Created on 07/09/2006
Latest update on 27/04/2021

Artist: Methodist camp meeting congregations
Author: anonymus
Year: 1806

Methodist hymn first published in a 1806 North Carolina hymnbook edited by David Mintz. As Grace Reviving In The Soul noted in a 1807 hymnal of evangelical camp meeting revivalist Stith Mead (Hymn 50) from Boiling Springs, Virginia. While also published in a Boston hymnal of 1808, Say Brothers was not particularly popular in the north, not at least until the 1850s when more Americans (from both north and south) identified themselves as Methodists than any other denomination. Say Brothers remained popular among black and white southerners even during the Civil War. After which - as we will see - the music stuck, the lyrics did not.



William Steffe [as Say Bummers Will You Meet Us; Steffe was the organist and choirmaster at a Methodist camp meeting festival in South Carolina; while it is obvious Say Brothers circulated for decades when Steffe added a couple of new words to the tune, he is still frequently credited for being the composer of both John Brown's Body and The Battle Hymn Of The Republic]


Singing quartet in residence with the 12th Massachusetts Regiment [als John Brown's Body; John Brown was a (white) abolitionist who in 1859 with 21 (black & white) companions led a raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to capture enough weaponry to distribute among black slaves in the hope this action would trigger a mass slave uprising in the South. Four men were killed during this failed attempt. John was captured (by colonel Robert E. Lee), judged and hanged; when the Boston based soldiers of this regiment heard about the execution of abolitionist John Brown, his namesake in the regiment spontaneously exclaimed: "But he still goes marching around", which of course was met with roaring enthusiasm among his fellow comrades; and as said John Brown 'in residence' was also part of this Regiment's singing quartet, it's but a small step to believe the John Brown's Body song, etched upon the Say Brothers tune, popular among troops for it's march friendly quality, spread as wildfire from this Boston base; fact is John Brown's Body soon became the official marching song of that 12th Regiment; singing it in public since 1861 earned them the nickname The Hallelujah Regiment; by the time their own John Brown was killed in action, the whole Union army sang their song; the knapsack verse of the official John Brown's Body lyrics was probably also inspired by his namesake Boston corporal; as freshmen learning to pack their knapsack efficiently, John's was by far the largest, triggering the obvious remark: Knapsack, where you're going with that man; promptly countered by Brown's: "John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back and his soul will march on as far as any of you" and it also stuck]


Brockton Brigade Band [professional band regularly playing for troops in the Boston region and credited for giving John Brown's Body its first public performance (at a flag-raising ceremony)]


Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore's Band [learned it from The Brockton Brigade Band; see also: When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again]


C.S. Hall [Bostonite with strong abolitionist views and the first to publish the John Brown Song as a (bestselling) broadsheet during the first weeks of the Civil War; later version as Fort Warren (referring to the fort near Boston where the 18th Regiment was stationed at the time); many publishers followed, locally and nationally; by the end of the war some 75 different sheet music versions were counted]


Julia Ward Howe [her husband was too old to fight and her sons too young to be enlisted, so she wrote The Battle Hymn Of The Republic, poem first published on the cover of the February edition of Atlantic Monthly (it was chief editor James T. Fields who provided the poem's title); revealed to her one night in a Washington, DC hotel room as a more elevated reaction upon John Brown's Body's uncompromising lyrics; it captured the emotional time frame as no other (at the beginning of the American Civil War) without using any references to a particular time or space, which makes it so universally popular and adaptable to whatever cause and situation since; opening line "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" concluded Dr. Martin Luther King's last sermon on April 3rd, 1968 at Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ HQ), South Memphis, better known as the Mountaintop speech; lyrics also refer to the grapes of wrath: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; first public singing of The Battle Hymn during a celebration of George Washington's birthday at the Congregational Church in Framingham, Massachusetts; later in her life Julia Howe struggled for women's rights; she came up with the idea behind Mother's Day]


