Guest / Limited Access /
Reviews

/

Our Almost National Anthem
Illustration by Amanda Duffy
The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On
Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
Book Title
The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On
Author
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Release Date
June 6, 2013
Pages
392
Price
$24.34
Buy The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On from Amazon

I learned most of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" before I started grade school. The lyrics were part of a special supplement to the Philadelphia Inquirer, published at the beginning of the Civil War centennial. I must have read that supplement to pieces.

But the "Battle Hymn" was burned into my consciousness by the version we sang with the Youth Orchestra of Philadelphia in 1971, a sprawling, all-flags-flying arrangement by Peter J. Wilhousky. It's the version that half of all high-school band, chorus, and orchestra directors whip out whenever they need a closer to rouse their audience to a standing-ovation pitch. And if it weren't for baseball games, tourists from afar would think the "Battle Hymn," and not "The Star-Spangled Banner," was our national anthem.

Of course, there was a moment when the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" nearly did become our national anthem. This discovery is one of hundreds of insights gleaned from John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis's book, The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On (Oxford University Press). The "Battle Hymn," offspring of frontier revival meetings, really did originate as a hymn. Waves of improvement and variation shaped the words into its familiar rhythmic pattern, with a long stress on the first syllable—Say, brothers, won't you meet us over on the other shore—and ending with a call-and-response-like chorus possibly copied from African American sources: There we'll shout and give him glory, There we'll shout and give him glory, There we'll shout and give him glory, For glory is his own.

The original hymn also inspired parodies. At the outbreak ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Browse All Book Reviews By:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueRedeeming Disaster in Japan
Subscriber Access Only Redeeming Disaster in Japan
After Fukushima’s tragedy, God moved church leaders to the disaster-zone frontlines, where they encountered Jesus in fresh ways while serving their neighbors.
RecommendedSho Baraka: Why I Can't Vote for Either Trump or Clinton
Subscriber Access Only Sho Baraka: Why I Can't Vote for Either Trump or Clinton
Both candidates fail to address the heart concerns of black evangelicals like me.
TrendingResearch Says: Young People Don't Want Hip Pastors
Research Says: Young People Don't Want Hip Pastors
A study of 250 congregations suggests that youth and young adults want substance rather than style.
Editor's PickOld Hollywood’s Abortion Secret
Old Hollywood’s Abortion Secret
What a culture of death tells us about a culture of life.
Christianity Today
Our Almost National Anthem
hide thisJuly/August July/August

In the Magazine

July/August 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.