospital] and put for a few days in the Old Capitol prison -- there is now some talk of his going back to Armory.” According to one source, on April 24, Inspector A. C. Hamilton issued a “Report of Investigation against Surgeon D. W. Bliss”, in which he recommended that Bliss be removed from his command “for allegedly accepting a $500 bribe, received for recommending the introduction into the hospital of a stove invented by Mr. Kingsland.” Bliss was placed under arrest on April 27 and confined in the Old Capitol prison, within sight of his own home.

Bliss was cleared of the charges on June 2 and reinstated to his command of Armory Square. On August 11 Whitman reported that Dr. Bliss was presented with a set of surgical instruments. “The presentation,” Whitman told a friend, “to Dr. Bliss came off last Saturday evening -- it was in ward F -- the beds were all cleared out, the sick put in other wards -- the room cleaned, hung with greens, etc., looked very nice -- the instruments were there on exhibition the afternoon. I took a view of them, they were in four cases, & looked very fine -- in the evening they were presented -- speeches were made by one & another -- there was a band of music etc.. . .” Shortly afterward, Whitman noted, Bliss left for three weeks of furlough up north, presumably to New York. In any case, Whitman thought Bliss “a very fine operating surgeon -- sometimes he performs several amputations or other operations of importance in a day -- amputations, blood, death are nothing here.”

According to Sarah Low,

On April 3,1864 she wrote to her Aunt. “A week ago Wednesday evening we had an arrival of very sick and wounded patients, two of them died, one a very sick case of typhoid fever and the other a man with a wounded leg. I had the widows of these men to write to.” In going to another ward to check on a patient of mine who had been moved there “I found a patient with a wounded hand, sitting up in bed in great distress with his throat, he beckoned me to him”, and asked if I would not ask the Doctor to give him something to relieve him. By the time I could find a Doctor this patient was very bad. A Doctor finally came in and a moment after, Dr. Bliss happened to follow who recommended treatment. The patient began to hiccup and was dying. In a moment Dr. Bliss made an incision in the patient’s throat and inserted a tube. “Brooks, the patient, was restored to life breathing through a silver tube in his throat instead of through his mouth and nose.” The lady in charge of this ward is at home on a visit and if I had not come in Brooks would have died without ever seeing a surgeon. I have been giving him constant attention. Brooks disease is the same one General Washington died of. It has been said he died of Quincy but he did not. We shall never cease to regret that Dr. Bliss had not been there to have performed this operation, for if he had General Washington might be alive today.”

On August 24, 1864, the Eagle reported that he “arrived in our city this morning. The Doctor returns after an absence of some three years to pass a short time, we believe, visiting his relatives and friends in this city. The Doctor was a practitioner here ere the war commenced, and has, by his talents and skill, won a deservedly high and enviable position in the Government service, and is considered one of the best Surgeons connected therewith.” Bliss was brevetted colonel of United States volunteers, on March 13, 1865.

After the war Dr. Bliss remained in the Washington area to practice medicine, although he may have returned briefly to Grand Rapids in January of 1867, when either he (or his brother Zenas) may have been under consideration to the “Chair of Surgery” at the University of Michigan, vacated by Dr. Moses Gunn. However, Walt Whitman noted that at least by May of 1867, Dr. D. W. Bliss was practicing in Washington. No pension seems to be available.
In any case, D. W. resumed his practice in Washington and by 1870 he was living and/or working in the Second Ward.

D. W. soon became something of a scandal within the Washington medical community for his unwillingness to allow the medical bureaucracy to stifle research and speculation into, among other things, an alleged cure for cancer called “cundurango”. It was also claimed that this bureaucracy was under the influence of former confederates. According to at least one source, in 1871 he was finally expelled from the Medical Association of the District of Columbia for his open criticism of the medical establishment. On July 13, the Democrat reported that