Charles McCabe [Methodist pastor from Ohio who saw the poem on the Atlantic cover and learned it by heart before leaving his chair; as a chaplain with the 122th Volunteer Infantry Corps he was captured at the Battle of Winchester by Confederate troops; with his rich baritone singing voice he was well regarded among his fellow prisoners, who preferred his rendition of The Battle Hymn more than anything else; when rumour about the Union victory at Gettysburg reached their cell, some 500 war prisoners joined their version to sing the Glory Hallelujah chorus; following his release McCabe gave frequent lectures at political rallies, in hospitals, schools and churches, always concluding with a massive Battle Hymn, one out of many significant factors in the succesful spreading of its popularity]


Hutchinson Family [The North's most prominent abolitionist singing group, with a minor change in the lyrics: instead of "As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free" they sang: As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free]


Fisk Jubilee Singers [both as Battle Hymn Of The Republic and as John Brown's Body, versions underlining the quality of both song and choir, especially overseas; Fisk University in Nashville was the first high school for African Americans in the South (1866); their choir symbolised Reconstruction, although no American steamship was willing to take these black singers on board on their first world tour in 1873]


Johannes Brahms [the Say Brothers/John Brown's Body/Battle Hymn theme is clearly featured at about the 10 minute mark in the Allegro non troppo, First Movement of his Piano Concerto N°2]


University of Georgia Football Team Band [as their fighting song Glory Glory To Old Georgia; so many decades since the end of the Civil War this melody was no longer associated exclusively with the North, a process speeded during the Spanish-American war in the 1870s, when Northern and Southern infantry brigades fought shoulder to shoulder, so that even their respective favorite marching tunes (like the Battle Hymn and Dixie) first got enthwined; it is at least ironic that Daniel Emmett, author of Dixie, was from Ohio where his song was a popular minstrel show tune first, while the melody for The Battle Hymn showed southern camp meeting roots]


Mark Twain [parody of The Battle Hymn in reaction upon America's ambition to occupy the Philippines; the poem was found among his papers after his death]


J.W. Myers [baritone solo as John Brown's Body for Victor]


George Alexander [as Battle Hymn Of The Republic, first recording on Columbia]


Homer Rodeheaver [as music director behind revivalist preacher Billy Sunday; always ended his warming up round with the Battle Hymn; more about Sunday under Chicago (That Toddling Town)]


Columbia Mixed Quartet [idem]


Ralph Stanley [as Solidarity Forever; Chaplin was an editor and artist alligned with the IWW (Wobblies) who was directly inspired for these lyrics by a coalminers strike he attended in Kanawha County, West Virginia in 1912-13 and a Hunger March in Chicago in January 1915]


Reinald Werrenrath [as Battle Hymn Of The Republic; top 5 US while the Americans became fysically involved in WW I]


Welsh Guards [as The Battle Hymn during a ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral, attended by the British king and queen, to honor America's entrance into WW I]


John McCormack [as The Battle Hymn on Independence Day in Mount Vernon, George Washington's hometown]


Columbia Stellar Quartet [n°1 US as Battle Hymn Of The Republic]


Manhattan Chorus [as Solidarity Forever with secularized last stanza]


Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians [as Battle Hymn Of The Republic; a 1953 version with lyric change "Let us live to make men free" in protest against America's involvement in the Korean War]


Blind Boys Of Mississippi


Ward Singers


Beverly Shea [sang the Battle Hymn as theme song of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association in his weekly radio program Hour Of Decision]


Paul Robeson [as John Brown's Body]


Pete Seeger & The Almanac Singers [as Solidarity Forever, unofficial hymn of the American labor movement]


Teddy Buckner [in film Pete Kelly's Blues as Battle Hymn Of The Republic]


Marian Anderson [version opening with the first verse of the Battle Hymn, then seamlessly transitioning to Solidarity Forever]


Morman Tabernacle Choir [as Battle Hymn Of The Republic, top 20 US and Grammy for best performance by a chorus; at the (televised) awards ceremony the Battle Hymn was performed by all 300 members of the choir]


Odetta [idem]


