On Monday we learned the musical origin of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The original lyrics were sung in 1859 in the memory of John Brown, the abolitionist and leader of the raid on Harper’s Ferry.

Note: If you missed Part 1, the story is archived and can be read there.

Three years after John Brown was hanged, the Civil War began. Although many believe the war was fought over slavery, it was actually fought to keep a number of states from seceding from the union. Freeing the slaves was a by-product of the North’s victory.

Deeply anguished at the growing conflict between the two sections of the country, Mrs. Julia Ward Howe watched troops marching off to war singing "John Brown's Body”—the song about a man who had been hanged in his efforts to free the slaves.

Julia felt that the catchy camp meeting tune should have better and different words. In a desire to phrase her own feelings about the dreadful events of the time, she wrote the lyrics to “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, which has become a national treasure. It first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine in 1862, as a battle song for the Republic. Before long the entire nation became inspired by her text and united in singing the new words with the old tune.

Mrs. Howe's hymn has been acclaimed through the years as one of our finest patriotic songs. Hence it is sung often on days when we celebrate patriotism, such as July 4. At one time it was sung as a solo at a large rally attended by President Abraham Lincoln. Afterwards the audience responded with loud applause. It is said the President, with tears in his eyes, cried out, "Sing it again!" It was sung again.

Someone had said that “It was the right song in the right place at the right time to become indelibly bound to and reflective of our history.” After more than a hundred years, Americans still join in proclaiming, "Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!”

The song links the judgment of the wicked at the end of the age (the Old Testament, Isaiah 63: New Testament, Revelation 19) with the American Civil War. Since that time, it has become an extremely popular and well-known American patriotic song. In one of GOD’S OTHER WAYS©, the Lord has given us this hymn. Here are the lyrics Julia Ward Howe wrote:


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.


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.


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.


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,

While God is marching on.



Note: In the Bible, slavery was based more on economics and the poor, rather than race. Having said that, it is abundantly clear that racial slavery is not condoned. We are told to “Love your neighbor (whether black, brown, yellow, or white) as yourself.” Matthew 19:19