“There were several serious charges against him [said the report issued by the Medical Association of the District of Columbia] one of which was quackery in trying to force a medicine upon the country which he knew had not the virtue claimed for it. As the Committee on Cundurango was not prepared to report, the Association took up another charge, that of consulting in the case of Vice President Colfax, with Dr. C. C. Cox, who had been previously refused admission into said Association on account of his holding a seat in the Board of Health with Dr. Verdi, a homeopathic physician, and for this expelled him” Concerning Cundurango, which has excited the attention of the medical profession throughout the country, a learned physician says, It is our belief that no medicine will ever be found to cure schirrus, or cancer. It is impossible that this should be so from the very nature of the case. The malignant cell growth which constitutes schirrus, or cancer, is a hereditary disease, depending upon the physical constitution of the individual. What tuberculous deposits is to the brain and bone in children, and to the lungs and intestines in adults, cancerous degeneration is to men and women of mature age. It can only be cured by a power that can removed its cause -- i.e., that can change the whole texture of the organism. Cundurango can never do this.

The next day, the Democrat wrote that Bliss had been expelled

ostensibly because he met in consultation with another physician of Washington not of the ‘regular’ school, but who holds a position upon the Board of Health with a homeopathic practitioner. But the real reason of the expulsion is political, and springs from the ex-rebel element which practically rules in that medical society. Dr. Bliss has been an ardent advocate of recognizing real merit wherever found, and therefore of admitting well qualified colored physicians into the association. He is not a mealy-mouthed nor timid man, but manly and outspoken in his sentiments, which, unhappily, are not politically in full accord with those of General Lee's staff surgeons, one of whom, we are told, is a prominent member of that association. This may account in a measure for the virus of some of the accounts sent out adverse to the new cancer cure which Dr. Bliss has been trying with what he claims to be excellent results. We have already given the claims on both sides, respecting the cundurango, and need not repeat them. As to the expulsion, it is really an honor for which the Doctor is to be congratulated.

Bliss quickly rose to the challenge and on July 27, the Eagle carried a story in which Dr. Bliss sought to defend his position.

D. W. Bliss has replied through the Washington Chronicle to some of the attacks which have been made upon his reputation in connection with the new cancer remedy, Cundurango. He denounces as false and slanderous the statement that he ‘has diligently published for selfish ends extravagant accounts of the marvelous efficiency of this South American product, knowing it at the same time to be utterly worthless.’ He also denies that he refused to cooperate with the medical society in testing its virtues. As to the report set afloat by the correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette to the effect that the Minister of Ecuador owned the only accessible lands where the Cundurango could be procured, and that he, with other interested parties was striving to introduce it for speculative purposes; the Dr. declares that the Minister does not own an acre of land there, if anywhere. He further says that he is willing to bide his time and the verdict of the public concerning both the value of the new medicine and the act of expelling him by the rebel-ridden Medical Association.

Throughout the fall of 1871 the controversial “cundurango cure” held the attention of many in the Grand Rapids community, and around the country as well. On October 6, the Eagle reprinted a story originally carried in the Chicago Tribune:

“A citizen of high standing took his wife, who had been long afflicted with cancer, to Washington, to be treated by Dr. Bliss. Her case was a very serious one, indicating a speedy termination in one way or the other. She tried the cundurango remedy, and patiently waited the result. In less than two weeks the cancer exhibited alarming signs form bleeding. Dr. Bliss could not account for the change, and an immediate operation was resolved upon. The knife soon explained the condition, which the cancer had assumed. An immense growth had become entirely separated from flesh, but at the same time had prevented the latter from healing, and the flow of blood was from unhealed flesh. As soon as the cancer was removed the flesh beneath was found apparently free from disease. Comparatively little pain resulted form the operation. The lady rapidly recovered her strength, and is now at her home in [Chicago], not only free from every sign or symptom of cancer, but enjoying a degree of health to which she has been a stranger for years. The theory is that cundurango had the effect to uproot and throw-off the cancerous growth, which had attained large proportions.”

