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Battle Hymn of the Republic

The "Battle Hymn of the Republic", also known as "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory" outside of the United States, is a song by the American writer Julia Ward Howe using the music from the song "John Brown's Body." Howe’s more famous lyrics were written in November 1861, and first published in The Atlantic Monthly in February 1862. The song links the judgment of the wicked at the end of the age (Old Testament, Isaiah 63; New Testament, Rev. 19) with the American Civil War. Since that time, it has become an extremely popular and well-known American patriotic song.

“Battle Hymn of the Republic”
The Battle Hymn of the Republic - Project Gutenberg eText 21566.png
Cover of the 1862 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
“Battle Hymn of the Republic”, performed by Frank C. Stanley, Elise Stevenson, and a mixed quartet in 1908.



Oh! BrothersEdit

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] 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" songEdit

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. ...and 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

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"Edit

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 pen 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 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. Samuel Howe was a member of the Secret Six, the group who funded John Brown's work.


"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.


Howe submitted the lyrics she wrote to The Atlantic Monthly, and it was first published in the February 1862 issue of the magazine.[12][13]

First published versionEdit

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 in 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 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!
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[14] 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!
While 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."

Other versionsEdit

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!".[16]


Popularity and widespread useEdit

In the years since the Civil War, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" has been used frequently as an American patriotic song.[17]

The song was one of Winston Churchill's favorite hymns, and was played at his state funeral in St Paul's Cathedral in 1965.[18]

It was also one of Walt Disney's favorite songs, and was played at the conclusion of his private funeral on December 16, 1966.

It was performed in St. Paul's Cathedral on September 14, 2001, as part of a memorial service for those lost in the September 11, 2001 attacks.[19]

In Association FootballEdit

The refrain, Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! has been adopted by a few teams from the United Kingdom. The earliest trace is to Hibernian, with Hector Nicol's release of the track "Glory, Glory to the Hibees" in the 1950s. The 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.[20] It was released as the B-side to "Ozzie's Dream" for the 1981 Cup Final. "Glory, Glory Leeds United" was a popularised chant during Leeds' 1970 FA Cup run, and since, Manchester United and South Sydney have also adopted the tune. As of 2014, the Sacramento Republic FC, which is a Semi-Pro team in Sacramento California has adopted the song and changing "Hallelujah" with "Sacramento", as well as changing "his truth is marching on" with "The Republic marches on". The tune is also used by the Green and White Army when following Northern Ireland, where the lyrics are changed to "We're Not Brazil, We're Northern Ireland".

Recordings and public performancesEdit

Cultural influencesEdit

Words from the first verse gave John Steinbeck's wife Carol Steinbeck the title of his 1939 masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath.[29] 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.[30]

The lyrics of "The 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 3rd Selma 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.[31] Curry is known for quoting The Battle Hymn during his sermons.

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. 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.

Other songs set to this tuneEdit

Some songs make use of both the melody and elements of the lyrics of "The 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":

  • "Solidarity Forever", a marching song for organized labor in the 20th century.[36]
  • "Up Went Nelson" was written to the tune of this song in 1966, by Northern Ireland group "The Go Lucky Four" in reference to the destruction of Nelson's Pillar in Dublin, Ireland, in that year.
  • The anthem of the American consumers' cooperative movement, "The Battle Hymn of Cooperation", written in 1932.
  • Len Chandler sang a song called "Move on Over" to this tune on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest TV show.[37]
  • The British band Half Man Half Biscuit used the melody for their song "Vatican Broadside".[38]
  • In Finland, the tune, sung with a fast tempo, is mainly known as the children's song "Pikku Matin auto", with the lyrics Pikku Matin autosta on kumi puhjennut, purukumilla paikkaamme sen ("the rubber [tyre] of little Matt's car has been punctured, we'll fix it with bubble gum".
  • The tune has been used as a marching song in the Finnish military with the words Kalle-Kustaan muori makaa hiljaa haudassaan, ja yli haudan me marssimme näin ("Carl Gustaf's hag lies silently in her grave, and we're marching over the grave like this").[39]
  • "Queen's College Colours," written in 1898 by student Alfred Lavell to inspire the Queen's University football team to victory, is also set to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".
  • The Goodies used the tune for their Christmas novelty song, "Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me".
  • The popular folk dance "Gólya" ("Stork"), known in several Hungarian-speaking communities in Transylvania (Romania), as well as in Hungary proper, is set to the same tune. The same dance is found among the Csángós of Moldavia with a different tune, under the name "Hojna"; with the Moldavian melody generally considered original, and the "Battle Hymn" tune a later adaptation.[citation needed]
  • "Balay ko sa langit" ("My house in Heaven") is a popular children's song in one of the Visayan languages of the Philippines (possibly Cebuano).
  • "Trois Milliards de Gens sur Terre" ("Three Billion People on the Earth") is a French language song with lyrics by Eddy Marnay that concern peace among the then 3 billion population of the earth. Singer Mireille Mathieu has covered this song several times, starting in 1982.[40][41][42]
  • Japanese electronics chain Yodobashi Camera uses the music in TV commercials and in-store.[43]
  • The melody is used in British nursery rhyme "Little Peter Rabbit".[44]
  • The melody is used for the children's song "S-M-I-L-E", popularized on the children's television program Barney & Friends.
  • The melody is used in the Belgian song "Lied van geen taal".[45]
  • The melody is used in French Canadian Christmas carol called "Glory, Alleluia," covered by Ginette Reno and others.[46]
  • The melody is used in the Marching Song of the Assam Regiment of the Indian Army : "Badlu Ram ka Badan", or "Badlu Ram's body", its chorus being "Shabash Hallelujah" instead of "Glory Hallelujah" The word "Shabash" in Hindusthani means 'Congratulations' or "well done".
  • The song "King of the Silver Screen" by Alice Cooper from the album Lace and Whiskey features a sampling of the main motif of the hymn.
  • The song "In the Name of God" by Dream Theater from the album Train of Thought features the first verse and chorus on the hymn near the end of the song.
  • The Battle Hymn of the Republic was performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Season 8, Episode 11 of Touched By An Angel called "A Winter Carol" It aired on CBS on December 16, 2001.

