Monday, August 5, 2013

Milton Holland, born August 1st, 1844




Milton Murray Holland was born August 1, 1844 in Texas, as the son of slaves on Holland Plantation. Although the record shows his parents as being John and Matilda Holland, slaves on the plantation, his light complexion has led historians to speculate that his real father was Bird Holland, the brother of Spearman Holland, their owner.  Bird Holland was believed to be the father of three sons by Matilda: William, born in 1841, Milton and James. Milton had three known brothers, William, James, and Toby, all part of the third generation of African-Americans born as slaves on the Holland Family Plantation.

Sometime in the 1850s, Bird Holland purchased the freedom of Milton and his two brothers, William and James, and sent them to school in Ohio.  Milton attended the Albany Manual Labor Academy, an educational institution that accepted blacks and women.  Albany, Ohio was founded in 1842; it was one of several stops in Athens County for the Underground Railroad, and many former slaves decided to stay in the village.  Albany Manual Labor Academy was a private academy established in 1847, whose educational philosophy was contained in the following statement made on April 28, 1849 in the Saturday Visiter. 
“By combining Manual Labor with study, we intend to rebuke the withering spirit of caste, and as far as our influence extends, make all forms of useful industry respectable, and furnish community with practical men and women instead of mere theorists.”
W.S. Lewis of the Union Congregational Church of Albany, describing the black population, wrote that “We have had quite an accession of colored people from several different slave states and students, children of slave holders from Louisiana and Texas.”  Among the 185 students listed in the Annual Catalogue of the Albany Manual Labor University, 1855-56, there were no fewer than 19 black students, including three from Texas, with the name of Holland: William, Milton and James. Tuition ranged from $2.50 to $4 per term depending on the course of study, $2.50 per term for room, and $1.50 per week for board.  Milton learned reading and writing, arithmetic, geography, and might have even taken higher level classes in algebra, bookkeeping, history, philosophy, and astronomy. 

Bird Holland was appointed Texas secretary of state on March 16, 1861, and served until November 1861, when he joined the Confederate Army. During the Civil War Holland served as adjutant of Colonel Richard Hubbard's 22nd Texas Infantry with the rank of major. He was killed in action on April 8, 1864, at the battle of Mansfield, Louisiana, during the Red River campaign. The following year his body was returned to Austin.  
Grave Marker of Bird Holland
He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery on October 14, 1865 next to the grave of his wife, Matilda Rust Holland, who had died in 1858, after less than a year of marriage. 




Milton Holland was 17 years old when the Civil War began; he was still attending school in Athens County, Ohio.


Athens County, Ohio
Holland tried to enlist in the Union Army at the start of the Civil War, but was rejected because of his race. Instead, he served in a private militia unit, the Attucks Guards, so named because of Crispus Attucks, the first person (who happened to be black) to be killed in the Revolutionary War. The Attucks Guards was formed in Albany by its African American residents, many of them students. On May 1, 1861, this unit, headed by Captain Julius Hawkins, attaché of the U.S. District Court of Cincinnati, informed Ohio Governor William Dennison that “every man was ready to fight the Union’s cause.”  On May 15, 1861, the Attucks’ Guards marched in Albany to the residence of Reverend J. Cable, where they were presented with a handmade flag by the black women of Albany. They were acknowledged with an address by Reverend Thomas J. Furguson, who later headed the first all-black school in Albany, the Albany Enterprise Academy, after the Albany Manual Labor Academy changed hands and restricted admissions to white students only.

Holland worked for the quartermaster department of the U.S. Army as a shoemaker.  He also worked as an aide-de-camp of Colonel Nelson H. Van Vorhes, an officer from Athens County who served in the 3d, 18th and 92d Ohio infantry regiments.



In 1862, Ohio governor David Tod wrote that “this is a white man’s government; that white men are able to defend and protect it and to enlist a negro soldier would be to drive every white man out of the service,” However, as the war continued he changed his mind, and in August, 1863 authorized the formation of the state's first black regiment, the 127th Ohio Regiment.

David Tod
Camp Delaware was set up to accept new recruits and begin the regiment's training. 


Camp Delaware Historical Marker


















Later, when officially accepted as a unit in the federal army, the regiment was redesignated the 5th U.S. Colored Troop (USCT) Regiment. 

