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November 23

The Original “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

After a visit to a Union Army camp in 1861, Julia Ward Howe wrote the poem that came to be called “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Came February 1862, the poem was published in The Atlantic Monthly.

In Howe’s autobiography, she shared that she wrote the verses to meet a challenge by a friend. That friend happened to be Rev. James Freeman Clarke. As an unofficial anthem, Union soldiers sang “John Brown’s Body”. Additionally, Confederate soldiers sang it with their own version of the words. Clarke had a brilliant idea and that there should be more uplifting words to the tune.

To meet Clarke’s challenge, Howe decided to work on it. The poem, perhaps, has been the best-known Civil War song of the Union Army. Eventually, it has come to be a well-loved American patriotic anthem.

The words published in the February 1862 issue of The Atlantic Monthly are slightly different from those in the original manuscript version by Julia Ward Howe. This is documented in her Reminiscences 1819-1899 which was published in 1899. Later versions have been adapted to more modern usage and to the theological inclinations of the groups using the song.

Here is the original “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

To add to its glory, here is Johnny Cash’s awesome introduction of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” from his Sept. 27, 1969, episode of The Johnny Cash Show.

Here is Cash’s beautiful introduction to the song:

“Here is a song that was reportedly sang by both sides in the civil war which proves one thing to me that the song can belong to all of us. You don’t have to be a rich man to have a beautiful thing like music. I could close my eyes and hear this song and picture a group of beaten, wounded, ragged civil war soldiers trying to make that last mile home after the last battle. And if there was strength for a song, this would have been a great inspiration.”


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