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SAMUEL SHERWOOD BISSELL was born September 17, 1842 in Greenwich, Fairfield County, Connecticut. He was the son of Samuel Burr Sherwood Bissell, born on February 16, 1812 and Fannie Maria Havens and the grandson of Clark Bissell and Sally Sherwood. At birth he was named Sherwood Clark Bissell, but it was later changed to Samuel Sherwood Bissell by his father, in 1858, after his brother was born and he too was named Clark. According to the 1860 Federal Census of Fairfield Connecticut, Samuel was one of seven children in the household. Recorded on the census was Samuel (Burr) at age 48, Fanny M. at age 38, and all their children; Ellen A. age 19, S. Sherwood age 17, Catherine age 15, Renslier H. age 12, Fanny M. age 6, Clark age 4 and Morris I. age 2. All, including his father, were born in Connecticut with the exception of Samuel Sherwood, who was born in New York. Samuel’s early years in life were spent at Norwalk, Connecticut where he and his other siblings attended public school.

Sometime between June 1860 and October 1862, at the age of seventeen, Bissell ran off and joined the U.S. Navy.

In the book, “List of Officers in the US Navy and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900”, compiled from the Official Records of the Navy Department, Bissell is shown listed as Acting Masters Mate. On 0ctober 17, 1862, Bissell was appointed as a Mate in the Union Navy, receiving his instruction and training at New York. Bissell was aboard the USS “Arizona” at the mouth of the Mississippi River, from April 1 through April 4, 1863, then on June l5, l863, while still aboard the “Arizona” and on the Mississippi River, Bissell was captured at Pointe Coupee, Louisiana and imprisoned at Vicksburg, Virginia.

 

Bissell was finally released, with the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi by General Grant in July l863, and after his release, Bissell was allowed to return home due to bad health. On March 15, 1864 Bissell again reported for duty, aboard the double-ended Union gunboat, “Agawam” and is shown on Naval rosters as Acting Ensign aboard the “Agawam” from March 1864 through April 1864. The “Agawam”, was in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to recruit a crew from the Kittery Navy Yard, where she was placed in commission on March 9, 1864. On March 17th the “Agawam”, left the Naval Yard but struck rocks off Sullivan’s Island, broke her port wheel and was moored to a buoy for several days before returning to the Navy Yard for repairs. On April 18, 1864 the “Agawam”, left Portsmouth again and arrived at Portland, Maine, that evening. Ten days later she left Portland, shortly after noon, but again trouble ensued when she developed engine trouble and had to return to Portland for more repairs.

 
Bissell was then transferred to the Union Naval vessel “Shenandoah”, on May 31, 1864. The Shenandoah was a screw powered sloop of the Canandaigua class, of which only 2 were built. She was 1,395 tons and held two large 11inch smooth bore guns, one 150 pounder rifled gun, one 130 pounder rifled gun, two 24 pounder howitzers and two 12 pounder howitzers. She was commissioned on June 20, 1863 and served with the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron during 1863 and 1864. She supported the attacks on Fort Fisher on the 24th and 25th of December 1864 and on the 13th and 15th of January 1865.

The Shenandoah was spending her time patrolling off Wilmington and searching on the blockade runner routes between Nassau and Wilmington.

 

That cruising took her as far south as Key West, Florida, and to the Bahamas and Bermuda to the east. During a four-hour chase on 30 July 1864, she fired furiously into the Confederate blockade runner, “Lilian”, but it escaped in the darkness to the safety of Cape Lookout shoals. At daybreak on 7 August 1864, the blockade runner, “Falcon” narrowly escaped the “Shenandoah” and the “Sanfiago De Cuba” by throwing cotton overboard to lighten its load and then simply outsailing her pursuers in the direction of Cuba. Bissell was then transferred to the “Junitia” at Hampton Roads, Virginia on November 29, 1864. Aboard the “Junitia”, Bissell again served as Acting Ensign. The “Junitia” at that time had become a part of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and operated out of Hampton Roads. While at Hampton Roads Bissell attempted to resign from the Navy, but for reasons unknown his commanding officer Captain William Rogers Taylor, refused to accept his resignation. The “Junitia” steamed to Wilmington early in December, to prepare for an offensive operation against that Confederate stronghold and blockade running center. The “Junitia” was in the middle of the conflict during the first attack on Fort Fisher, closing Southern batteries to get in position for effective bombardment. The daring of the “Junitia” during the first attack cost the lives of 2 officers and 3 sailors, with another 11 men wounded. Her daring was again seen, during the second attack on Fort Fisher, from January 13th through the 15th, 1865. Five more men were killed and 10 more wounded, but the attack brought a victory in taking Wilmington out of Southern control and sealing off the Confederacy from effective foreign aid.

On April 27, 1865 Bissell officially resigned from naval service and arrived in Australia, some twenty years later. In Australia Bissell first lived in Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia and records reveal that while living in Rockhampton in 1903, Bissell was became infected with Typhoid Fever and spent some six weeks in the Rockhampton hospital recovering. He eventually moved to Mount Morgan, Queensland, where he died of a cerebral haemorrhage, at the age of sixty-three, in hospital on April 2, 1906 and was buried in the Mount Morgan Cemetery.   Unfortunately, today the grave is not marked and is an old part of the cemetery, making it absolutely impossible to definitely identify which grave is his.

 

Mt. Morgan cemetery records reveal Samuel Sherwood Bissell is interred grave M71, row A, under the name of “Bezzell”.  The record of wills reveal that Bissell before he died, had appointed as the executor of his will a Mrs. Catherine O’Donell and had assigned rights of inheritance to all his property and money over to her as well.  

His grave remained unmarked until 2006 when a bronze memorial plaque was acquired by members of the American Civil War Round Table of Queensland, Inc. and presented to the cemetery for placement on his gravesite.

 

Bureau of Census, State of Connecticut

“Harpers Weekly Magazine”, August, 1863

Jack Ford, Brisbane, Queensland

List of Officers in the US Navy and of the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900, Bureau of  Navigation, Navy Department

Mt. Morgan Cemetery records

Navyhistory.com

Rockhampton & District Historical Society

Warships of the Civil War Navies, P. H. Silverstone, Annapolis, Naval Institute Press

Will and Testament of Samuel Sherwood Bissell

 

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