That Devilish Battle Hymn
November 1, 2023 | View PDF
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn stated: “To destroy a people, you must first sever their roots.” An example of Southerner’s historical ignorance is manifested in The Battle Hymn of the Republic, written by Unitarian “minister” Julia Ward Howe.
Julia Ward was born in New York City in 1819 but spent much of her youth in Boston, Massachusetts. She was related to the affluent Astors of New York and her brother, Sam Ward, was a Wall Street financier (sometimes called “War Street” due to the promotion and profitability of conflict). Henry Wadsworth Longfellow introduced the twenty-three year old Ward to Samuel Gridley Howe, a descendant of Plymouth Bay stock, and they eventually married. Samuel ran the Perkins Institution and was “known for his treatment of the blind, deaf, and mute.” (Scott) He was overtly sympathetic to the unfortunate and somewhat antagonistic to the exceptionally prosperous and/or physically attractive. Within their marriage, he expressed jealousy and mentally dominated Julia, who characterized him as having “terrible faults of character...often unjust in his likes and dislikes, arbitrary, cruel, with little mastery over his passions…” (Renehan)
Julia Ward Howe was as strange as her husband (Perhaps they deserved each other?). They associated with the “misfits” of the day, e.g., “Utopians” Theodore Parker, William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, etc. They were unfriendly toward Christianity and promoted transcendentalism, pantheism, Unitarianism, etc. Howe was interested in the so-called “elitists” and had little concern for the average person.
Howe was a supporter of the domestic terrorist John Brown (her husband was part of the Secret Six that funded Brown); however, her opinion of the Black race was stunning. Theodore Parker claimed “Blacks were inferior to Whites in ‘general intellectual power’…and ‘had for him a certain physical repulsion.’” Echoing Parker, Julia Ward Howe stated “‘the ideal negro’ would be ‘refined by white culture, elevated by white blood” and that the “negro among negroes” is a “coarse, grinning, flat-footed, thick-skulled creature, ugly as Caliban, lazy as the laziest brutes, chiefly ambitious to be of no use to the world…” (Renehan) Her description of most Southern Whites was likely just as abhorrent. She expressed disgust over slavery in the Southern and Border States but essentially dismissed the often-cruel treatment of mill workers in New England. The Howes had a cordial relationship with a few Southerners, such as the Hamptons of South Carolina. Despite their friendship, Wade Hampton let them know the South would fight for its independence.
With the aforementioned backdrop of Julia Ward Howe, it is quite easy to visualize the type of person she was. This makes it quite peculiar that the Unitarian Howe’s tune, The Battle Hymn of the Republic (aka Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory and set to an old Methodist melody), wound up in most Baptist and Methodist songbooks. The song was written in the fall of 1861 after Howe witnessed Vermont troops gathering outside Washington as they prepared to invade the South.
Mimicking the Englishman Sir Thomas Babington Macaulay (an admirer of Oliver Cromwell), Howe found “inspiration” in her equal misinterpretation of Isaiah. In Isaiah, it referenced God smiting the pagans who were arch enemies of the Israelites. This certainly would not have applied to the overwhelmingly Christian South.
In the song, Howe references the “fateful lightning”, the “terrible swift sword” and the “grapes of wrath.” She falsely demonizes the South as a hateful and wicked land deserving of God’s punishment.
Another example of Howe’s hatred for the South is as follows:
“I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel; As ye deal with my contemners, so with you my grace will deal; Let the hero born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel; Since God is marching on.”
‘The ‘fiery gospel’ is not that ‘Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture,’ but that the Union soldier, ‘the Hero, born of woman,’ experiences the Grace of God by crushing Southern soldiers, ‘serpent,’ with his heel.” The “burnished rows of steel” were the Yankee bayonets. Howe’s point is “God Almighty saying to the Northern troops in reference to the Southern barbarians they are on their way to smite: ‘So with you my grace will deal.’” (AL Conf.)
Why would a Southerner (especially a Christian) want to sing such an abomination? This so-called hymn, written by a non-Christian, is filled with hatred for the South and is just one more example of how the “winners” have indoctrinated and demonized the South and its Christian heritage. Confederate Veteran, W.L. Jones of Williamsburg, Virginia, lamented: “The Northern people must laugh at us for singing their favorite song.” (AL Conf.) Indeed, Jones would be further sickened by Southerners in this era that gleefully sing a hate-filled song that encourages the slaughter of their own ancestors.
Sources: From Godly Inspiration to Human Desecration: An Analysis of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, by Reverend Father Alister C. Anderson; Women in the Civil War, by Mary Elizabeth Massey; The Secret Six, by Otto Scott; The Secret Six, by Edward J. Renehan; the October 1991, issue of Alabama Confederate, edited by Perry Outlaw, and the Virginia Flaggers. “Confederate Veteran” Magazine also referenced a November 8, 1924 letter (author unknown) and a January 1925 letter by Daniel Grinnan of Richmond, Virginia. They were alarmed at the rewriting of the history of the South by Northern writers and their Southern lackeys. The Russian patriot Solzhenitsyn often noted how the communist “leaders” of the Soviet Union literally hated the Russian people.