WASHINGTON, D.C. (K-LOVE News/Museum of the Bible) – Drawing deeply upon biblical passages and inspired by a nation in the midst of civil war, one of the most famous hymns in American history, the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” is returning to the place where it was written by Julia Ward Howe in 1861.
Free to the public, the “special event” exhibit will run for two days-Tuesday November 1st from noon to 7pm ET and Wednesday November 2nd from 10am – 7pm ET-in the lobby of the historic Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington D.C. The exhibit will include Howe’s original manuscript upon which she penned the now famous verses. Additionally, from 5-6pm on November 1st and 2nd, visitors will be able to enjoy a performance of the hymn along with other period piece music.
The hymn was written during the first year of the Civil War while Howe was staying at the Willard Intercontinental. As she would later write, Howe “awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as [she] lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in [her] mind.”
The verses of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” as written by Howe, were paired with a popular song of the time titled “John Brown’s Body” which soldiers of the Civil War were often heard singing while marching. The old melody with Howe’s new verses was later performed for President Lincoln in 1864, during a presentation in the hall of the House of Representatives. The president was reportedly seen tearing up. When the song concluded, Lincoln yelled, “Sing it again!” The following year, it was sung at his memorial service in Chicago, Illinois. The song has remained popular-even 150 years after the Civil War.
American novelist John Steinbeck would go on to use the words as the title of one of his most famous books, “The Grapes of Wrath,” and print the lyrics on the front page of that novel. It was sung, with some controversy, at the September 11 memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
“The ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ quickly became an American classic and has remained so ever since,” says Museum of the Bible President Cary Summers. “It’s a powerful example of how people throughout the ages have been influenced by the Bible, and we are tremendously honored to bring Howe’s original manuscript back to the place of its creation at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington D.C.”
The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” uses biblical language and imagery from several books of the King James Version of the Bible to create a stirring and apocalyptic procession. The iconic opening words “mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” echo Isaiah 6:5, and the next line references Revelation 14 and 19. Other allusions-including ones to Psalms, Job, Joel, and Ezekiel-saturate the lyrics. The final verse in the manuscript, which begins “He is coming like the glory the morning in the wave,” did not appear in The Atlantic Monthly when it first published the lyrics in February 1862.
Nearly a year away from the highly-anticipated grand opening in November 2017, Museum of the Bible is currently under construction just two blocks from the National Mall in Washington D.C.
The Willard Intercontinental Hotel is a historic landmark in Washington D.C. located at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, just blocks away from the White House. Its history dates all the way back to 1816. Starting with Franklin Pierce, every president since has either slept in or attended an event at the hotel.