127th Ohio Regiment, later designated the 5th US Colored Troop Regiment
Holland joined at the Athens County Fairgrounds.  Recruits from southern Ohio comprised fully 80 percent of the regiment, with those from Hamilton and Athens County providing the largest number. Holland's brother, William, served with the Sixteenth U.S. Colored Troops, organized at Nashville, Tennessee in December 1864.

Entry for Milton M. Holland
in Company Descriptive Book
According to the records of the company book, Holland was physically described as being 18 years of age, five feet eight inches tall, with a yellow complexion, brown eyes and black hair. 


John Mercer Langston




















John Mercer Langston, the Ohio abolitionist, attorney, educator, and activist, met with Eliakum H. Moore, a local banker, before visiting the camp, and Holland was described in the following terms:
He was a young colored Texan sent North and located as a student at that time in Albany …. He was by nature a soldier. He smelt battle from afar, and was ready at the shortest warning to engage in deadly conflict. At the time he was really a lad of about nineteen years of age, with all the fire of such youthful, daring nature as he possessed in blood and by inheritance. He was a young person of remarkable native intelligence, good name, bearing himself constantly, even among his men, so as to win the largest respect and confidence. The promise of manly life and endeavor were apparent in his case on the most casual observation and contact.
Eliakum H. Moore
In the winter of 1863, Holland was with his regiment in the raid through the Dismal Swamp into North Carolina, capturing forage and emancipating slaves under the recent Emancipation Proclamation. He wrote the following letter to The Messenger, Athens’ local newspaper, whose editorship had been taken over by Van Vorhes:
I must say of the 5th, that after twenty days of hard scouting, without overcoats or blankets, they returned home to camp, which the soldiers term their home, making twenty-five and thirty miles per day. Several of the white cavalry told me that no soldiers have ever done as hard marching through swamps and marshes as cheerfully as we did, and that if they had to follow us for any length of time it would kill their horses. During that raid, thousands of slaves belonging to rebel masters were liberated. . . . We hung one guerilla dead, by the neck, by order of Brig. Gen. E. A. Wild, a noble and brave man, commanding colored troops--the right man in the right place." He has but one arm, having lost his left one at the battle of Antietam, but with his revolver in hand, he was at the head of our regiment cheering us on to victory.
Edward Augustus Wild
 One of the boys belong to Co. D was captured and hung. He was found by our cavalry pickets yesterday and is to be buried today. We hold one of their "fair daughters," as they term them, for the good behavior of her husband, who is a guerilla officer, toward our beloved soldiers. The soldier was found with a note pinned to his flesh. Before this war ends we will pin their sentences to them with Uncle Sam's leaden pills.
The boys are generally well, and satisfied that though they are deprived of all the comforts of home, and laboring under great disadvantages as regards pay and having families to support upon less wages than white soldiers, still trust that when they do return they will be crowned with honors, and a happier home prepared for them, when they will be free from the abuses of northern and southern fire-eaters. Though we should fall struggling in our blood for right and justice, for the freedom of our brothers in bondage, or fall in defense of our national color, the Stars and Stripes, our home and fireside will ever be protected by our old friend Gov. Tod, by the loyalty of Abraham Lincoln, our Moses, and the all-wise God that created us. Friends at home be cheerful, cast aside all mercenary compensation. Spring forth to the call and show to the world that you are men. You have thus far shown, and still continue to show yourselves worthy of freedom, and you will win the respect of the whole nation. 
There is a brighter day coming for the colored man, and he must sacrifice home comforts if necessary to speed the coming of that glorious day. I will close my letter in the language of the immortal Henry-"Give me liberty, or give me death!" 
~ Milton M. Holland, January 19, 1864, Norfolk, Virginia
Hugh Judson Kilpatrick
In the early winter and spring of 1864, he was with his regiment in two raids from Yorktown, Virginia to Bottom’s Bridge just outside Richmond.  The first raid was made for the purpose of liberating the Union prisoners confined at Libby Prison.  The second was to assist General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick who, in his attempt to relieve the Libby Prison men, had been surrounded by the Confederate forces.

William F. Smith 
Holland's regiment was part of the famous Black Brigade which General William F. Smith at first refused to use in his charge on Petersburg on June 15, 1864. General Butler, commanding the corps, ordered General Smith to march on Petersburg and storm her breastworks. General Smith led the charge; , for the courage and skill displayed by the colored troops in that fight, General Smith remarked that he would lead men like those into any battle.


