Sgt. Maj. Milton M. Holland The year was 1864 in war torn Virginia. A young Black soldier from the 5th Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops shared his account of the contributions of the Negro solider mustered into the Union in the waning years of the Civil War.
In his personal accounts of war, Medal of Honor winner Army Sgt. Maj. Milton M. Holland became a man of record for the courage, bravery and actions of trailblazing colored troops who marched through the South alongside White counterparts flying Old Glory and liberating slaves.
Born a slave near Austin, Texas in 1844 on the Holland Family Plantation, Holland was the first African American in Texas to earn the Medal of Honor while serving with Company C, 5th U.S. Colored Troops.
The 5th Ohio was mustered in Ohio and commanded by General Benjamin F. Butler. The troops saw considerable action in the swamps of North Carolina and in Virginia “capturing forage and emancipating slaves” under the Emancipation Proclamation.
According to the Arlington National Cemetery Website, this great Texan fought in the Petersburg campaign in Virginia during 1864 and at Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in January 1865.
However, his most notable actions happened as a first sergeant between September 28 and 30, 1864, according to ANC records.
Holland’s unit was ordered to assault a Confederate position. When all of the White commanding officers were killed, wounded or had become disabled during the engagements at Chaffin's Farm and New Market Heights, Virginia, Holland assumed command and continued to lead the Black troops in battle despite being wounded.
The fighting was fierce with shells raining down in front of Black troops, but despite the odds, his black brigade was able to capture the important Confederate position.
Before his days of glory on the battlefield, Holland was the son of a slave woman and a prominent White man.
He and his three brothers were the chattel property of Bird Holland, a former Texas Secretary of State, who sent them out of state to be schooled at the Albany Enterprise Academy in Ohio in the late 1850s, according to Stephen F. Austin State University Civil War expert scholar and historian Dr. Archie P. McDonald.