"Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe is Published

 
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"Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe is Published

Cover of the 1862 sheet music of "Battle Hymn of the Republic"
(All illustrations, unless noted, are from Wikipedia)

Today in Military History: February 1, 1862

In February of 1862, the magazine "The Atlantic Monthly" published a poem by the poet Julia Ward Howe which became one of the most popular and well-known American patriotic songs. This little history lesson of mine will first focus on the original song, then its author, then on the new words to the song.

"John Brown's Body"

The tune was written sometime around 1850. Its first lyrics emerged from the campfire spirituals that were prominent at the time. One version of the lyrics was titled, "Canaan's Happy Shore," while another was named "Brother, Will You Meet Me?" Each version had fairly simple lyrics, which could be learned quickly and repeated at will. In 1860, Thomas Bishop of Vermont began to compile new lyrics to the spiritual, and the song "John Brown's Body" was created. [John Brown had led the attempted seizure of the Harpers Ferry arsenal in October of 1859, and was convicted of treason and hanged in December of that year.]

In early 1861, Mr. Bishop joined the Massachusetts militia, and brought his new song with him. Very quickly, "John Brown's Body" became one of the popular walking songs of Bishop's unit. The lyrics were quickly taken up by other regiments in the Union army, and its popularity spread. Soon, there were many versions of the song. Below are the original lyrics:

John Brown Song

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave; (3X)
His soul's marching on!

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah! his soul's marching on!

He's gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord! (3X)
His soul's marching on!

(Chorus)

John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back! (3X)
His soul's marching on!

(Chorus)

His pet lambs will meet him on the way; (3X)
They go marching on!

(Chorus)

They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree! (3X)
As they march along!

(Chorus)

Now, three rousing cheers for the Union; (3X)
As we are marching on!

(Chorus)

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), c. 1861
Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), c. 1861

Julia Ward Howe

Born to a well-to-do banker, Julia Ward was raised by various family members when both her parents died during her childhood. At age 21 she married the social reformer Samuel Gridley Howe. Mr. Howe was the director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston, and also worked with the mentally ill, persons in prisons, and was also an abolitionist.

Julia bore six children (four who survived to adulthood), was kept fairly cooped up in the small house on the Perkins Institute campus. Her diary indicates that the marriage was violent, Samuel controlled, resented and at times mismanaged the financial inheritance her father left her, and much later Julia discovered that he was unfaithful to her during this time. They considered divorce several times. She stayed, in part because she admired and loved him, and in part because he threatened to keep her from her children if she divorced him - both the legal standard and common practice at that time.

Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876)
Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876)

Julia studied philosophy on her own, learned several languages – at that time a bit of a scandal for a woman – and devoted herself to her own self-education as well as the education and care of their children. She also worked with her husband on a brief venture at publishing an abolitionist paper, and supported his causes. Despite his opposition, Julia began to get more involved in writing and in public life. When Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, more and more Americans discovered their own anti-slavery feelings. At one point in 1856, Samuel Howe led anti-slavery settlers to the Kansas Territory.

[One of the little known connections in American history involves the abolitionist John Brown and the Secret Six. These gentlemen were prominent New England anti-slavery men who provided Brown with financial support for his famous raid. There is evidence to suggest that Samuel Howe was a member of the Secret Six.]

After the Civil War began, Samuel and Julia Howe became involved in the work of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Its purpose was to promote clean and healthy conditions in the Union Army camps. The Sanitary Commission staffed field hospitals, raised money, provided supplies, and worked to educate the military and government on matters of health and sanitation. During its existence, the Sanitary Commission raised about $5 million in money and $15 million in donated supplies.

Genesis of A Patriotic Hymn

Because of their work with the Sanitary Commission in Massachusetts, Samuel and Julia Howe were among a group of Sanitary Commission members invited to Washington, DC by President Lincoln in November of 1861. On November 18, the Howes were part of a group that visited a Union camp near Upton's Hill, Virginia (today near the border of Arlington and Fairfax counties). During their visit, they heard several different versions of "John Brown's Body;" one praising him, another celebrating his death.

At some point one of the members of the group, clergyman James Freeman Clarke, turned to Julia – knowing of her poetry – and urged her to write new words to the song, to promote the war effort. Returning to Washington to her room in the Willard Hotel, Julia Ward Howe later wrote of the events that followed in the wee hours of the morning of November 19, 1861:

I replied that I had often wished to do so.... In spite of the excitement of the day I went to bed and slept as usual, but awoke the next morning in the gray of the early dawn, and to my astonishment found that the wished-for lines were arranging themselves in my brain. I lay quite still until the last verse had completed itself in my thoughts, then hastily arose, saying to myself, I shall lose this if I don't write it down immediately. I searched for an old sheet of paper and an old stub of a pen which I had had the night before, and began to scrawl the lines almost without looking, as I learned to do by often scratching down verses in the darkened room when my little children were sleeping. Having completed this, I lay down again and fell asleep, but not before feeling that something of importance had happened to me.

Julia submitted the poem she wrote in the dark to the "Atlantic Monthly" and it was published in its February, 1862 issue. [Julia Ward Howe received $4 for the poem.] Soon, the poem's words replaced the lyrics of "John Brown's Body," and then was born "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

As originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, February 1, 1862
As originally published in "The Atlantic Monthly", February 1, 1862

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps,
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
His day is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat:
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

Julia Ward Howe in 1908
Julia Ward Howe in 1908

Footnote #1: Julia Ward Howe would later become involved in the causes of world peace, women's suffrage, and Mother's Day. She died October 17, 1910.

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Such an amazing chorus.. I just went to wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Ward_Howe) to read more about Julia Howe and found out that her family are still running a writing business, however they moved to Internet now and offering some writing services http://www.bestdissertation.com, so now I'm just wondering what if our genes are much more important than we thought before? I mean, it's like 100 years passed since Julia was present on this Earth, but here progeny is still somehow into writing, even though it is a business for them now.

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