Benjamin Butler
The regiment was at the Battle of the Crater on July 30, and was prepared to make the charge. They received instructions that at a given signal they were to discharge their guns onto the enemy’s line, jump the parapet and the ditch, and make a charge to cover the ‘Crater’.  Fortunately, they were not called to charge into the Crater.


Illustration by Alfred Waud of the Battle of the Crater
Saturday, July 30, 1864
Many things attracted our attention along the banks of the James, too numerous to mention. One I might mention particularly, was the ruins of Jamestown, the spot where the curse of slavery was first introduced into the United States. A serpent that has inserted his poisonous fangs into the body of this government, causing it to wither in its bloom. Slowly we worked our way up the winding James, until within sight of the City Point celebrated for being the Department where the exchange of prisoners is made. As we neared the shore at that point Co. C was ordered to take the advance as soon as we landed. Up the hill we marched to where the rebel flag was stationed. Down with it cried the boys, and in a moment more the flag of the glorious free could be seen floating in the breeze. The company banners was the first company flag that waved over the rebel city. Forty prisoners were captured at this place by the provost guard of the division. One platoon of our company was deployed as skirmishers and followed a short distance the retreating foe that escaped.

. . . One thing that I must mention which attracted the attention of the whole division. It was that brave and daring but strange personage that rides the white charger. We could see him plainly riding up and down the rebel lines, could hear him shouting from the top of his voice to stand, that they had only niggers to contend with. This peculiar personage seems possessed with supernatural talent. He would sometimes ride his horse with almost lightning speed, up and down his lines amid the most terrific fire of shot and shell. But when the command was given to us, "Charge bayonets! Forward double quick!" the black column rushed forward, raising the battle yell, and in a few moments more we mounted the rebel parapets. And to our great surprise, we found that the boasted Southern chivalry had fled. They could not see the nigger part as the man on the white horse presented it. We captured here one gun and caisson. Column moved out to the left in front of the second line of fortifications while the white troops took the right. We moved off in line of battle, took a position right in range of the enemies guns, in which position we remained six hours exposed to an enfilading fire of shot and shell. Just at nightfall after the placing of our guns had been effected, we were ordered to charge a second fort which we did with as much success as the first. It is useless for me to attempt a description of that evening cannonading. I have never heard anything to equal it before or since for a while whole batteries discharge their contents into the rebel ranks at once, the result was complete success.

Milton M. Holland, July 24, 1864, Near Petersburg, Virginia
Holland was serving as a Sergeant Major in the 5th USCI when his unit participated in the Battle of Chaffin's Farm on September 29, 1864 in Virginia. While fighting near Richmond, Virginia, all the white officers were killed during the advance. Holland took command and led them to victory. For his lead of the charge, during which he was wounded, Holland was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Although Holland was wounded in this battle, he did not leave the field. Later in the day, the regiment made a charge at Fort Harrison to relieve a brigade of white troops that was unable to get back to the Union lines.  Holland’s regiment received praise from General Grant, who personally rode over the battlefield.

He served with his regiment at Dutch Gap until October 4th, when the regiment went over to Fair Oaks, or Seven Pines.
Benjamin Butler in the Field
An order from General Butler, dated October 11, 1864, had this to say:
Milton M. Holland, sergeant-major, Fifth U.S. Colored Troops, commanding Company C; James H. Bronson, first sergeant, commanding Company D; Robert Pinn, first sergeant, commanding Company I, wounded; Powhatan Beatty, first sergeant, commanding Company G, Fifth U.S. Colored Troops--all these gallant colored soldiers were left in command, all their company officers being killed or wounded, and led them gallantly and meritoriously through the day. For these services they have most honorable mention, and the commanding general will cause a special medal to be struck in honor of these gallant colored soldiers.
Powhatan Beatty
General Butler was so moved by the leadership of the sergeants Holland, Bronson, Pinn, and Beatty, as well as that of James Daniel Gardner and Edward Ratcliff, that he caused “a special medal to be struck in honor of these gallant colored soldiers”. This medal was made of Tiffany silver and depicted a black soldier charging an enemy parapet, it was first called the Colored Troop Medal and later the Butler Medal. The creation of such a medal as a result of individual combat gallantry by Holland and five other men is unique in American military history, the only such award ever designated for black soldiers. 


Robert Pinn

By order of General Butler, Holland was awarded a battlefield promotion to Captain, but because of his color was refused the commission by the War Department. Governor Tod was willing to commission Holland as a captain if he would go before the board as a white man and be reassigned to another regiment. Holland refused to deny his racial identity and declined the offer from the Governor.

