News / USA

Popularity of Lincoln's Favorite Hymn Endures

This original copy of Julia Ward Howe's lyrics for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is expected to sell for around $350,000. (VOA/J. Taboh)
This original copy of Julia Ward Howe's lyrics for "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is expected to sell for around $350,000. (VOA/J. Taboh)

"The Battle Hymn of the Republic," originally written as a Civil War anthem, was President Abraham Lincoln’s favorite, according to historians.

The appeal of the hymn continues today. The original manuscript of the song's lyrics will be sold at auction in New York next month and is expected to fetch between $250,000 and $350,000.

Inspiration at twilight

In the early morning hours of Nov. 19, 1861, poet and anti-slavery activist Julia Ward Howe woke up from a powerful dream and quickly scribbled down some words.

Those verses, written during the early years of the Civil War at the Willard hotel in Washington, D.C., were inspired by a skirmish between Union and Confederate soldiers she'd witnessed just hours earlier.
 

Civil War Tune Soars as Beloved US Patriotic Anthem
Civil War Tune Soars as Beloved US Patriotic Anthemi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X


The previous day, she and her husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, also met President Abraham Lincoln at the White House. In her memoir, published in 1899, Howe wrote of being struck by "the sad expression of Mr. Lincoln’s deep, blue eyes."

In the carriage on the way back to the hotel, which is located near the White House and only a few miles from the Confederate advance posts, she and a few members of her party started singing snatches of popular army songs, including the rousing folk tune, "John Brown’s Body," about the famed abolitionist John Brown.

Her friend, Rev. James Freeman Clarke, suggested she write new words to the song, which had become popular in the Union Army during the Civil War.

And Howe did just that.

Lincoln's favorite

"I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly," wrote Howe. "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.’"

Julia Ward Howe penned "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in November 1861.Julia Ward Howe penned "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in November 1861.
x
Julia Ward Howe penned "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in November 1861.
Julia Ward Howe penned "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" in November 1861.

Howe’s visions of "Lincoln and battles and marching troops" resulted in "this rather remarkable series of verses," says Chris Coover, senior specialist in American historical documents at Christie's auction house in New York.

With the verses set to the tune of "John Brown’s Body," it quickly became a resounding success with the Union soldiers, and even President Lincoln himself.

"Lincoln loved this piece and asked for it to be performed on many occasions," Coover says.

Lasting legacy

Since the Civil War, the hymn has become an iconic anthem, part of the traditional choir repertoire, and a standard at major political events.

Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted parts of the hymn in several of his speeches, including his rousing 1968 address in Memphis, Tennessee, delivered the night before his assassination. King’s last spoken words at a public event were taken from the hymn's first verse.

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Words that carried deep emotional impact more than a century after they were first written, and which continue to resonate in the American consciousness today.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: andrewborovskikh@gmail.co
November 27, 2012 8:22 AM
Erratum in my previous comment: in the 6th line from the bottom, “Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! And be jubilant, my feet!” should be “Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet”


by: andrewborovskikh@gmail.co
November 26, 2012 10:24 AM
There would be no harm indeed in placing the lyrics here under this remarkable story. Let me add my two Lincoln cents:
1.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.
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.
2.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! And be jubilant, my feet!
His truth is marching on.
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.


by: Hoverwolf1
November 24, 2012 11:23 AM
So...What are the words to this hymn? That's why I clicked on the link: I want to know what the words are.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid