William G. van Orsdel (1844-1864), the brother of Josiah and the son of Ralph Lashiel van Orsdel and Margaret Fitz Randolph (of the Randolphs of Virginia) was my wife’s first cousin, four time removed.
The historical records revive old sadnesses. Disease was a big killer in the Civil War; There was little attempt at sanitation, and farm boys had had little exposure to infectious diseases.
William G. Van Orsdel, who gallantly yielded up his young life for the sacred cause of American liberty. When the rebellion opened with its gigantic power, young Van Orsdel was only nineteen years of age, and therefore too young to be compelled to enter the service. But from the very opening of the struggle he was desirous to have a part in the defense of his country from the onslaught of her foes. He felt, as he often expressed himself, that it was the duty of every one to go, who could be spared from his family.
He volunteered and went with the Pennsylvania militia to Chambersburg. He then entered the service under General Sherman, and died after a brief illness, near Atlanta, Ga., on June 23, 1864, a little upwards of twenty years of age. He was a brave, heroic boy, and never flinched in the hour of danger, but was always on hand, ready for duty, whether that was life or death, it was all the same to him. Thus was this noble boy cut down in the bloom of his early manhood. Sad indeed was the parting scene when he took leave of “the loved ones at home,” and bade them “good-bye”—as it proved—for the last time on earth! But sadder yet, and more crushing the blow, was the announcement of his untimely death! But the stricken parents, though they deeply mourn the loss of their boy, have the blessed consolation that they gave him for the glorious cause of Liberty and that he died for his country and his God.