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Last tie to Civil War

Last tie to Civil War

July 9th, 2013 in News

The late Isham Holland is pictured holding the Bible his grandfather, Confederate officer T.C. Holland, read while a prisoner of war following the Battle of Gettysburg. Holland was regarded an oral historian, having first-hand accounts from his grandfather's memories of fighting in the Civil War.

Perhaps the last remaining man with living memory of a Civil War veteran, Isham C. Holland died July 3 at his home in Fulton.

The 95-year-old former educator, pastor and historian died after he was released from the hospital earlier in the week.

Holland's memories of his grandfather, Confederate Capt. T.C. Holland, were particularly timely. He died hours after the 150th anniversary of the day his grandfather was wounded during Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.

I.C. Holland will be remembered by those who knew him for his historical knowledge and remarkable memory, according to Kingdom of Callaway Civil War Heritage Chair Martin Northway.

"The thing that was remarkable to me was his mental acuity," Northway said. "There was never any sign of aging in that department for him. I don't think he forgot anything he ever learned."

Holland was born Dec. 9, 1917, in the Coats Prairie area of Reform in the home built by his great-great-grandfather, early Callaway settler William Coats.

"You see, I'm a genuine Callawegian, because my mother's folks came here when it was Louisiana territory," Holland said in a 2012 interview. "It'd be her great-grandfather who built the first church here."

Both church and Callaway heritage stayed with Holland throughout his 95 years. He was a pastor for the Church of God (Holiness) in Fulton.

Holland spent the several decades preaching in Kansas City and serving on mission trips to Bolivia, the Cayman Islands and other far-off locales before returning to Fulton in 1990.

In addition to his faith, Holland was driven by a thirst for knowledge of the past. He extensively researched his own family and the Reform area, publishing two historical texts on the subjects. Holland had memories of his grandfather, the Virginian-born Confederate officer.

Holland recalled his grandfather as a man with little training, but promoted due to the thin, disorganized nature of the Confederate ranks. T.C. Holland was shot in the jaw at Gettysburg and recovered as a Union prisoner of war until the conflict's end. Soon after, he moved to Callaway and married.

The historian Holland often regaled listeners with a story of when his grandfather went to a 50-year reunion at Gettysburg attended by both Confederate and Union veterans, where by chance his grandfather met his attacker.

"(My grandfather) put his staff in the ground; I guess he was thinking about how fortunate it was to survive, and while he was standing there ... there was a Union man and a woman approaching him from New York," Isham said.

"He was saying "I did a lot of shooting at a distance and I don't know anyone I killed except right here. This young officer was hallowing his men along to a bayonet charge, and just about here I shot him and he fell. It's the only man I know I killed.'

"... and my granddad still had a scar about the size of a dime, and he said to him, "I'm a pretty lively corpse, sir. Here's where your ball struck me.'"

The two men corresponded after that point for the rest of their lives.

Northway noted it was Holland's exhaustive research and knowledge on the war and its local ties, coupled with his anecdotes tinted by the hues of personal experience, that made him such a tremendous asset to Callaway County's history buffs.

Holland's own Fulton home served as a museum of Callaway's past. The furniture consisted of family heirlooms, and he proudly displayed the Bible his grandfather had read while a Union prisoner. At a recent Sons of Confederate Veterans meeting, he presented the Confederate flag, kept in nearly perfect condition, that had draped his grandfather's casket at his funeral.

Historical Society and Museum Curator Barb Huddleston agreed that Callaway County lost an important living record July 3.

"We're working on our oral history project and he was one of them who was on the head of the list to record," she said, "and now we won't be able to. We just miss him very much."