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This Day In History: Julia Ward Howe Writes The Lyrics For The Battle Hymn Of The Republic

November 17, 2016

This day in history, November 18, 1861, poet and abolitionist Julia Ward Howe writes the lyrics for the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

She had accompanied her husband, Dr. Samuel Howe, to Fort Griffin, Virginia, to review Union troops defending the capital. The ceremony was cut short when the Federals were forced to give chase to a nearby party of Confederates.

Dr. and Mrs. Howe returned to their Washington hotel, but Mrs. Howe awoke in the early morning hours with “long lines” of a poem in her mind. She rose in darkness and wrote six stanzas of The Battle Hymn of the Republic on her husband’s stationery based on chapter 63 of the Old Testament’s Book of Isaiah.

In February 1862, The Atlantic Monthly printed the poem for a $5 payment. Soon troops all over the North were singing the stirring words to the popular tune of John Brown’s Body, which had been composed in 1852.