Battle Hymn of the Republic

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"Battle Hymn of the Republic"
The Battle Hymn of the Republic - Project Gutenberg eText 21566.png
Cover of the 1863 sheet music for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"
Lyrics Julia Ward Howe, 1861
Music William Steffe, 1856; arranged by James E. Greenleaf, C. S. Hall, and C. B. Marsh, 1861
Audio sample
"The Battle Hymn of the Republic" as performed by the United States Air Force Band

The "Battle Hymn of the Republic", also known as "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" outside of the United States, is a popular American patriotic song by the abolitionist writer Julia Ward Howe.


Howe wrote her lyrics to the music of the song "John Brown's Body" in November 1861 and first published them in The Atlantic Monthly in February 1862. The song links the judgment of the wicked at the end of the age (through allusions to biblical passages such as Isaiah 63:1–6 and Revelation 14:19) with the American Civil War.


Oh! Brothers

The "Glory, Hallelujah" tune was a folk hymn developed in the oral hymn tradition of camp meetings in the southern United States and first documented in the early 1800s. In the first known version, "Canaan's Happy Shore," the text includes the verse "Oh! Brothers will you meet me (3×)/On Canaan's happy shore?" [1] :21 and chorus "There we'll shout and give Him glory (3×)/For glory is His own." [2] This developed into the familiar "Glory, glory, hallelujah" chorus by the 1850s. The tune and variants of these words spread across both the southern and northern United States. [3]

As the "John Brown's Body" song

At a flag-raising ceremony at Fort Warren, near Boston, Massachusetts, on Sunday, May 12, 1861, the John Brown song, using the well known "Oh! Brothers" tune and the "Glory, Hallelujah" chorus, was publicly played "perhaps for the first time." The American Civil War had begun the previous month.

In 1890, George Kimball wrote his account of how the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Massachusetts militia, known as the "Tiger" Battalion, collectively worked out the lyrics to "John Brown's Body." Kimball wrote:

We had a jovial Scotchman in the battalion, named John Brown. ... [A]nd as he happened to bear the identical name of the old hero of Harper's Ferry, he became at once the butt of his comrades. If he made his appearance a few minutes late among the working squad, or was a little tardy in falling into the company line, he was sure to be greeted with such expressions as "Come, old fellow, you ought to be at it if you are going to help us free the slaves," or, "This can't be John Brown—why, John Brown is dead." And then some wag would add, in a solemn, drawling tone, as if it were his purpose to give particular emphasis to the fact that John Brown was really, actually dead: "Yes, yes, poor old John Brown is dead; his body lies mouldering in the grave." [4]

According to Kimball, these sayings became by-words among the soldiers and, in a communal effort — similar in many ways to the spontaneous composition of camp meeting songs described above — were gradually put to the tune of "Say, Brothers":

As originally published 1862 in The Atlantic Monthly Battle Hymn of the Republic.jpg
As originally published 1862 in The Atlantic Monthly

Finally ditties composed of the most nonsensical, doggerel rhymes, setting for the fact that John Brown was dead and that his body was undergoing the process of decomposition, began to be sung to the music of the hymn above given. These ditties underwent various ramifications, until eventually the lines were reached,—

"John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
His soul's marching on."


"He's gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord,
His soul's marching on."

These lines seemed to give general satisfaction, the idea that Brown's soul was "marching on" receiving recognition at once as having a germ of inspiration in it. They were sung over and over again with a great deal of gusto, the "Glory, hallelujah" chorus being always added. [4]

Some leaders of the battalion, feeling the words were coarse and irreverent, tried to urge the adoption of more fitting lyrics, but to no avail. The lyrics were soon prepared for publication by members of the battalion, together with publisher C. S. Hall. They selected and polished verses they felt appropriate, and may even have enlisted the services of a local poet to help polish and create verses. [5]

The official histories of the old First Artillery and of the 55th Artillery (1918) also record the Tiger Battalion's role in creating the John Brown Song, confirming the general thrust of Kimball's version with a few additional details. [6] [7]

Creation of the "Battle Hymn"

Julia Ward Howe, 1897 Julia Ward Howe from American Women, 1897.jpg
Julia Ward Howe, 1897

