Posted by: rcottrill | November 19, 2010

Today in 1861 – The Battle Hymn of the Republic written

This hymn by Julia Ward Howe was born during the American Civil War. The author heard soldiers singing the tune with other lyrics, and determined to write something that would contain more worthy sentiments. She says:

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.

Graphic Abraham LincolnWhen the song was sung at a rally later, President Lincoln shouted, with tears streaming down his face, “Sing it again!” The hymn was also sung at the inauguration of Ronald Reagan.

In Howe’s original version, written in wartime, when soldiers were giving their lives for their country’s survival, the last line of the fifth stanza was “Let us die to make men free.” Contemporary versions change this to “Let us live to make men free.

If you have never heard the stirring 1944 arrangement by Peter Wilhousky, it is worth a listen. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir made a million-selling recording of it in 1959. See here.

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.

(2) Today in 1885 – Haldor Lillenas Born
Haldor Lillenas was born in Norway, and came to the United States when a child. His family settled in South Dakota, later moving to Oregon. Lillenas was a pastor and evangelist, but we know him today chiefly as a prolific gospel song writer. He founded the Lillenas Music Company, and worked there until his retirement in 1950.

Mr. Lillenas wrote some 4,000 song texts and tunes. His lovely song, Wonderful Peace speaks of our peace with God through Christ (cf. Rom. 5:1-2). (There is also a fine song by Warren Cornell entitled Wonderful Peace. See the fourth item under Today in 1856.)

Coming to Jesus, my Saviour, I found
Wonderful peace, wonderful peace;
Storms in their fury may rage all around,
I have peace, sweet peace.

Peace, peace, wonderful peace,
Peace, peace, glorious peace;
Since my Redeemer has ransomed my soul,
I have peace, sweet peace.


  1. […] From the first section, which hymn historian John Julian says was completed on this date, comes our hymn, Tell Me the Old, Old Story. The second section, completed on November 18th of the same year, has given us a second hymn,  I Love to Tell the Story. […]

  2. […] This patriotic song, that became the battle cry of the Union in the American Civil War, first appeared in the February edition of The Atlantic Monthly, in 1862. The composer of the tune is unknown. It had been used for many different lyrics previously, including the abolitionist song that begins, “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave.” It was to give a more uplifting text to the fine tune that Julia Ward Howe wrote her Battle Hymn. For more on this song, see Today in 1861. […]

  3. […] (b. Nov. 19, 1885; d. Aug. 18, 1959) Music: Haldor Lillenas Links: Wordwise Hymns (birth of Haldor Lillenas) The Cyber […]

  4. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


%d bloggers like this: