Original Draft of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” with Cover Letter and Envelope

By: Julia Ward Howe

Collection ID







Washington, DC, (United States of America)




Ink on Paper


12.2 × 10.06 in. (31 × 25.5 cm)

Exhibit Location

Not on View

The song dates to November 1861 when, during the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe traveled to Washington, DC. She reviewed the Union troops and met with President Lincoln. One night during Howe’s stay at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, she “awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind.” She scribbled down the poem on a sheet of paper before she could forget. The poem was published in February 1862, in slightly altered form, as the Battle Hymn of the Republic, a title chosen by the editor of The Atlantic Monthly. These words, inspired by and drawing from the Bible, became the battle cry of a nation at war.

Written on the night of November 18–19, 1861 by Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), Willard Hotel, Washington, DC. Gifted to Charlotte B. Whipple, Boston.[1] Acquired by William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951). Acquired by David Magee (1905–1977), San Francisco bookseller. Acquired between 1959 and 1974 by Kenneth W. Rendell, Inc. [2] Acquired by the Hon. J. William Middendorf II (1924–). Acquired by Malcom Forbes [1919–1990]. Purchased at auction in 2012 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; [3] Donated in 2014 to Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.

Notes: [1]See The Story of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, written by Howe’s children, in which they state “My mother gave the original draft of the ‘Battle Hymn’ to her friend, Mrs. Edwin P. Whipple, ‘who begged it of me, years ago.’ The draft remained for many years in the possession of the latter, until it was sent to Messrs. Houghton & Mifflin, in order to have a facsimile made for the ‘Reminiscences.’” [2] See Kenneth W. Rendell, Inc., Autographs and Manuscripts: The American Civil War (Somerville, MA: Kinston Galleries, Inc., 1974), item 192. [3] Sotheby’s, December 7, 2012, Lot 43.

Selected References:

John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis, The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song that Marches On (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Florence Howe Hall, The Story of the Battle Hymn of the Republic (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1916), 51-57.

Julia Ward Howe Reminiscences 1819 – 1899, (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1900).

Museum of the Bible Publications:

Jennifer Atwood and Stacey L. Douglas, eds., Passages: Exploring the Bible in Four Movements – An Exhibition Guide (Oklahoma City: Museum of the Bible, 2015), 112-113.

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