The Story Behind The Battle Hymn Of The Republic

The words to America’s most beloved and popular patriotic song, The Battle Hymn of the Republic came to us during the Civil War. Julia Ward Howe, the daughter of a New York banker, was distraught over the fighting between the states.  She and her husband, a prominent New York physician, took a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with President Abraham Lincoln in November 1861.

While the couple was visiting Washington, a friend of Mrs. Howe’s encouraged her to re-write the words to the song, John Brown’s Body. That tune was written about the death of John Brown, an abolitionist, who was hung for trying to help slaves escape from slavery. The tune to John Brown’s Body was originally a camp meeting song from the late 1800’s.

Mrs. Howe wrote the words for the Battle Hymn of the Republic to the tune, John Brown’s Body.  She scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper according to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s website. It was first published in 1862 in the Atlantic Monthly.

After more than 200 years the song has retained its beauty and its impact on the hearts of American patriots everywhere.

The words to the hymn are below the video.

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 day 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 live to make men free;
[originally …let us die to make men free]
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! While God is marching on.

The reference for source material for this blog is the CBN website, http://www.cbn.com/

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8 thoughts on “The Story Behind The Battle Hymn Of The Republic

    • Our choir in Montgomery sang it two or three times each year. I never did get through it without tearing or choking up. Thank you.

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  1. If I ever knew it, I had totally forgotten The Battle Hymn of the Republic was written to the tune of John Brown’s Body. Wonderful lesson here today, very heart-stirring!

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    • Thank you. Our choir at Frazer UNC in Montgomery, Alabama, sang this version of the song each year at Memorial Day and 4th of July church services. I love it. Thank you for your kind words.

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