From the Annals of Bravery – In 1864, Sgt. Milton Holland earned the Medal of Honor for action at Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights, Virginia. Holland was born into slavery probably in Austin in 1844. He was the slave and likely the son of Bird Holland who would later become Texas Secretary of State. He was freed by Holland in the 1850’s and sent to the Albany Enterprise Academy in Ohio. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1863 at the age of 19. He joined the Fifth United States Colored Troops under the command of Gen. Benjamin Butler. He quickly rose to the rank of regimental sergeant major. During the engagements at Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights all of the white officers were killed or wounded. Holland assumed command and led his regiment in action as it routed the Confederates. He was wounded in the battle and for his actions received the Medal of Honor on April 6, 1865. His commendation contained the following quote regarding his action after the regiment suffered heavy losses in the battle:
“But, with a courage that knew no bounds, the men stood like granite figures. They routed the enemy and captured the breastworks. The courage displayed by young Holland’s regiment on this occasion called for the highest praise from Gen. Grant, who personally rode over the battlefield in company with Generals Butler and Draper.”
Butler promoted Holland to Captain for his service, but the War Department refused the commission because of his race. After mustering out of the army on September 20, 1865, Holland lived in Washington, D.C., where he worked in the Auditor Office of the United States government. He later became chief of collections for the Sixth District. He also established the Alpha Insurance Company, one of the first African-American-owned insurance companies. He died in 1910, at his farm near Silver Springs, Maryland, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Photo from the National Park Service.