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|
|Athens County, Ohio|
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.
|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|
|Entry for Milton M. Holland |
in Company Descriptive Book
|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|
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|
|William F. Smith|
|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.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.
. . . 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
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.
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|
|Milton Holland, wearing his |
Medal of Honor
|Bennett Place, North Carolina|
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.
… 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 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's Grave|