ACTION: Chaffin's Farm (Fort Harrison), VA.
DATE: 29 September 1864.
NAME: Holland, Milton M.
RANK/UNIT: Sergeant Major, 5th U.S. Colored Troops.
CITATION: "Took command of Company C, after all the officers had been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it."
MEDAL PRESENTED: 6 April 1865.
BIOGRAPHICAL DATA: Born: Austin, TX. 1844.
ENTERED SERVICE: Athens, Ohio.
OTHER: Holland was an 18-year-old shoemaker when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He stood 5'8" tall. Holland and the 5th were present at the famous "Battle of the Crater" in Petersburg, VA on 30 July 1864, but were not used in the disastrous Union charge. At Chaffin's Farm (Fort Harrison), Holland and the 5th suffered heavy casualties during the assault and subsequent hand-to-hand combat. "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."
By order of General Butler, Holland was promoted to Captain, but because of his color was refused the commission by the War Department. Holland was later present when General Joseph E. Johnston C.S.A. surrendered to General William T. Sherman. Sergeant-Major Holland was mustered out of service at Carolina City, NC, on September 20, 1865.
Medal of Honor Recipients: 1863-1978, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1979 p. 119.
Mitchell, Joseph B. Lt. Col., The Badge of Gallantry, New York: MacMillian & Co., 1986 pp. 141-3.
Bearss- Edwin C., "Black Medals of Honor Received a New Market Heights, 29 September 1864." National park Service Memo in Richmond NBP files, 2 April 1979.
Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg. Alexandria, VA Time-Life books, 1986. p. 124.
An order from Gen. Benjamin Butler, dated 11 October 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 Beaty, 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.
Official Records, #89, p168.
During the war, Holland wrote to, and was published in, his local newspaper, the Athens, Ohio Messenger. Here are two of his war-time letters.