Richard R. Lassey was born on October 13, 1832 in Leeds, Yorkshire, England. His parents were William and Mary Graham Richardson Lassey, who were both from Leeds as well. The family moved to Monroe, Michigan in 1835. On January 19, 1853, Richard married Lydia Maria Peabody and they went on to have six children. On June 20, 1861, Richard, along with his two brothers, John and William, enlisted in Company A of the Fourth Michigan Infantry. Richard was taken prisoner during the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 2, 1863, and ended up as a prisoner of war at the camp on Belle Isle, Richmond, Virginia. He died of tonsillitis in General Hospital #21 (C.S.A.) in Richmond, Virginia, on December 26, 1863. He is erroneously buried under the name “R. R. Labey” at the National Cemetery in Richmond.
The following letters are shared through the courtesy of one of Richard Lassey’s descendants, Kerry Kasper DeCoteau.
Camp Union, Virginia
Aug. 18 / 1861
I seat myself [down] to write you a few lines to you to let you know that I am well and hope [that] you are the same. I received your letter last night and was glad to hear from you and to know that [you] are well. We are all confusion this morning for we are all packing up to move ½ mile to a fort.1
I don’t know the name of it. You said that you [had] heard that Sam Bisonette2 was dead. It’s no such a thing. He is well and has been ever since he come here. I have no news to write to you. The Rebel cavalry come down every day in sight of our pickets but they are sure to keep out of range of our guns. There is no danger of our pickets for they are all inside now. I will show you how they are stationed…3 men on a post, except at headquarters, and there is generally 10 or 12 there. And in case of an attack, that is the rallying point. We have 1000 men on picket, 100 from each regt. Each company has it’s own rallying point. Some of them is 2 miles from our camp.
The map I have drawn will show you how we stand. Our Pickets go from our camp to the church. The tavern at the crossroads is our headquarters. We are a ½ mile from the river and there is lots of regts. between us and the river. The other pickets are New York3 and Mass. boys4. Their lines run for miles in the same direction, north and south, but no further west. This will give you a faint outline [of] how we stand. There is about 180,000 men scattered around here. There is a line of regts. with ours, as I have drawn the line, clear to Alexandria, the distance of 8 miles.
1 Fort Woodbury was built and manned by men of the Fourth Michigan Infantry.
2 Private Samuel Bisonette was alive at this point in time but would eventually be killed in action at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on July 2, 1863.
3 The 12th New York Infantry and the 14th New York Infantry were camped nearby.
4 This is a reference to the 9th Massachusetts Infantry.
Miners Hill, Virginia
Dec. 13, 1861
I seat myself [down] to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope you are the same. I received your welcome letter tonight and was glad to hear from you. I wrote to your father and sent you a picture, but you did not say whether you got it or not. The boys are all well at present. We are a going to have Charlie Fournia1 and George Brimingsted2 in our Company. They all a going to let 2 of our men go in their place. Dave sent word to Bill that he would get him exchanged if he would only come in the Regt. with him. But I guess Bill is satisfied to stay where he is. The weather here is beautiful. Here we have not had any snow or any very cold weather yet. It is just such weather as we have in Michigan in the Indian summer. Bat Fournia3 and I was down to the crick yesterday, stripped off and washed off all over. So you see that it is not very cold. They drill us like the very Devil nowadays. I don’t know, but I think you don’t get all the letters that I send, so from this time [on] I will number all the letters that I send to you so you can tell if any is lost. Tell Mary that I got a letter from Mose tonight and all the folks in the windfall are well at present. Tell Mary Hannah that I was glad to hear from her and tell her that if Uncle Jack promised her a pair of boots, he had ought to get them for her. I am as fat as a pig. I weight 178 lbs. without my coat on. That is [a] pretty good weight don’t you think so? If I could only see you and the rest of the folks, I would soon weigh 200 [lbs.]. For that is all that I have to worry me, to lay out in the woods and look up at the stars and think of the loved ones at home. There is plenty here to draw a mans attention, if he is a mind to join in the sports, but I am getting quite seedy. Give my love to all of our folks. Give my respects to Mrs. Wolcott and the girls. Goodbye and keep up good courage for I will come back if I have good luck.
If it is my lot to lay my bones on [the] fields of Virginia, it will be so, but I never expose myself needlessly. But I shall always do my duty so that you shall never hear that Dick was a coward. No more at present.
P. S. Pete wants to know where Sarah makes her headquarters. He sends his respects to all of your folks. So do Bill and Jack. Tell Jack when you see him that if he can’t afford to pay postage I will send him some stamps & paper. My love to all.
1 Charles Fournia did not join Company A of the Fourth Michigan Infantry at this time. He had already enlisted with Company D of the Seventh Michigan Infantry on September 1, 1861.
2 This may be a reference to George Brimingstall who apparently waited to enlist in Company L of the First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics on July 15, 1863.
3 This is probably a reference to John B. Fournia of Company A
Report of killed, wounded, and missing in Co. A from 26th June to 2nd July 
Captain A. M. Rose 1st July 1862
Sergeant W. H. Eaton “ “
Corporal Frank Gale “ “
Private Charles Austin “ “
“ Jesse Kittle “ “
“ August Knabe “ “
“ John G. Walter “ “
“ Thomas Swartout “ “
1st Sergeant R. R. Lassey slightly in arm 1st July
3rd Sergeant John C. Whipple (in head) 27th [June]
4 Corporal Geo. Paul shot thru left side 1st July
Private George M. Whipple shot left side “ “
“ Charles E. Bisbee “ “ “ “
“ Jas. Hinsdale slight wound in neck buckshot 1st July
“ Geo. Griswold scalp wound 1st July
“ Henry Ansell “ “ “ “
“ Geo. Owen slight gunshot wound in left thigh 1st July
“ [Charles] Wells musket ball in right shoulder 1st July
“ [Edward] Woodward musket wound in left wrist “ “
6th Corporal Sherman Plues musket ball thru both jaws left in hospital 1st July
7th Corp John Fournia musket ball thru left side left in hospital “ “
Private Wesley J. Knaggs lost left arm left in hospital
Private Isaac Navarre musket ball thru left side left in hospital 1st July
“ [Charles] Teachout left on field wounded twice
“ Clark Watson shot in hip left in hospital
“ Aaron Mosier shot thru breast left in hospital
“ Wm. Gibson shot in side left near Gaines Mill 27th June
“ Geo. Corser shot in face left near Gaines Mill 27th June
“ Sam Kidder left sick in hospital near Gaines Mill
“ P [Perry] Baker left sick in Savage Station
Pete is sick but with us Keep this as good as you can
Copy this and keep it and show it too. All that is marked “left” is in the hands of the enemy.
Nov. 6th 1863
I improve the present opportunity to let you know that I am still alive, but not very well, for I am afraid that we will have to stay here [as] prisoners as long as the war lasts.
My time was so near out to soon be home that my that my captivity wears on me. I have been a prisoner [for] over 4 months and have not heard from home since June. I wrote to you before, and to Will, but have not heard from either of you. I do long for home worse than any school boy you ever [saw].
Direct R. R. Lassey
Prisoner of War Belle Isle, Va.
Co. A 4th Mich. Inf.
You must not seal your letters
I remain yours,