Jackson Van Buren Darling
February 10, 1862
Jackson Darling enlisted as a private in Company M of the 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment in 1861. The regiment endured a terribly cold winter in camp at Augusta.
Darling’s name is listed on the regimental roll compiled by the Company M clerk as "deserted" on February 10, 1862.
A few months later, his mother, Elizabeth Hallett, writes to Adjutant General John Hodsdon pleading her son’s case. She had recently lost her second husband and "would like to return to my own home and have his (Jackson’s) company if you could assure me that he would not be taken."
Darling, Hallett’s son by her first marriage, had been accepted into the 1st Maine Cavalry despite the fact that "he was hard of hearing, and has been since he was seven years of age (caused by the Scarlet fever)…"
Hallett had given her consent for her son to enlist, though she did not believe that the army would take him.
Somehow, Darling passed the physical, but "on drill he could not hear a word the Officers said and had to look around to see what the rest done so as to know how to act for that reason he would be behind, it broke up the ranks and the Officers took it for heedlessness, and would give him abusive language"
Darling’s friends, who were also anxious to enlist, were willing to look after him. "… one of them made the remark that he was going to ride by his side, and what he could not hear he would tell him, another remarked he could not hear the small guns he could the large ones"
His impairment worsened during his time in camp when he was exposed to the harsh winter weather.
He was known as being a sensitive young man. Once, "he sent home, and got fifty dollars to let the soldiers have, as they were some three months without any money."
Darling became concerned that if he tried to get a discharge and failed that his time in the regiment would be even more difficult. Then, desperate, he resorted to the only thing he could think of – he deserted and made his way to Canada.
In 1870, the U.S. Census reports that Darling was residing in Franklin with a wife and children. Apparently, he had returned to Maine shortly after the war ended.
Jackson died in Franklin in 1899.
- Should Darling’s desertion have been forgiven and he be allowed to return home?