The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On

Hardcover | June 15, 2013

byJohn Stauffer, Benjamin Soskis

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It was sung at Ronald Reagan's funeral, and adopted with new lyrics by labor radicals. John Updike quoted it in the title of one of his novels, and George W. Bush had it performed at the memorial service in the National Cathedral for victims of September 11, 2001. Perhaps no other song hasheld such a profoundly significant - and contradictory - place in America's history and cultural memory than the "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."In this sweeping study, John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis show how this Civil War tune has become an anthem for cause after radically different cause. The song originated in antebellum revivalism, with the melody of the camp-meeting favorite, "Say Brothers, Will You Meet Us." Union soldiers in theCivil War then turned it into "John Brown's Body." Julia Ward Howe, uncomfortable with Brown's violence and militancy, wrote the words we know today. Using intense apocalyptic and millenarian imagery, she captured the popular enthusiasm of the time, the sense of a climactic battle between good andevil; yet she made no reference to a particular time or place, allowing it to be exported or adapted to new conflicts, including Reconstruction, sectional reconciliation, imperialism, progressive reform, labor radicalism, civil rights movements, and social conservatism. And yet the memory of thesong's original role in bloody and divisive Civil War scuttled an attempt to make it the national anthem. The Daughters of the Confederacy held a contest for new lyrics, but admitted that none of the entries measured up to the power of the original."The Battle Hymn" has long helped to express what we mean when we talk about sacrifice, about the importance of fighting - in battles both real and allegorical - for the values America represents. It conjures up and confirms some of our most profound conceptions of national identity and purpose. Andyet, as Stauffer and Soskis note, the popularity of the song has not relieved it of the tensions present at its birth - tensions between unity and discord, and between the glories and the perils of righteous enthusiasm. If anything, those tensions became more profound. By following this threadthrough the tapestry of American history, The Battle Hymn of the Republic illuminates the fractures and contradictions that underlie the story of our nation.

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It was sung at Ronald Reagan's funeral, and adopted with new lyrics by labor radicals. John Updike quoted it in the title of one of his novels, and George W. Bush had it performed at the memorial service in the National Cathedral for victims of September 11, 2001. Perhaps no other song hasheld such a profoundly significant - and contra...

John Stauffer is professor of English and American Literature and African-American Studies chair of the History of American Civilization program at Harvard. His books include Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln and The Black Hearts of Men: Radical Abolitionists and the Transformation of Race. Benjamin S...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:416 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:June 15, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199837430

ISBN - 13:9780199837434

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. Origins: The Hymn and the Man2. "His Soul is Marching On!": "John Brown's Body" and the Civil War3. "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory": Julia Ward Howe and the Making of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"4. "Nationality Becomes Even a Kind of Religion": The Reconstruction of the "Battle Hymn"5. "The Trumpet that Shall Never Call Retreat": The Progressive Battle Hymn6. "Solidarity Forever": The Worker's Battle Hymn7. "As He Died to Make Men Holy": The Evangelical Battle Hymn8. "His Truth is Marching On": The African-American Battle HymnConclusion