Sunday, March 6, 2011

Robert Willis Darby

Photo Credit:  Wikipedia
Robert Darby was the first member of the Darby family to be born in the United States. He was born in Cincinnati on April 17, 1842.  What I know of Robert's life comes by way of Edwin Cyrus Darby's family history:
Father's brother, Robert, married Mary Pacey, an English girl.  Had five sons and four daughters. The boys' names: Jonathan, William, Harry, Arthur. I forget the other boy's name.  The girls: Elizabeth, Bettie, Nellie, Zylpha.  Jonathan married and went to South Carolina.  Had a family.  Willis went to California, married there and died young. If they had any children, I don't know it.  Harry married and lives in Avondale where he was born. Arthur, I believe, went to Massachusetts to live.  Married and had a family.  I don't know anything about Uncle Robert and Aunt Mary.  Both died. She went first a good while ago.  So ends that chapter.
So Edwin left some holes in the story -- holes I've not yet filled. I do know, that like his father before him, Robert was a painter. His death certificate refers to him as a "contracting painter." I know that not only was the family involved in the painting of houses, but also used their talents as sign painters. Robert's wife, Mary, died in 1910 at the age of 65. Robert lived with two of his daughters who remained unmarried.

Near the end of the Civil War, Robert signed up with his brother, Joseph, enlisting in the 191st Ohio Volunteer Infantry on March 8, 1865. (They were previously part of the 185th OVI, enlisting February 13th).  Robert was 22.  The 191st was first ordered to Winchester, Virginia where Major-General Hancock was organizing the First Army Corps. At Harper's Ferry, the regiment was stopped and ordered to report to General John R. Brooke. They were assigned to the Second Brigade, Second Division, Army of the Shenandoah. Their only duty was garrison duty in the valley until they were mustered out on August 27, 1865 in Winchester.  The war was all but over when Lee surrendered on April 9th.

USS Carondolet
For some reason during that period, Robert must have volunteered to become part of the Navy. He became a Corporal and became a member of the crew of the USS Carondolet.  I have not been able to find the date of his transfer to the navy, but I doubt that he saw much action by the time he got there.  This ironclad boat along with similar Confederate boats had played a major role in the war along the Mississippi River.  Here is a picture of the Carondolet in a battle in 1862.

Bombardment and Capture of Island Number Ten on the Mississippi River, April 7, 1862
Colored lithograph published by Currier & Ives, New York, circa 1862.

He served enough time, however, to have it mentioned in his obituary.

OBITUARY: (no date on clipping) CIVIL WAR VETERAN DIES - R.W. Darby was in River Fighting at Close of Conflict. Robert W. Darby, 81 years old, 726 Whittier Street, last surviving member of the crew of the United States steamer Carondelet, active at the close of the Civil War, died at his home late Saturday. He had been ill several months. At the beginning of the Civil War, Mr. Darby enlisted with the One Hundred and Ninety -- first Ohio Regiment and later became a member of the crew of the Carondelet, operating on the Mississippi River. He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Naval Veterans and Knights of Pythias. Surviving him are five daughters and three sons. Mr. Darby was born in Cincinnati.

Both the G.A.R. and Naval Veterans will conduct services at the funeral which will take place tomorrow afternoon at 2 o'clock.

Robert W. Darby (1842-1922)
Robert, along with several members of his family, is buried in the Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church Cemetery.  As I've mentioned before, this blog often serves as "cousin bait."  Perhaps one of Robert's descendants will be researching their ancestor and be referred to this post.  Should I hear from one of them, I will update what we know about our Darby ancestors.  

Again I must recognize the contribution of Martha Darby Rutter, who forwarded a copy of Robert's obituary to me and her g-grandfather's Darby Family History.

Update:  I recently discovered through newspaper articles from the Cincinnati Enquirer that Robert Darby had apparently participated in one of the most significant battles of the Civil War near Vicksburg on the Carondolet. The top part of the article pictured was entitled "Vengeance for the Maine's Dead."  It appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer. April 17, 1898, p. 29.

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