Kimball's battalion was dispatched to Murray, Kentucky, early in the Civil War, and Julia Ward Howe heard this song 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, [8] 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." [9] 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 pencil which I remembered to have used the day before. I scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper. [10]

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!" [11]

Julia Ward Howe was married to 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. Samuel Howe was a member of the Secret Six, the group who funded John Brown's work. [12]


"Canaan's Happy Shore" has a verse and chorus of equal metrical length and both verse and chorus share an identical melody and rhythm. "John Brown's Body" has more syllables in its verse and uses a more rhythmically active variation of the "Canaan" melody to accommodate the additional words in the verse. In Howe's lyrics, the words of the verse are packed into a yet longer line, with even more syllables than "John Brown's Body." The verse still uses the same underlying melody as the refrain, but the addition of many dotted rhythms to the underlying melody allows for the more complex verse to fit the same melody as the comparatively short refrain.

One version of the melody, in C major, begins as below. This is an example of the mediant-octave modal frame.
Battle Hymn of the Republic


Howe submitted the lyrics she wrote to The Atlantic Monthly, and it was first published in the February 1862 issue of the magazine. [13] [14]

First published version

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!
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, [15]
While God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.

* Many modern recordings of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" use the lyric "As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free" as opposed to the lyric originally written by Julia Ward Howe: "let us die to make men free." [16]

Other versions

Howe's original manuscript differed slightly from the published version. Most significantly, it included a final verse:

He is coming like the glory of the morning on the wave,
He is Wisdom to the mighty, He is Succour to the brave,
So the world shall be His footstool, and the soul of Time His slave,
Our God is marching on.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Our God is marching on!

In the 1862 sheet music, the chorus always begins:

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!" [17]

Recordings and public performances


Popularity and widespread use

In the years since the Civil War, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" has been used frequently as an American patriotic song. [23]

Cultural influences

The lyrics of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" appear in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s sermons and speeches, most notably in his speech "How Long, Not Long" from the steps of the Alabama State Capitol building on March 25, 1965, after the successful Selma to Montgomery march, and in his final sermon "I've Been to the Mountaintop", delivered in Memphis, Tennessee on the evening of April 3, 1968, the night before his assassination. In fact, the latter sermon, King's last public words, ends with the first lyrics of the "Battle Hymn": "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Bishop Michael B. Curry of North Carolina, after his election as the first African American Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, delivered a sermon to the Church's General Convention on July 3, 2015, in which the lyrics of the "Battle Hymn" framed the message of God's love. After proclaiming "Glory, glory, hallelujah, His truth is marching on", a letter from President Barack Obama was read, congratulating Bishop Curry on his historic election. [24] Curry is known for quoting the "Battle Hymn" during his sermons.

The inscription "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" is written at the feet of the sculpture of the fallen soldier at the American Cemetery in Normandy, France.

The tune has played a role in many movies where patriotic music has been required, including the 1970 World War II war comedy Kelly's Heroes , and the 1999 sci-fi western Wild Wild West . Words from the first verse gave John Steinbeck's wife Carol Steinbeck the title of his 1939 masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath . [25] The title of John Updike's In the Beauty of the Lilies also came from this song, as did Terrible Swift Sword and Never Call Retreat, two volumes in Bruce Catton's Centennial History of the Civil War. Terrible Swift Sword is also the name of a board wargame simulating the Battle of Gettysburg. [26] The song was used in the anime Girls und Panzer as the tune used when members of the American-inspired fictional Saunders University High School are seen moving in their various M4 Sherman variants.

In association with football (soccer)

The refrain "Glory, glory, hallelujah!" has been adopted by fans of a number of sporting teams, most notably in the English and Scottish Premier Leagues. The popular use of the tune by Tottenham Hotspur can be traced to September 1961 during the 1961–62 European Cup. Their first opponents in the competition were the Polish side Górnik Zabrze, and the Polish press described the Spurs team as "no angels" due to their rough tackling. In the return leg at White Hart Lane, some fans then wore angel costumes at the match holding placards with slogans such as "Glory be to shining White Hart Lane", and the crowded started singing the refrain "Glory, glory, hallelujah" as Spurs beat the Poles 8–1, starting the tradition at Tottenham. [27] It was released as the B-side to "Ozzie's Dream" for the 1981 Cup Final.