Other settings of the textEdit

Irish composer Ina Boyle set the text for solo soprano, mixed choir and orchestra; she completed her version in 1918.[47]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On by John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis. Oxford University Press, 6 June 2013. ISBN 9780199339587. p. 21. Accessed via Google Books 1 June 2014
  2. ^ Stauffer and Soskis, p. 18
  3. ^ Stauffer and Soskis, pp. 26–27.
  4. ^ a b 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, 1912-06-01, retrieved 2010-07-02 . See also footnote in To-Day, 1885 (v.3, Feb), p.88
  10. ^ Howe, Julia Ward. Reminiscences: 1819–1899. Houghton, Mifflin: New York, 1899. p. 275.
  11. ^ Hall, Roger L. New England Songster. PineTree Press, 1997.
  12. ^ Howe, Julia Ward (February 1862). "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". The Atlantic Monthly. 9 (52): 10. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  13. ^ Stossel, Sage (September 2001). "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  14. ^ "the beauty of the lilies" a possible allusion to Luke 12:27 -- "Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." (words of Jesus, in teaching on materialism)
  15. ^ Howe, Julia Ward. Battle hymn of the republic, Washington, D.C:Supervisory Committee for Recruiting Colored Regiments [n.d] "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-10. Retrieved 2015-01-28. 
  16. ^ 1862 sheet music[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Civil War Music: The Battle Hymn of the Republic". 1910-10-17. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  18. ^ "Winston Churchill's Funeral, 50 Years Ago". 2015-01-30. Retrieved 2016-09-13. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Cloake, Martin (12 December 2012). "The Glory Glory Nights: The Official Story of Tottenham Hotspur in Europe". 
  21. ^ "Battle Hymn of the Republic (original version)". American music preservation. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  22. ^ Sanders, Coyne Steven (1990). Rainbow's End: The Judy Garland Show. Zebra Books. ISBN 0-8217-3708-2 (paperback ed).
  23. ^ Williams, Andy, Battle Hymn of the Republic (chart positions), Music VF, retrieved June 16, 2013 .
  24. ^ Doe, Andrew Grayham. "VAULTS". Endless Summer Quarterly. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Pregame Show". YouTube. Mighty Sound of Maryland. 8 Feb 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  26. ^ mrjbening (2011-09-26), UMn Marching Band – Battle Hymn, retrieved 2016-04-21 
  27. ^ "Meridian native leads choir opening DNC". Retrieved 19 January 2017. 
  28. ^ Batiste, Jon. "The Powerful Tune That Drives 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic'". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2017-11-14. 
  29. ^ DeMott, Robert (1492). Robert DeMott's Introduction to The Grapes of Wrath. USA: Viking Penguin. p. xviii. ISBN 0-14-018640-9. 
  30. ^ "Terrible Swift Sword: The Battle of Gettysburg – Board Game". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 2012-08-05. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ Walls, "Marching Song," Arkansas Historical Quarterly (Winter 2007), 401–2.
  33. ^ "American History X". Memorable quotes. IMDb. 1998. 
  34. ^ "Gloryland 1994 World Cup Song". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-09-28. 
  35. ^ "Rabbitohs Club Song". South Sydney Rabbitohs. 
  36. ^ Steffe, William (1862). "Solidarity Forever: Melody – "Battle Hymn of the Republic"". Musica net. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  37. ^ Chandler, Len; Seeger, Pete (2008-11-14). Move on Over (John Brown's Body) (YouTube). Google. Retrieved 2010-07-02. 
  38. ^ "Half Man Half Biscuit, 'Vatican Broadside', lyrics at Half Man Half Biscuit Lyrics Project". 
  39. ^ Uppo-Nalle (1991), Suomen kansallisfilmografia (2004), on ELONET, National Audiovisual Archive and the Finnish Board of Film Classification, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-09-14. Retrieved 2014-09-14. 
  40. ^ Trois milliards de gens sur Terre [Three billion people on Earth] (in French), Amazon .
  41. ^ Mathieu, Mireille, Trois milliards de gens sur Terre (video), Daily motion .
  42. ^ You tube, Google .
  43. ^ 長田暁二 世界の愛唱歌 1000字でわかる名曲ものがたり (in Japanese), Yamaha Music Media, 2005, pp. 254–5, ISBN 978-4-636-20666-1 .
  44. ^ Little Peter rabbit song (PDF), UK: Book trust .
  45. ^ Het lied van geen taal (PDF), BE: Vrije Universiteit Brussel 
  46. ^ "Glory, Alleluia". Spotify. 
  47. ^ "Works with Orchestra". Retrieved 14 December 2016. 

Further readingEdit

  • 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.
  • Kimball, George (1890), "Origin of the John Brown Song", New England Magazine, new, Cornell University, 1 .
  • 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

External linksEdit

Sheet musicEdit