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DEVOTION

Battle Hymn of the Republic: The Story Behind the Song

By Kenneth W. Osbeck
Guest Writer

CBN.com -- To have implicit trust in God's faithful care and protection is never easy in times of danger or strife. Yet even in the midst of the terrible Civil War between the Northern and Southern states, a remarkable woman named Julia Ward Howe proclaimed her confidence in God's triumphant power in this inspiring text.

Deeply anguished at the growing conflict between the two sections of the country, Mrs. Howe watched troops marching off to war singing "John Brown's Body," a song about a man who had been hanged in his efforts to free the slaves. Julia felt that the catchy camp meeting tune should have better words. In a desire to phrase her own feelings about the dreadful events of the time, she "scrawled the verses almost without looking at the paper." The national hymn first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly Magazine in 1862, as a battle song for the republic. Before long the entire nation became inspired by her text and united in singing the new words with the old tune.

Mrs. Howe's hymn has been acclaimed through the years as one of our finest patriotic songs. At one time it was sung as a solo at a large rally attended by President Abraham Lincoln. After the audience had responded with loud applause, the President, with tears in his eyes, cried out, "Sing it again!" It was sung again. And after more than a hundred years, Americans still join often in proclaiming, "Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on!"

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.

I have seen Him in the watchfires 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.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
O be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant my feet
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 die to make men free,
while God is marching on.

Chorus: Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

Order your copy of Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

Used with permission.

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