The theme was then picked up by Hibernian, with Hector Nicol's release of the track "Glory, glory to the Hibees" in 1963. [28] [29] "Glory, Glory Leeds United" was a popular chant during Leeds' 1970 FA Cup run. Manchester United fans picked it up as "Glory, Glory Man United" during the 1983 FA Cup Final. As a result of its popularity with these and other British teams, it has spread internationally and to other sporting codes. An example of its reach is its popularity with fans of the Australian Rugby League team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs (Glory, Glory to South Sydney) and to A-League team Perth Glory. Brighton fans celebrate their 1970s legend by singing “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, he played for Brighton and Hove Albion and his name is Peter Ward, etc.”

Other songs set to this tune

Some songs make use of both the melody and elements of the lyrics of "Battle Hymn of the Republic", either in tribute or as a parody:

Other songs simply use the melody, i.e. the melody of "John Brown's Body", with no lyrical connection to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic":

Other settings of the text

Irish composer Ina Boyle set the text for solo soprano, mixed choir and orchestra; she completed her version in 1918. [45]

See also

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  1. Stauffer, John; Soskis, Benjamin (2013). The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On. Oxford University Press. ISBN   9780199339587.
  2. Stauffer & Soskis 2013, p. 18.
  3. Stauffer & Soskis 2013, pp. 26–27.
  4. 1 2 Kimball 1890, p. 372.
  5. Kimball 1890, pp. 373–4.
  6. Cutler, Frederick Morse (1917), The old First Massachusetts coast artillery in war and peace (Google Books), Boston: Pilgrim Press, pp. 105–6
  7. Cutler, Frederick Morse (1920), The 55th artillery (CAC) in the American expeditionary forces, France, 1918 (Google Books), Worcester, MA: Commonwealth Press, pp. 261ff
  8. Williams, Gary. Hungry Heart: The Literary Emergence of Julia Ward Howe. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999: 208. ISBN   1-55849-157-0
  9. Julia Ward Howe, 1819–1910, I, U Ppenn, June 1, 1912, retrieved July 2, 2010. See also footnote in To-Day, 1885 (v.3, Feb), p.88
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Further reading

  • Claghorn, Charles Eugene, "Battle Hymn: The Story Behind The Battle Hymn of the Republic". Papers of the Hymn Society of America, XXIX.
  • Clifford, Deborah Pickman. 'Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Biography of Julia Ward Howe. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1978. ISBN   0316147478
  • Collins, Ace. Songs Sung, Red, White, and Blue: The Stories Behind America's Best-Loved Patriotic Songs. HarperResource, 2003. ISBN   0060513047
  • Hall, Florence Howe. The story of the Battle hymn of the republic (Harper, 1916) online
  • Hall, Roger Lee. Glory, Hallelujah: Civil War Songs and Hymns, Stoughton: PineTree Press, 2012.
  • Jackson, Popular Songs of Nineteenth-Century America, note on "Battle Hymn of the Republic", pp. 263–64.
  • McWhirter, Christian. Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012. ISBN   1469613670
  • Scholes, Percy A. "John Brown's Body", The Oxford Companion of Music. Ninth edition. London: Oxford University Press, 1955.
  • Snyder, Edward D. "The Biblical Background of the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,'" New England Quarterly (1951) 24#2, pp. 231–238 in JSTOR
  • Stauffer, John, and Benjamin Soskis, eds. The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On (Oxford University Press; 2013) ISBN   978-0-19-933958-7. 380 pages; Traces the history of the melody and lyrics & shows how the hymn has been used on later occasions
  • Stutler, Boyd B. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! The Story of "John Brown's Body" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Cincinnati: The C. J. Krehbiel Co., 1960. OCLC   3360355
  • Vowell, Sarah. "John Brown's Body," in The Rose and the Briar: Death, Love and Liberty in the American Ballad. Ed. by Sean Wilentz and Greil Marcus. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. ISBN   0393059545

Sheet music