Scripture Verse

He will thunder from His holy dwelling and roar mightily against His land. He will shout like those who tread the grapes, shout against all who live on earth. Jeremiah 25:30

Introduction

Words: Ju­lia W. Howe, 1861, alt. This hymn was born dur­ing the Am­er­ican ci­vil war, when Howe and her hus­band vis­it­ed a Un­ion Ar­my camp on the Po­to­mac River near Wash­ing­ton, DC, in De­cem­ber 1861. She heard the sol­diers sing­ing the song John Brown’s Bo­dy, and was ta­ken with the strong march­ing beat. She wrote the words the next day.

The hymn ap­peared in the At­lan­tic Monthly in Feb­ru­ary 1862. It was sung in the 1936 film San Fran­cis­co, which won an Aca­de­my Award for Best Sound Re­cord­ing, and was nom­in­at­ed in five oth­er ca­te­gor­ies. It was al­so sung at the fun­er­als of Brit­ish state­sman Win­ston Church­ill, Am­er­ican sen­a­tor Ro­bert Ken­ne­dy, and Am­er­ican pre­si­dents Ron­ald Rea­gan and Ri­chard Nix­on.

Howe’s lyr­ics are said to have in­spired au­thor John Stein­beck to ti­tle his fa­mous 1939 no­vel The Grapes of Wrath.

Music: John Brown’s Bo­dy John Will­iam Stef­fe, 1852 (🔊 pdf nwc).

portrait
Julia W. Howe
1819–1910

Origin of the Hymn

I awoke in the grey of the morn­ing, and as I lay wait­ing for dawn, the long lines of the de­sired poem be­gan to en­twine them­selves in my mind, and I said to my­self, I must get up and write these vers­es, lest I fall asleep and fo­rget them!

So I sprang out of bed and in the dim­ness found an old stump of a pen, which I re­mem­bered us­ing the day be­fore. I scrawled the vers­es al­most with­out look­ing at the pa­per.

Julia Ward Howe


Chaplain Charles C. Mc­Cabe, af­ter­ward a bi­shop of the Me­tho­dist Epis­co­pal Church, was con­fined in Lib­by Pri­son [Rich­mond, Vir­gin­ia] dur­ing a part of the [Ame­ri­can] Ci­vil War. In his fa­mous lec­ture on “The Bright Side of Life in Lib­by Prison” he used to tell this sto­ry of the ar­riv­al of the news from the Bat­tle of Get­tys­burg [Penn­syl­van­ia]:

I had a re­la­tive in Rich­mond, a staunch re­bel. The day they re­ceived the first tid­ings from Get­tys­burg he came to see me, his face wreathed in smiles: Have you heard the news? What news? For­ty thou­sand Yan­kee [Un­ion Ar­my] pri­son­ers on their way to Rich­mond!

I was as­tound­ed! In dumb amaze­ment I list­ened to the Con­fed­er­ate of­fi­cers spe­cu­lat­ing where the new pri­son­ers should be stowed away, and how they were to be fed. I went up­stairs and told the news. De­spon­den­cy set­tled down in­to ev­ery heart.

That night as we as­sem­bled for fa­mi­ly pray­ers and sang, as was al­ways our wont, the Long-me­ter Dox­o­lo­gy, it trem­bled out from qua­ver­ing voic­es up to Him who has said, Glo­ri­fy me in the fires.

I slept none that night, list­en­ing wea­ri­ly to the watch call­ing the hours and sing­ing out as he did so, All’s well. When the day broke I wait­ed for the foot­steps of Old Ben, a char­ac­ter well known to ev­ery in­mate of Lib­by. He was the pri­son news agent and sold papers at twen­ty-five cents apiece.

At last his foot­fall came. He pushed the door ajar, looked around for a mo­ment on the sleep­ers, and then rais­ing his arms he shout­ed, Great news in de pa­pers!

Did you ever see a re­sur­rect­ion? I ne­ver did but this once. O, how those men sprang to their feet! And what was the news?

The te­le­graph op­er­at­or at Mar­tins­burg [West Vir­gin­ia], when put­ting those ci­phers to the four, had clicked the in­stru­ment once too oft­en. There was a mis­take of thir­ty-six thou­sand! More yet! [Ge­ner­al Ro­bert E.] Lee was driv­en back, the Po­to­mac [Ri­ver] was swoll­en, the pon­toons [float­ing bridg­es] were washed away!

I have stood by when friends long-part­ed meet again with rain­ing tears and fond em­brace, but ne­ver did I wit­ness such joy as swept in­to those strong men’s faces, where the deep­est sor­row sat but a mo­ment be­fore.

Well, what did we do? Why, we sang; sang as saved men do; sang till Cap­tains Flynn and Saw­yer, im­mured in the low­est dun­geons be­low and doomed to die with­in ten days, heard us and won­dered; sang till the ve­ry walls of Lib­by quiv­ered in the me­lo­dy as five hund­red of us joined in the cho­rus of Mrs. Ju­lia Ward Howe’s Bat­tle Hymn of the Re­pub­lic, Mine eyes have seen the gl­ory of the com­ing of the Lord.

This hymn was writ­ten in 1861, at the be­gin­ning of the Ci­vil War in the Unit­ed States, in­spired part­ly by the scene of troops hur­ry­ing from the North to South­ern bat­tle­fields. All dur­ing that ter­ri­ble strug­gle it was the great war song of the Un­ion ar­mies.

Price, pp. 32–33

Lyrics

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.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gos­pel
Spirit 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.
Glory! Glory! Hal­le­lu­jah!
Glory! Glory! Hal­lelu­jah!
Glory! Glory! Hal­le­lu­jah!
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.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
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 live to make men free;
[originally…let us die to make men free]
While God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
While God is marching on.

He is coming like the glo­ry
Of the morning on the wave,
He is wisdom to the mighty,
He is honor to the brave;
So the world shall be His footstool,
And the soul of wrong His slave,
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Our God is marching on.