Tag Archive: Julia Ward Howe

Independent Baptist Songs: The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe

julia ward howe

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by Squire Parsons, David Phelps, and Bill Gaither’s Homecoming Friends.

In 1994, I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas. One night, the song director — a man who had been born and raised in Massachusetts — asked the congregation to stand and sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Unaware the war of Northern aggression was not over, the song leader thought everyone would joining in singing. Several quite angry congregants refused to stand or sing, letting it be known that they weren’t going to sing a Yankee song. Up until that point, I had never seen anyone protest the singing of a song. Touchy, Southerners!

The Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe

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.

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.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth 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.”

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth 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.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth 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.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth is marching on.

Video Link

Wikipedia gives the history behind the song:

[George] Kimball’s battalion was dispatched to Murray, Kentucky early in the Civil War, and Julia Ward Howe heard this song [John Brown’s Body] during a public review of the troops outside Washington D.C. on Upton Hill, Virginia. Rufus R. Dawes, then in command of Company “K” of the 6th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, stated in his memoirs that the man who started the singing was Sergeant John Ticknor of his company. Howe’s companion at the review, The Reverend James Freeman Clarke, suggested to Howe that she write new words for the fighting men’s song. Staying at the Willard Hotel in Washington on the night of November 18, 1861, Howe wrote the verses to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”  Of the writing of the lyrics, Howe remembered:

“I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind. Having thought out all the stanzas, I said to myself, “I must get up and write these verses down, lest I fall asleep again and forget them.” So, with a sudden effort, I sprang out of bed, and found in the dimness an old stump of a pen which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper.”

Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was first published on the front page of The Atlantic Monthly of February 1862. The sixth verse written by Howe, which is less commonly sung, was not published at that time. The song was also published as a broadside in 1863 by the Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments in Philadelphia.

Both “John Brown” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” were published in Father Kemp’s Old Folks Concert Tunes in 1874 and reprinted in 1889. Both songs had the same Chorus with an additional “Glory” in the second line: “Glory! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!”