It was an ordinary day. Looking through the 1940 Protestant Episcopal Church Hymnal that was presented to me in 1955 as an award for "Effort in St. James' Church Choir" by the Rev. Robert C. Batchelder who was the Rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I was searching through the hymnal to see if I could find "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" which is considered by many to be our nation's second National Anthem. One section of the hymnal lists hymns to be sung on National Days. Songs such as "America" which begins with My country, 'tis of thee, a "National Hymn" which begins with God of our father, whose almighty hand, and a second hymn titled "America" which begins with God bless our native land, are all included along with our country's National Anthem, but not "The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
The lyrics to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" were written by Julia Ward Howe after visiting a Union Army Camp on the Potomac River near Washington D.C. in December of 1861. While visiting the army camp she heard a favorite marching song of the Union Army which was set to the melody from the parody song "John Brown's Body." Soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Massachusetts militia put words to the popular "John Brown's Body" song as an inside joke to another soldier who happened to have the same name as the infamous abolitionist executed before the Civil War. The original song and lyrics to the tune began with a campfire spiritual made famous about five years earlier, before the Civil War, by a South Carolina organist and choirmaster named William Steffe. He had titled his song and melody "Say Brothers Will You Meet Us."
|Music to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"|
Click on page to enlarge.
|Lyrics to John Brown's Body song.|
|Cover of the sheet music for the song.|