BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
  • The tune was written around 1855 by William Steffe. The lyrics at that time were
    alternately called “Canaan’s Happy Shore” or “Brothers, Will You Meet Me?” and the
    song was sung as a campfire spiritual. The tune spread across the United States, taking on
    many sets of new lyrics.
    Thomas Bishop, from Vermont, joined the Massachusetts Infantry before the outbreak of
    war and wrote a popular set of lyrics, circa 1860, titled John Browns Body” which
    became one of his unit’s walking songs. According to writer Irwin Silber (who has written
    a book about Civil War folk songs), the original lyrics were not about John Brown, the
    famed abolitionist, but a Scotsman of the same name who was a member of the 12th
    Massachusetts Regiment. An article by writer Mark Steyn maintains that the men of John
    Brown’s unit had made up a song poking fun at him, and sang it widely.
    Bishop’s battalion was dispatched to Washington, D.C. early in the Civil War, and Julia
    Ward Howe heard this song during a public review of the troops in Washington. What
    ever the accuracy of Silber’s and Steyn’s accounts, the lyrics heard by Howe were about
    John Brown the abolitionist. Her companion at the review, the Reverend James 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 awoke with the
    words of the song in her mind and in near darkness wrote the verses to the “Battle Hymn
    of the Republic”. Of the writing of the lyrics, Howe remembers, “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 “The 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. In Howe’s lyrics, the words of the verse are packed into a longer line,
    contrasted with the chorus’s short refrain.
    Julia Ward Howe was the wife of Samuel Gridley Howe, the famed scholar in education
    of the blind. Samuel and Julia were also active leaders in anti-slavery politics and strong
    supporters of the Union.
    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.
    I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
    “As ye deal with My condemners, 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! 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.
    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 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.
    He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
    He is wisdom to the mighty, He is honor to the brave;
    So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of wrong His slave,
    Our God is marching on.
    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
    Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on