A Fiery Gospel: The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Road to Righteous War

A Fiery Gospel: The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Road to Righteous War

by Richard M. Gamble


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Since its composition in Washington's Willard Hotel in 1861, Julia Ward Howe's "Battle Hymn of the Republic" has been used to make America and its wars sacred. Few Americans reflect on its violent and redemptive imagery, drawn freely from prophetic passages of the Old and New Testaments, and fewer still think about the implications of that apocalyptic language for how Americans interpret who they are and what they owe the world.

In A Fiery Gospel, Richard M. Gamble describes how this camp-meeting tune, paired with Howe's evocative lyrics, became one of the most effective instruments of religious nationalism. He takes the reader back to the song's origins during the Civil War, and reveals how those political and military circumstances launched the song's incredible career in American public life. Gamble deftly considers the idea behind the song—humming the tune, reading the music for us—all while reveling in the multiplicity of meanings of and uses to which Howe's lyrics have been put. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" has been versatile enough to match the needs of Civil Rights activists and conservative nationalists, war hawks and peaceniks, as well as Europeans and Americans. This varied career shows readers much about the shifting shape of American righteousness. Yet it is, argues Gamble, the creator of the song herself—her Abolitionist household, Unitarian theology, and Romantic and nationalist sensibilities—that is the true conductor of this most American of war songs.

A Fiery Gospel depicts most vividly the surprising genealogy of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," and its sure and certain position as a cultural piece in the uncertain amalgam that was and is American civil religion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501736414
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 05/15/2019
Series: Religion and American Public Life
Pages: 296
Sales rank: 541,926
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Richard M. Gamble is the Anna Margaret Ross Alexander Chair of History and Politics at Hillsdale College. He is author of In Search of the City on a Hill and The War for Righteousness.

Table of Contents

The Battle Hymn of the Republic
1. The Besieged City
2. A Rich Crimson
3. "The Glorious Freedom of His Gospel"
4. Righteous War and Holy Peace
5. The Anglo-American "Battle Hymn"
6. The Valor of Righteousness
7. The Sacred Inheritance of Mankind
8. Exotic Medley
9. A Severed Nation

What People are Saying About This

John Fea

"A Fiery Gospel tells the complex and fascinating story of Julia Ward Howe's great national hymn, but this book is so much more. Like his earlier work on the idea of the United States as a city on a hill, Richard M. Gamble uses the 'Battle Hymn of the Republic' to challenge us to think deeply and historically about the construction of American identity."

Daniel Walker Howe

"Richard Gamble's amazing story of a heroic song, beautifully told and thoroughly researched, will appeal to readers with a wide range of interests, including American history and literature,  patriotism, women's achievements, popular culture, and Biblical religion."

Mark Noll

"We think we know 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic', but Richard Gamble better acquaints us with the mostly unknown author, Julia Ward Howe, and the almost entirely unknown history of her iconic poem. The result is a treasure trove of insight on Howe and her anthem, and the dubious career of American religious nationalism."

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