After the war ended, Julia’s passion for equality and liberation continued as she joined and actively participated in the women’s suffrage campaign. When the movement splintered in 1868 as advocates, like Frederick Douglass, reluctantly chose to pursue black suffrage first, Julia and Lucy Stone ran the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA). (see ) However, two decades later she help reunite the AWSA and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony’s rival organization, forming the National American Woman Suffrage Associatio3n (NAWA). (see )
In addition to her work with women’s suffrage, she also helped found the Free Religious Association. Furthermore, Julia’s desires for liberty extended beyond America’s borders as she supported Russia’s fight for freedom as well as the Armenians in their war with Turkey’s Ottoman Empire it the 1890's. (see ) Following her death on October 17, 1910, at the age of 91, over 4,000 people attended the freedom-loving American’s funeral.
Many in today’s world want to condemn the “Battle Hymn,” attacking it on several fronts. First, they charge it as arrogant for believing the North was administering justice with God’s blessings. Yet it is egotistical of us to judge those of a different time without considering their circumstances. In a time when the nation was at war with itself, where brothers, cousins, fathers and sons were facing each other on the battlefields, it is not unreasonable for those living through this hell to identify it at God’s judgment against the horrible institution of slavery. However, Southerners believed God was on their side as well. What else would you believe when you are killing your own kin? Regardless, people today who want to forever punish America for her past with slavery ironically refuse to acknowledge the sacrifice of those who loathed it and fought against it at the time. On the other hand, to recognize it would destroy their own narrative and agenda.
Some criticize the hymn’s statement “let us die to make men free,” offended that we should be willing to die to save others. Yet Christ himself said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 While he was obviously speaking of himself and his pending death, the verse can apply to anyone who willingly makes that sacrifice. Unfortunately, many who have convinced themselves that America was founded on slavery and racism must reject the notion. Again, accepting that Union soldiers were willing to die to free the slaves destroys their entire ideology regarding the basis of our country. No one would die for someone they thought was inferior to themselves, but they would die for those they wanted to liberate.
To continue the doctrine of America’s racism, numerous people have argued the Civil War wasn’t about slavery but states’ rights, dismissing evidence, such as the Battle Hymn, that demonstrate the people of the time believed otherwise. An examination of the Constitution of the Confederate States reveals members must not only have slavery, they must agree not to hinder slavery in any way. If they were about states’ rights and not slavery, they would not have made such demands to the contrary in their constitution. (see )
Lastly, too many churches today don’t like to talk about God’s wrath, which Julia addresses in her first stanza. They feel it offends people. Most of the Founding Fathers understood that God is just and made statements saying as much. They also recognized that slavery was a stain on the country that would eventually need to be addressed. Thomas Jefferson, accused by progressives as a major racist, warned the American people by stating:
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever. Commerce between master and slave is despotism. Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.” (Notes on the State of Virginia) (emphasis mine)
Regardless, some Christians today don’t want to admit that God demands justice and is patient for only so long. A few years ago, a denomination requested to change the words of a current favorite hymn, “In Christ Alone,” to rewrite the line “The wrath of God was satisfied.” This lyric is preceded with “Til on the cross as Jesus died.” Without the understanding of God’s intolerance for sin, the true and humbling purpose and meaning of Christ’s death on the cross is lost. Fortunately, the authors of the hymn boldly and correctly refused to alter it. Grace means nothing if you don’t know or understand the alternative.
Liberty, as during the Civil War, we are once again in a battle not only for our republic's soul, but more importantly for the souls of our fellow countrymen. While we should earnestly pray this struggle does not end in bloodshed, we need to remember we are first and foremost soldiers in God’s Army. This Battle Hymn is just as relevant for Jesus’ Second Coming as it was for the time it was written. If we fail to warn America of her egregious sins of abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, pedophilia, and violent hatred towards others, then we risk once again reliving the days of the War Between Brothers. Most importantly, we risk losing souls. Therefore, suit yourself up with God’s Armor, and prepare to battle for the Glory of God. Glory, Hallelujah.
That’s my 2 cents.
November 19, 2019
Julia woke from a sound sleep with a new poem racing through her head. With dawn just breaking, she hoped to refrain from disturbing her young children sleeping feet away. Composing and rewriting the stanza's in her head, she quietly arose thinking, "I shall lose this if I don't write it down immediately." Remembering a pen and paper she used the night before, Julia scribbled down the words in the dark that just moments before filled her head.
Mine eyes of seen the coming of the glory of the Lord:
A woman of strong faith, the words seemed to flow from Julia's pen with ease. Many times she had read the verses in the Bible where God compares His wrath to a wine press, crushing the unbelievers like grapes at the time of His judgement.
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
Likewise, God repeatedly declares that His judgement will be administered with a sword.
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
And in the end,
His truth is marching on.
Julia continued writing as four more stanzas filled her paper.
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.
I have read a fiery gospel writ 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.”
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.
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.
Quickly finishing, Julia slipped into bed and drifted back to sleep with the feeling that “something of importance had happened” to her. She was right.
By the time the Civil War erupted, Julia Ward Howe was already a known writer and poetess. She and her husband, Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, were also avid abolitionists. Tensions between the North and the South increased when Whig President Millard Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 into law. (see ). After Democrat President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, Samuel led a group of anti-slavery settlers into Kansas as both anti- and pro-slavery advocates flooded the state. Known as “Bloody Kansas” or “Bleeding Kansas,” the territory’s struggle between freedom and slavery resulted in the shedding of the first drops of blood regarding slavery. (see and )
Once the war began, it rapidly became evident the army was losing more men from unsanitary conditions and disease in their camps and prison of war camps than on the battlefield. Therefore, the U.S. Sanitary Commission was formed, of which Samuel and Julia volunteered. In November of 1861, Republican President Abraham Lincoln invited the couple to visit him in Washington D.C. While there, they toured a local Union army camp along with Reverend James Freeman Clarke.
While reviewing the troops, the group gathered themselves and hastily returned to their carriage as the men were ordered to line up for deployment to help a regiment in danger. Following the slowly marching soldiers who filled the road, the visitors entertained themselves and the troops with popular military songs. After a rendition of “John Brown’s body,” a current favorite anthem about Sgt. John Brown but adapted to honor the abolitionist, Clarke challenged Julia, “Mrs. Howe, why do you not write some good words for that stirring tune?" which included the “Glory, Hallelujah” chorus. Julia replied she had contemplated it, but she hadn’t found the words yet.
That night, Julia went to bed at the Willard Hotel with the activities of the day settling in her mind. Early the next morning, November 19, 1861, she awoke to have the text of what would become her most famous composition of her life.
The February 1862 edition of The Atlantic Monthly printed Julia’s poem under the title “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, yet that seemed to be the extent of its exposure. However, as Julia describes in her autobiography, Reminiscences 1819-1899, the soldiers knew it well. She recounts an incident as told by Chaplain Charles Cardwell McCabe during a public lecture in Washington.
TO MAKE MEN FREE
“He (Chaplain) and the other Union prisoners (of Libby Prison) occupied one large, comfortless room, in which the floor was their only bed. An official in charge of them told them, one evening, that the Union arms had just sustained a terrible defeat. While they sat together in great sorrow, the negro who waited upon them whispered to one man that the officer had given them false information, and that the Union soldiers had, on the contrary, achieved an important victory. At this good news they all rejoiced, and presently made the walls ring with my Battle Hymn, which they sang in chorus, Chaplain McCabe leading. The lecturer recited the poem with such effect that those present began to inquire, ‘Who wrote this Battle Hymn?’ It now became one of the leading lyrics of the war.”