Frederick Samuel Bass was born in Brunswick County, Virginia, on October 27, 1831, the son of Benjamin S. Bass and Sarah (Petway) Bass. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1851. Before the Civil War, he taught at a military academy in Marshall, Texas.
On May 28, 1861, Bass enlisted as captain of Company E, often known as the Marshall Guards, which subsequently became Company E of the First Texas Infantry. The First Texas Infantry served in the Eastern theater of operations as part of the Army of Northern Virginia. On September 17, 1862, he was promoted to major, and on January 5, 1864, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. On July 15, 1864, he was promoted again, this time to the rank of colonel and overall commander of the First Texas Infantry Regiment. During the October 7, 1864, battle at Darbytown Road, he was injured with a slight flesh wound in the left leg, but he recovered quickly and resumed his duties. On April 9, 1865, Bass surrendered along with the rest of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant and the United States Army at Appomattox Courthouse. As commander of the First Texas Infantry Regiment, Bass surrendered sixteen officers and 133 soldiers at Appomattox.
After the war, Bass returned to Marshall and served as the president of Marshall University until 1879. On July 30, 1868, he married Mary Ezell and had one son, Robert. After his resignation as president of Marshall University the family moved to Austin. By 1896 he was a registered resident of the Texas Confederate Home and died there on July 9, 1897. He is buried in the State Cemetery in Austin.