Although a professional pariah, Bliss nonetheless felt strongly enough about the product that he continued to defend its merits, but always within reason. While in Grand Rapids in early October, visiting his sister, Mrs. Wenham, Dr. Bliss continued to affirm

with great confidence, his belief that the "Cundurango" is to become a specific for all scrofulous diseases, the same as the chincone - quinine - is a specific for the treatment of agues. He claims that it is simply the best alternative, or blood purifier, yet discovered and upon this he stakes his professional reputation. It is a bark of a vine -- which grows very like a grapevine. His first knowledge of this bark came from the Ecuador Minister, at Washington, who at the time was a patient of Dr. Bliss. From him he received a small package of the bark and the Doctor took it immediately to the residence of Vice President Colfax whose mother was then dying of cancer. That was the first introduction of the "Cundurango" as a curative agent in this country. At that time Dr. Bliss knew nothing of its medicinal virtues, but advised it to be used on the strength of the information given him by the Ecuador Minister. The case was a desperate one, and he told the Vice President that his mother's life might be saved by the use of the remedy. At least he felt assured it would do no harm -- and the result proved that "Cundurango" was a specific for cancer. Dr. Bliss has now on his books 800 cases of cancer, and 3,000 orders for Cundurango from all parts of the world. He claims the remedy is equally as efficacious for all scrofulous diseases, as for cancer. One of the worst cases of cancer was that of the wife of a prominent Chicago banker. It was a bleeding cancer, and would weigh from 5 to 7 pounds. Eight weeks ago she applied for Cundurango, and on Sunday last, when Chicago was a great and prosperous city, the Doctor attended this lady to church, and she stated to him that her health was better than it had been for years. The wife of a prominent physician of Buffalo, who was dying of cancer, wrote privately and secretly to new York for a small quantity of Cundurango. She commenced taking it without the knowledge of her husband, and in the course of a few weeks commenced growing better. We saw a letter from this lady's husband, addressed to Dr. Bliss, acknowledging the facts, and ordering more of the Cundurango, and confessing that its merits were marked and its curative powers surprising. As we have said, the Doctor only claims that this remedy is simply a blood purifier, and the best yet discovered, and he predicts that in a few years it will be in universal use by the medical profession.

Bliss’ advertisements for the “cure” were, however, worded with greater emphasis: “Cundurango! The wonderful remedy for Cancer, Syphilis, Scrofula, Ulcers, Salt Rebum, and All Other Chronic Blood Diseases.” The reader was advised to write for the product, care of “Bliss, Keene & co., 60 Cedar Street, New York. (Apparently his brother Zenas was also involved in the company, possibly as an investor.)

Following his expulsion Willard returned to Grand Rapids and reportedly resumed his practice in the city. However, the “Cundurango” cure eventually disappeared, and with it went the controversy attached to Bliss’s involvement with the product. By 1880 he was working as a physician in Washington and living with his wife on F Street Northwest; also living with them were his son Ellis, his daughter Elenor and his daughter Eugenia Wilburn and her husband George and their son Paul – as well as numerous servants and boarders.

He was nominally returned to the fold of the medical community in the District of Columbia, and by the summer of 1881 was in charge of the medical staff of four other physicians in personal attendance to President Garfield who was mortally wounded by an assassin.