Blind Boys Of Alabama


Mighty Clouds Of Joy


Duane Eddy [as Theme From Dixie]


Ruth Pitts [contralto with The U.S. Marine Band Orchestra and The U.S. Army Chorus to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of the composition of The Battle Hymn Of The Republic in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC]


Joan Baez [as John Brown's Body]


Blue Diamonds [idem]


Mahalia Jackson [as The Battle Hymn during a centennial commemoration of the Emancipation Proclamation at Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC]


Len Chandler [a Battle Hymn beginning with "Mine eyes have seen injustice in each city, town and state"; version adopted by the Black Panther Party]


Johnny Hoes [as Huppie Huppie Huppie on lp Johnny Hoes Presenteert: Hand In Hand Kameraden as part of a medley with De Zingende Voetbalenthousiasten, De Stadiongangers, Supportersclub Langs 't Lijntje and hoempa-orchestra De Vrolijke Goalgetters conducted by reffery Jean Kraft; one year later('66) same medley as Huppie Huppie Huppie (Ajax Dat Is Mijn Cluppie) on lp Johnny Hoes Presenteert: Ajax; this melody triggered more Dutch parodies: zie under Henkie in 2006, while in the 1930s local boy scouts sang "Jan de Bruin z'n motor had een lekkie in z'n band en dat stopte hij met kauwgom dicht"]


Anita Bryant [as the Battle Hymn at the White House]


Dr. Martin Luther King [ended his Mountaintop speech at Mason Temple, Memphis on April 3, the day before he was shot, with the opening line of the Battle Hymn: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord]


Andy Williams [his Battle Hymn Of The Republic at Robert Kennedy's funeral was released as a single; his biggest hit NL]


Egbert Douwe [as Vader Is De Dader; hit NL]


Brian Auger & The Trinity [as John Brown's Body]


Lords [hit GER als John Brown's Body]


Lalo Schifrin [as Battle Hymn Of The Republic in film Kelly's Heroes]


C Company featuring Terry Nelson [als Battle Hymn Of Lt. Calley, top 40 US; recorded at FAME in Muscle Shoals, with studio bass Rick Hall on banjo]


Elvis Presley [in An American Trilogy; see there]


Goodies [as Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me; top 10 UK]


Beach Boys [as Battle Hymn Of The Republic]


Joe Glazer [as Solidarity Forever]


Barbara Dane & Pete Seeger [idem]


Van Morrison [as John Brown's Body on The Philosophers' Stone]


Judy Collins [as Battle Hymn Of The Republic]


Daryl Hall [as Gloryland, the official song of the soccer World Cup in the US]


Helmut Lotti [as John Brown's Body]


John Boutté [as Battle Hymn Of The Republic]


Navy Sea Chanters [in Washington National Cathedral during the official ceremony commemorating the victims of nine.eleven, accompanied by the cathedral's Great Organ and the entire congregation; hell of an occasion to sing this hymn (entirely), hell of a place too: seven ornamental keystones in the cathedral's Lincoln Bay depict the hymn's most striking images; in John Stauffer & Benjamin Soskis's biography of the song (The Battle Hymn Of The Republic - Oxford University Press, 2013) every chapter is illustrated with these keystones, while in the central boss five Union soldiers are depicted around a canon's mouth and the word "Hallelujah"]


Bob McGrath [as Little Peter Rabbit (Had A Fly Upon His Ear); Peter Rabbit is a Beatrix Potter character]


Kids Club Singers [idem]


Susie Tallman [idem]


Henkie [as Lief Klein Konijntje; n°1 UT]

The room in Harpers Ferry where John Brown was ambushed, escaped destruction during the Civil War, the only American armory building to do so. Later on it was vandalized by souvenir hunters. In 1891 it was dismanteled and transported to Chicago for the Wold Fair. Brought back to Harpers Ferry in 1895.


If you noticed blunt omissions, mis-interpretations or even out-and-out errors, please let us know by contacting us:

Arnold Rypens
Rozenlaan 65
B-2840 Reet (Rumst)

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