William Van Dyke was born on April 14, 1843, in Monroe County, Michigan, the son of Henry (1802-1855) and Eliza (b. 1805).
By 1860 Irish-born Eliza had moved her son to the western side of the state and William was a student living with his mother, working as a domestic (but with some $2000 dollars in personal property) possibly with the Barringer family in Crockery, Ottawa County.
William was 18 years old and probably living in Crockery or Kent County when he enlisted with his mother’s’ consent in Company C on May 13, 1861.
On April 6, 1863, William was tried by a general court martial at the Headquarters, First Brigade, First Division, Third Corps in Virginia.
The court then proceeded to the trial of Corporal William Van Dyke of Co. C, 3rd Regiment of Michigan Vols., who being called into court, and having heard the special orders commencing the court read, was asked if he had any objection to any of the members named in the special orders, toi which he replied in the negative. The court was then duly sworn in his presence by the Judge Advocate, and the Judge Advocate by the President of the Court, and Corp’l William Van Dyke of Co. C 3rd Rt of Michigan Vols., was arraigned on the following charges & specifications:
Charge 1st. Conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline.
Specification. In this, that William Van Dyke, Corporal of Co. C 3d Michigan Vols, did when marching with his Co & Rt to the Division review ground, talk in a loud and boisterous manner, much to the hindrance of good order and military discipline in his company and that when ordered by his superior officer Lt. Theodore Hetz of said 3d Rt Michigan Vols to keep still, did reply in words or figures as following, “Generals can issue orders but they cannot make me obey them. I guess this is a free country yet, and we can talk as much as they please.”
This was near Camp Pitcher, Va., on or about March 26th, 1863.
Charge 2nd. Disobedience of orders.
Specification. In this, that Corporal William Van Dyke of Co. C 3d Rt Michigan Vols., when marching with his Co & Rt to the picket line, was ordered by his superior officer, Lt. Theodore Hetz of said 3d Rt Michigan Vols. to stop his loud talk and be quiet in the ranks, did refuse to obey said order, saying, “he wanted to be arrested and sent back to camp so he would not have to on picket” or words to that effect.
This at or near Camp Pitcher, Va., on or about the 27th day of March 1863.
To which the prisoner pleaded as follows,
To the specification of the 2nd charge, not guilty
To the 2nd charge, not guilty,
To the specification of the 1st charge, not guilty
To the 1st charge, not guilty.
The following witness for the prosecution having been called into court, and duly sworn testifies as follows,
Question by the Judge Advocate: What is your name, rank and Regiment?
Answer: Theodore Hetz, 1st Lt., 3d Michigan Vols.
Question by the J.A.: Do you recognize the prisoner present as Corpl William Van Dyke of Co. C 3d Rt Michigan Vols.?
Answer: I do.
Question by the J.A.: Will you make a general statement of facts in prisoner’s case, as to the matter contained in the specifications against him?
Answer: On or about Mach 28, while the regiment was marching to the picket line, the prisoner present . . . did talk in the ranks, against the officers. I told him to keep still. He said he would not. I told him I would put him under arrest. He said that was just what he wanted, that he would not then have to go on picket. Prisoner asked why don’t you arrest me. I then put prisoner under arrest and sent him to his camp.
Question by J.A.: Do you remember whether prisoner made use of the following language, “generals can issue orders but they can’t make me obey them”?
Answer: Yes, he did.
The prosecution was then closed. The prisoner made no defence.
The court then closed, after mature deliberation on the testimony advanced, the court finds the prisoner corp’l William Van Dyke of Co. C 3d Rt Michigan Vols., as follows,
Of the specification of the 2nd charge, guilty,
Of the 2nd charge, guilty
Of the specification of the 1st charge, guilty
Of the 1st charge, guilty.
And they do then sentence him Corp’l William Van Dyke of Co. C 3d Rt Michigan Vols., to be reduced in ranks and to forfeit twelve (12) dollars per month of his pay for six (6) months, and in addition, the court do sentence him to forfeit twelve (12) dollars per month for 3 additional months as punishment for his contemptuous & disrespectful behavior in presence of the court.
William was reported under arrest from June of 1863 through July at Division headquarters.
It is not known if he ever rejoined the regiment. He was sick in the hospital at Washington, DC from October 9 or 17, 1863, until he was transferred to the Veterans’ Reserve Corps January 5, 1864, at Brandy Station, Virginia.
He eventually returned to his home in Crockery, Ottawa County where he worked as a farmer, possibly living with his family.
William died on January 27, 1867, and was buried in Crockery (also known as Ottawa Center) cemetery, Ottawa County.
No pension seems to be available.