San Antonio

St. Mary’s student researches little-known Civil War hero who became first Black Texan to earn Medal of Honor

SAN ANTONIO – As half of his summer season undergraduate analysis fellowship at St. Mary’s University, Patrick Coan mentioned he stumbled upon the story of a Civil War hero he’d by no means heard of rising up in East Texas.

“I was fascinated,” mentioned Coan after studying about Milton Holland, a freed slave who would grow to be the first Black Texan to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Each time he found a brand new truth or side of Holland’s life, Coan mentioned his response was the identical — “Wow!”

Holland was born in both Austin or East Texas, Coan mentioned.

Coan mentioned he discovered Holland’s mother and father, Bird and Matilda, particularly intriguing.

“His father, being an enslaver, also went on to be his liberator,” Coan mentioned.

Not solely that, Coan mentioned Holland’s enslaver father “seemed to deeply care about his son’s well-being.”


He despatched Holland to the Albany Enterprise Academy in Ohio, one of the nation’s first establishments of larger studying for Black individuals.

As for Holland’s mom, Coan mentioned she was saved “nominally enslaved” as a result of free Black individuals had been now not allowed in Texas.

Coan mentioned he believes Holland’s father “was doing what he thought was best for her because Bird Holland loved her.”

But by liberating his son, Coan mentioned Holland’s father in all probability knew he would by no means see him once more.

Holland was fair-skinned, but Coan mentioned, “He didn’t try to pass as white. He accepted his African heritage.”

When the Civil War started, Holland became a shoemaker within the quartermaster corps for the Union Army till African-Americans had been allowed to enlist in 1863.

After that, Coan mentioned Holland gathered a gaggle of African-American volunteers in Ohio, who later mustered into the Fifth Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, commanded by Gen. Benjamin Butler.


Then within the midst of the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights in 1864, when all of the white officers had been killed or wounded, Coan mentioned, “Milton Holland actually took command of the forces and led a courageous charge against the Confederates.”

Coan mentioned Holland’s actions saved the day by permitting white troops to come up and win these battles.

Coan mentioned Holland and 14 others in his Black regiment had been awarded the nation’s highest navy honor quickly after President Abraham Lincoln had created the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Holland became the first Black Texan to earn the medal, introduced to him in 1865.

“There definitely were some segregationists. They were looking at this, like, ‘We’re honoring an African-American soldier?’” Coan mentioned.

Coan mentioned that Holland went on to begin the first Black-owned insurance coverage company in Washington, D.C., however Holland by no means returned to Texas.

Coan mentioned he hopes to make extra individuals conscious of Milton Holland’s story.


“I immediately was hooked, wanting to know more,” he mentioned.

“I just hope that my research really starts a historical dialogue about Milton Holland and about his accomplishments,” Coan mentioned. “I hope he’s remembered as the Texas leader and hero that he was.”

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