Holland took part in patrols around the lowlands of North Carolina surrounding Fort Fisher in January of 1865, capturing Confederate guerilla fighters and freeing slaves. 


Civil War Medal of Honor
Three days before the end of the war, on April 6, 1865, he was issued the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Chaffin's Farm in September 1864.  He was one of sixteen black soldiers to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Civil War, and the first African-American recipient from Texas.

Milton Holland, wearing his
Medal of Honor
Holland was present on April 26, 1865, when Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to General William T. Sherman at Bennett Place, North Carolina.  Around the same time, his regiment received the news of the death of President Lincoln.

Bennett Place, North Carolina
Holland mustered out of the Army at Carolina City, North Carolina, on September 20, 1865.  On October 24, 1865, Holland Virginia Dickey, in Columbus, Ohio, where they made their first home.  Holland resumed his trade as a shoemaker, the vocation he had acquired while at the Albany Manual Labor Academy. According to Holland’s pension records, he resided in Columbus from October 1865 until April 1866, then moved back to Albany from April until October 1866, and returned to Columbus from October 1866 until June 1869.

His life changed radically when, through the friend he had made while on the fairgrounds of Athens, John Mercer Langston, Congressman from Virginia, he was offered a clerkship at a salary of $1,200 a year (a fairly high salary for the time) in the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.  He had the recommendation of General Butler, who he served under during the war. 

Howard University
While doing his job in the U.S. Treasury Department, Holland studied law at Howard University; the law school was established by Langston, who was its first dean.  Holland graduated in 1872, at which time he was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. 

Throughout his years in the nation’s capital, Holland was extremely active in Republican politics, rendering “effective service for his party in nearly every state and national campaign….” Politics brought him back to Athens on several occasions, once to receive a “fine and beautiful goldheaded cane…meant as a testimonial of the appreciation of Mr. Holland’s many Republican friends of his political services in this part of the state.  In October 1884 he gave a speech on the Ohio University campus.

John Sherman
Because of his service to the Republican party, Senator John Sherman offered him the position of Chief of Division in the Second Auditor’s Office at a salary of $2000 per year, in which capacity he oversaw the accounts of the War Department and the West Point Military Academy.

Milton Holland left the civil service in 1887 and opened a law office in Washington where he had a good practice, particularly in real estate endeavors. In 1892 he founded the Alpha Insurance Company in Washington, one of the first black-owned insurance companies in the United States. He became president of the Capital Savings Bank and secretary and general manager of the Industrial Building and Savings Company, two black-owned and operated business enterprises.
Milton Holland
Holland, his wife and daughter, lived in
… a large, beautiful frame structure, modeled after the plan of a French villa, with Mansard roof and spacious lawns surrounding the entire home. It is situated on Howard University Hill, commanding a fine view of the beautiful park surrounding National Soldier’s Home….His home is nicely furnished, and the library is well filled with a choice selection of the best works of the best authors. His estimable wife and daughter preside over their home with a charm of manners that make it the social rendezvous of their many friends … 
Holland had a great deal of trouble in proving his honorable military service and obtaining his military pension from the federal government, but finally succeeded in receiving a $12 per month payment which was later passed on to his widow. In applying for his pension, Holland cited deafness and impaired vision as disabilities.  His daughter's fate is unknown; Holland declared in a statement to the Bureau of Pensions in 1906 that he had no living children.


After the war, William Holland entered Oberlin College in Ohio.  He returned to Texas after two years to teach school in Austin. He later moved to Waller County and in 1876 won election to the Fifteenth Legislature as a representative from that county. 



William Holland 
In the legislature he sponsored the bill providing for Prairie View Normal College. William also helped establish the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youth in 1887, and Governor Lawrence S. Ross appointed him to serve as the institute's first superintendent. He also founded a charitable organization known as the Friend in Need.  





William died in 1907, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, the same cemetery as their father, Bird Holland. 


Grave of William Holland




 William was buried next to their mother, Matilda, who had died in 1905.


Grave of Matilda Holland
Milton Holland died of a heart attack on his farm near Silver Springs, Maryland, on May 15, 1910.  He was 65 years old.


Milton Holland's Grave
He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His wife passed away on Sept. 18, 1915, and was buried next to him.



In recent years there have been several attempts to posthumously award Holland his Captain's commission. A bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Robert Ney (R-Ohio), but it died in committee, in part because of the scandal in which Rep. Ney became embroiled.

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