As 150th Anniversary of Civil War Looms, ‘Dearest Issabella’ Examines Transformation of Soldiers’ Communications Home

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Much has changed since the days when “Dearest Issabella” character and Civil War Union soldier Samuel Ripley sat huddled over a fire with pen in hand drafting love letters home to his wife, Issabella. In the ever-changing era of high-speed Internet connections, iPhones and text messaging, Ripley’s lovingly penned letters could get forgotten … that is if it weren’t for author Mark Hubman’s unearthing.

As you read Hubman’s romance/historical fiction book, “Dearest Issabella,” you can almost see the Civil War soldiers from the 23rd Pennsylvania Regiment cooking their rations over the fire and preparing to march to the next battle. And, in the case of Ripley, penning heartfelt letters home to his wife Issabella in Philadelphia.

Hubman, a virtual lifelong follower of Civil War history, researched the regiment - which was recruited from the Philadelphia area - and wrote his book from the vantage point of Ripley, incorporating actual facts, sights and people into Ripley’s telling of the war that pitted north against south … and separated him from his beloved Issabella.

“One hundred percent of the story concerning the regiment is true. All the letters were written at a time and from a place where the regiment would’ve been, discussing the things that the 23rd had to endure during the war,” Hubman said, adding that illness sidelined the regiment from fighting in the Battle of Antietam. “I thought that would make an interesting letter from Samuel to Issabella because he would’ve had regret, like any soldier in a regiment that’s not able to take part in a battle.”

Hubman’s creation of Ripley provides a rare bird’s-eye view of life inside the head and heart of a Union soldier, demonstrating the power of the written word, 150 years later. This touching portrait of love interrupted by war is revisited through the author’s invention of modern-day character Cassandra Losch, whose husband has been deployed to Afghanistan. The 140-page book criss-crosses between 1860s and present-day Philadelphia and is as much a love letter reflecting Hubman’s fascination with the Civil War as it is a series of tender notes from Samuel to Issabella.

While much of the book is centered on our nation’s conflicts, both then and now, the message Hubman would like to get across most lies more in the roots of his own deep-seated passion. “Love is timeless,” he said. “Being in love today and being in love 150 years ago is still the same. The language is the same. The feelings are the same. The emotions are the same.”

Editor’s Note: “Dearest Issabella” is available for purchase at

About the author
Mark Hubman grew up in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, admiring Gettysburg and its history from afar during most of his formative years. When the time came to leave the banking profession he had worked in, attending Messiah College - practically next door to the battlefield - made perfect sense. Hubman graduated in 1998 from Messiah College with a degree in Journalism. Like his character, Samuel Ripley, Hubman too works at a Philadelphia-area newspaper. He has lived in the Philadelphia suburbs for 12 years.


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