Recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor from Athens County
Athens County is credited with four Medal of Honor recipients during the War of the Rebellion. They are Jasper N. North, of Amesville, Co. D, 4th Virginia (USA) Infantry, received MOH for operation Forlorn Hope at Vicksburg; William M. Houlton, enlisted Athens County, Co. K, 22nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and enlisted Athens County, Field and Staff, 1st West Virginia Calvary, awarded MOH for capturing flag at Sailor’s Creek while with 1st W.Va; William E. Richey, born in Athens County, enlisted in Muskingum County, Co. A, 15th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, received MOH for capturing Confederate major at the Battle of Chickamauga; and Milton M. Holland, born in Texas, enlisted at Albany, Ohio, 127th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (Colored), later muster in as Sergeant, Co. C, 5th United States Colored Infantry, details of MOH below. The most famous of these, for a number of reasons, including his numerous groundbreaking post-war activities, is Holland.
Holland was a student at the Albany Manual Labor Academy when he enlisted in the 5th U.S. Colored Infantry. He was a Sergeant Major at the time of the action for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. This was at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, Va. (New Market Heights), 29 September 1864. His Medal of Honor citation reads: “Took command of Company C, after all the officers had been killed or wounded, and gallantly led it.”
Mr. Holland was instrumental in raising what was to become Company C of the 5th United States Color Infantry (USCI). Recruits for this company were first mustered on part of what is now the Athens County Fairgrounds. An historical marker on this spot was dedicated on Veterans Day in 2013 — the 150th anniversary year of the raising of this company of gallant men of color from Southeastern Ohio.
As a result of the gallantry, courage and leadership that Holland showed at Chaffin’s Farm, General Benjamin Butler awarded him a battlefield commission in the rank of captain, but because of his color the War Department later rescinded this promotion. In recent years there have been several attempts to correct this travesty by posthumously awarding him this commission. A few years ago a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Robert Ney (R-Ohio) to correct this historical wrong, but it died in committee in part because of the scandal in which Rep. Ney became embroiled. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) has recently introduced a new bill for this same purpose. It is H.R. 3354.