Washington Irving Snyder, called Irving, was born around 1843 in Briar Creek Township, Columbia County, Pennsylvania, the son of Nathan Snyder and Frances Millard. Between 1850 and 1860, the family moved to Lockport Township, St. Joseph County, Michigan. After working as a laborer on the farm of John Major, Irving enlisted at age 18 as a corporal in Company E, 11th Michigan Infantry, on August 24, 1861. He was promoted to sergeant on January 1, 1863, and then to sergeant major on April 7, 1863. During the Battle of Chickamauga, Snyder was wounded in the side and died on October 5, 1863.
Snyder's older brother, James Madison Snyder, was born around 1836 and enlisted in Company G, 25th Michigan Infantry, on August 25, 1862. He died of disease on August 8, 1864, in Atlanta, Georgia.