Robert Darling graduated from the Normal School in 1862. He joined the Normal School Company in August 1862, in response to recruitment efforts by Normal School professors Kimball and Husted. He was killed in battle on June 19, 1864. The following biographical sketch was published in The Heroes of Albany. A Memorial of the Patriot-Martyrs of the City and County of Albany Who Sacrificed Their Lives During the Late War in Defence of Our Nation, 1861-1865, by Rufus W. Clark.
"Among the noble band of young men who left their home, in Albany county, for the battle field, there are few more deserving of commemorative eulogy than ROBERT BURNETT DARLING.
"Combining energy and perseverance in whatever he undertook, with high moral qualities, he endeared himself to a large circle of friends. His promptness and zeal in the discharge of his religious duties have rendered his memory precious in the church of God.
"From his childhood ROBERT evinced a keenness of moral sensibility. Especially was this apparent in his solemn regard for the truth. His abhorrence of falsehood, in every form, was a marked feature in his character. His brief history furnishes but few materials for a biographical sketch. He was born January 24, 1836, in Westford, Otsego county, New York. His father, Mr. JOHN DARLING, is the proprietor and cultivator of a farm located at Newtonville, town of Watervliet, Albany county.. His mother's name is Mrs. ELIZA MYERS DARLING. To this estimable lady ROBERT was indebted, for many of those excellencies of character, which were so happily developed in subsequent manhood.
"It was intended by his parents, as he advanced toward maturity, that he should aid his father in the cultivation of his farm. But his frequently expressed desire for an education, and the indications of more than usual powers of mind, induced them to place his at an academy, located at Wilbraham, Massachusetts, under the direction of Professor RAYMOND.
"While prosecuting his studies there, he became the subject of renewing grace. There was, at this time, a revival of religion in the village, and many of the pupils were brought to a saving knowledge of the truth. Into this work of mercy, young DARLING entered with all the force of his earnest nature. His convictions were pungent, and his joy and faith correspondingly elevated.
"He was baptized, at Newtonville, on the first Sabbath of July, 1854. He entered at once and devotedly into the works of faith and labors of love, to which, by his profession, he had been sacredly consecrated. Upon the prayer meetings of the church, he was a constant attendant, and never did he hesitate to take a part in prayer with his brethren. His labors as a Sunday school teacher were earnest and successful.
"Having completed his academic studies at Wilbraham, he returned to the farm, and again engaged in aiding his father in the labors of the field. But his earnest desire for knowledge induced him, with the consent of his parents, to enter the Normal school, in the city of Albany, then under the charge of Professor COCHRAN, In that institution he prosecuted his studies during three terms, and graduated with the confidence and esteem of both his teachers and fellow students.
"It is somewhat remarkable that a disposition so amiable and so full of kind and generous feeling should ever have cherished the least inclination for the clash of arms, and the perils and hardships of war. But ROBERT dearly loved his country and felt deeply indignant at the wrongs inflicted upon her, and the contemptuous insults poured upon her flag. When Professor KIMBALL, who had been his teacher at the Normal School, proposed to organize a company for the United States service, a number of his pupils engaged to follow him to the field. Young DARLING united with them, and enlisted in the service of the United States on the 14th of August, 1862, in Company E, Forty-fourth Regiment. Thus the beloved preceptor, who had led them in the paths of knowledge, was now to lead them into scenes of peril and sanguinary conflict.
"ROBERT took an active part in all the battles in which his regiment was engaged, with the exception of Gettysburg. While that sanguinary struggle was in progress, he was upon the sick list, and confined to the hospital. In every battle, he manifested a courage, steadiness and soldierly bearing, that won for him the confidence of the officers and men.
"But he was also a soldier of the cross. Amid the stirring events of the war, the deprivations of the camp, and perils by which he was surrounded, he ever bore with him the love of Jesus in his heart, and found in Him a blessed source of strength and consolation. He originated and attended the prayer meetings of his company, encouraging the hearts of his comrades to the exercise of a holy faith. As opportunity was offered him he stood, a servant of Christ, by the bedside of the sick, and into the ears of the dying whispered the words of consolation and hope. His presence was ever hailed with pleasure, because he everywhere diffused around him the sweet spirit of a sincere Christian. He was repeatedly urged to accept of a chaplaincy. His pastor was especially desirous that he should occupy this position, for the duties of which he appears to have been eminently qualified. But this office he steadfastly declined. His modest estimation of himself made him shrink from the responsibilities it involved. Indeed, he refused promotion to any rank and to the solicitations of his pastor he replied: 'No, I have enlisted in the ranks, and in that position intend to fight through the war.' At the earnest and repeated solicitation, however, of his company, he accepted the post of Corporal, but no consideration could induce him to take any higher office.
"His death occurred on the 19th of June, 1864. On the morning of that day he was in the trenches directly opposite Petersburg, and in near proximity to the enemy. Having raised his head above the bank, a bullet from the rifle of a rebel sharpshooter, sent with unerring aim, struck him immediately above the left eye, penetrating the brain. The blow was mortal. He fell and instantly expired without uttering a word, nor did a sigh or groan pass his lips.
"His remains were interred by his comrades near the Norfolk and Petersburg railroad, and although his grave had been carefully marked with his name, company and regiment placed at the head, his bereaved friends have sought for him in vain.
"Thus passed away a useful and very lovely life. A painful bereavement, indeed, to those who are more immediately connected with him. But there is light amid the gloom, and a sweet solace to their sorrows. They have the precious consolation, which the gospel affords, that ROBERT now rests not only from the alarms of war, but from all the trials and sorrows of earth, in the bosom of his covenant God.
'Champion of Jesus, man of God,
Servant of Christ, well done.
Thy path of thorns hath now been trod,
Thy red cross crown it won.
Champion of Jesus, on that breast,
From whence thy fervor flowed,
Thou hast obtained eternal rest,
The bosom of thy God.'"
Rufus W. Clark, The Heroes of Albany. A Memorial of the Patriot-Martyrs of the City and County of Albany Who Sacrificed Their Lives During the Late War in Defense of Our Nation, 1861-1865. Albany: S.R. Gray, 1866.
Documentation reproduced with permission of Chris Hunter and the Normal School Company website