Less than four months after his inauguration, President Garfield arrived at the Washington railroad depot on July 2, 1881, to catch a train for a summer's retreat on the New Jersey seashore. As Garfield made his way through the station, Charles Guiteau raced from the shadows and fired two shots point blank into the president. One grazed Garfield's arm; the other lodged in his abdomen. Exclaiming, "My God, what is this?" the president collapsed to the floor remaining fully conscious, but in a great deal of pain. The first doctor on the scene administered brandy and spirits of ammonia, causing the president to promptly vomit. Then D. W. Bliss, a leading Washington doctor, appeared and inserted a metal probe into the wound, turning it slowly, searching for the bullet. The probe became stuck between the shattered fragments of Garfield's eleventh rib, and was removed only with a great deal of difficulty, causing great pain. Then Bliss inserted his finger into the wound, widening the hole in another unsuccessful probe. It was decided to move Garfield to the White House for further treatment. Leading doctors of the age flocked to Washington to aid in his recovery, sixteen in all. Most probed the wound with their fingers or dirty instruments. Though the president complained of numbness in the legs and feet, which implied the bullet was lodged near the spinal cord, most thought it was resting in the abdomen. The president's condition weakened under the oppressive heat and humidity of the Washington summer combined with an onslaught of mosquitoes from a stagnate canal behind the White House. It was decided to move him by train to a cottage on the New Jersey seashore. Shortly after the move, Garfield's temperature began to elevate; the doctors reopened the wound and enlarged it hoping to find the bullet. They were unsuccessful. By the time Garfield died on September 19, his doctors had turned a three-inch-deep, harmless wound into a twenty-inch-long contaminated gash stretching from his ribs to his groin and oozing more pus each day. He lingered for eighty days, wasting away from his robust 210 pounds to a mere 130 pounds. The end came on the night of September 19. Clawing at his chest he moaned, "This pain, this pain," while suffering a major heart attack. The president died a few minutes later. Garfield's physicians did not serve him well. It seems each of his 16 attendants wanted to literally get their hands into him - to prod and grope his wound in an attempt to find the illusive bullet. Infection invariable set in. Internal sores developed - oozing pus and requiring periodic lancing in order to reduce their size. Medicine had not yet fully accepted the relationship between germs and disease. Operations were routinely performed without benefit of surgical gloves, masks, sterile instruments, or any antiseptics to protect the patient. Of more immediate concern to the patient, operations were performed without any means of deadening the pain. The patient was left to his or her own devices to cope with the trauma of surgery. Garfield was not a particularly popular president. His short span of office had not been long enough for the public to form an opinion one way or the other. However, the stoic manner in which he endured his wounds warmed the popular attitude towards him. Garfield's chief physician, Dr. D. W. Bliss recounts how the president coped with his condition: "At this time, as is known, a simple but painful operation was rendered necessary by the formation of a superficial pus-sac. When, after consultation, I informed the President of the intention to use the knife, he with unfailing cheerfulness replied: 'Very well; whatever you say is necessary must be done.' When I handed the bistoury to one of the counsel, with the request that he make the incision. Without an anesthetic, and without a murmur, or a muscular contraction by the patient, the incision was made. He quietly asked the results of the operation, and soon sank into a peaceful slumber. This operation, though simple in itself, was painful, and the manner in which it was borne by the President in his enfeebled condition was, perhaps, as good an instance as any of the wonderful nervous control which characterized his whole illness. This power of mind over body was also daily exhibited at the dressings of his wound, which were unavoidably painful, and yet invariably borne without indication of discomfort; and also at subsequent operations, always painful." When the decision was made to move the president to New Jersey, an English nobleman offered the use of his twenty-room home on the seashore. Special track was laid from the railroad's mainline to the door of the home. During the early hours of September 6, hushed crowds lined Pennsylvania Avenue as Garfield was moved by carriage from the White House to the railroad depot.

Dr. Bliss continues his story:

"Mrs. Garfield sat by the side of her husband during the first part of the trip, cheering and reassuring him as no one else could, and visited him afterward, frequently, from her own car. On arriving at the track recently laid to the Francklyn [?] Cottage, we were surrounded by a large concourse of people, who braved the heat of the day in the anxiety lest the journey might have resulted disastrously. The engine had not weight and power sufficient to push us up the steep grade. Instantly hundreds of strong arms caught the cars, and silently, but resistlessly, rolled the three heavy coaches up to the level. Arriving at the cottage, the President was placed upon a stretcher, and borne under the canopy previously arranged, to the room wherein the remainder of a noble life was spent." During the evening of September 16, Dr. Bliss passed the time reading when a servant rushed in announcing a change in the President's condition: "At 10:10 I was looking over some of the wonderful productions of the human imagination which each mail brought me, when the faithful Dan suddenly appeared at the door of communication, and said; 'General Swaim wants you quick!' He preceded me to the room, took the candle from behind the screen near the door, and raised it so that the light fell full upon the face, so soon to settle in the rigid lines of death. Observing the pallor, the upturned eyes, the gasping respiration, and the total unconsciousness, I, with uplifted hands, exclaimed, 'My God, Swaim! The President is dying!' Turning to the servant, I added, 'Call Mrs. Garfield immediately, and on your return, Doctors Agnew and Hamilton.' On his way to Mrs. Garfield's room, he notified Colonel Rockwell, who was the first member of the household in the room. Only a moment elapsed before Mrs. Garfield was present. She exclaimed, 'Oh! what is the matter?' I said, 'Mrs. Garfield, the President is dying.' Leaning over her husband and fervently kissing his brow, she exclaimed, 'Oh! Why am I made to suffer this cruel wrong?' While summoning Mrs. Garfield, I had in vain sought for the pulse at the wrist, next at the carotid artery, and last by placing my ear over the region of the heart. Restoratives, which were always at hand, were instantly resorted to. In almost every conceivable way it was sought to revive the rapidly yielding vital forces. A faint, fluttering pulsation of the heart, gradually fading to indistinctness, alone rewarded my examinations. At last, only moments after the first alarm, at 10:35, I raised my head from the breast of my dead friend and said to the sorrowful group, 'It is over.' Noiselessly, one by one, we passed out, leaving the broken-hearted wife alone with her dead husband. Thus she remained for more than an hour, gazing upon the lifeless features, when Colonel Rockwell, fearing the effect upon her health, touched her arm and begged her to retire, which she did."

After Garfield's death his physicians submitted a bill of $85,000 to the Senate. The Senators authorized a payment of only $10,000. Many of them referred to the doctors as quacks.

Dr. Bliss also attended several prominent members of the Senate. “He was the family physician,” noted the Eagle, “of Senator Chandler; and he has been the regular medical attendant of many of the most noted men in Washington, including several Presidents; also he was called to the bedside of the later Senator Morton, and attended him in his last sickness. For many years he . . . occupied a prominent position upon the Board of Health at Washington.”

Tragedy seemed to plague Dr. Bliss throughout much of the last years of his life. His brother Zenas died of consumption in 1876 and Sophia died in 1881. In 1886 he was residing at Willard’s Hotel in Washington and during a trip west suffered a near-fatal accident in Cleveland, Ohio, after which he returned to Washington to recover.

Willard’s personal losses were compounded by financial setbacks. In regards to the settlement of accounts for attending President Garfield, in December of 1882 he told a reporter “that while he could not speak of his associates, he could say distinctly for himself that he should not accept the $6,500 [allowed by the Garfield claim board].” He added that he “would take what his services were worth, or he would go unpaid.” he further observed that the board’s action was an “insult” and that “the attempt to deprive him of compensation that he was entitled to was a fraud.” He claimed that he was making an average of $1500 per month which rose to $2500 to $3000 per month when Congress was in session, and that he had to suspend his practice entirely to attend to the President. He further added that this had cost him some six months’ worth of earnings since, unlike a lawyer who can postpone cases, a doctor cannot, and thus the monies went to someone with a private practice.

Congress, however, refused to increase the appropriations for the compensation of those who attended Garfield, and Bliss’ practice never regained its strength and volume it had had in his early days in Washington, although he continued to practice medicine up until his death.
Dr. Bliss was a widower when he died of apoplexy at 7:15 a.m. on February 21, 1889, in Washington, DC, presumably at the Willard Hotel.

Following his death in 1889, the Democrat observed that Bliss’s final years had indeed not been happy ones. “The death of Dr. Bliss,” wrote the paper, “recalls the popular superstition that fate seems to pursue everybody who was even remotely connected with the death of Garfield and the trial and hanging of Guiteau. Dr. Bliss ten years ago was a vigorous, hearty, prosperous man. Since the great patient of his time and skill died he has suffered nothing but misfortune. He lost his practice. Congress refused him his fee and gave him but a small one; his wife died; he himself met with a severe array of misfortunes and now he dies suddenly himself. He always thought Congress had treated him shamefully in cutting down his fee and his heirs may get some of the money which is still available and unexpended.” Still, “Throughout his life Dr. Bliss always spoke with affection of the years he lived in Michigan.”

Dr. Bliss was reportedly buried in Washington.