America’s most famous hymn was created in very unusual circumstances. Julia Ward Howe had travelled close to the front line and had witnessed a skirmish between Union and Confederate troops. Returning to her hotel, she entered a reverie, and, as she later explained it, was inspired to write new lyrics to a popular marching song. Her new composition – subsequently entitled “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” – described an almost apocalyptic intervention in which the evil of slavery would be thoroughly defeated. But the song took on a life of its own. Taken up in new causes, and internationally, the song that pronounced divine vengeance on the southern armies was considered as a national anthem for the United States before becoming an anthem for international peace. In this episode, we are joined by Richard M. Gamble
, the Anna Margaret Ross Alexander Professor of History and Politics at Hillsdale College, MI, to talk about his outstanding new work, A Fiery Gospel: The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Road to Righteous War
(Cornell University Press, 2019).
Crawford Gribben is a professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast. His research interests focus on the history of puritanism and evangelicalism, and he is the author most recently of
John Owen and English Puritanism (Oxford University Press, 2016).