Today is Veteran’s Day, 2010. I’ve been thinking about it since I woke up. The significance of this day is to honor our veterans in their ultimate sacrifice to keep our nation free. Though my grandfather, Walter C. Stout, served in World Wars I and II, he is the only member of our family I knew to serve in the military.
Our family tree shows that cousins fought against each other in the Civil War, a horrific bloody war that took more than a century to actualize its meaning. It came at a great cost to my father’s family who were pillars of commerce and leadership in the south. My family tree is not important on this date. But it’s the only link I have in illustrating how important music is in bringing people together.
To commemorate Veteran’s Day, the only song with any significance for this moment in time is, Battle Hymn of the Republic. The genesis of this beautiful piece is a religious song of praise. When the struggles of life appear hopeless, many cling to music and prayer to bring comfort. We are at a place in time when music and prayer are the only real comforts some might have.
In memory of those who’ve given their lives so we might live in total peace on this day, my favorite version of Battle Hymn of the Republic:
“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is a hymn by American writer Julia Ward Howe using the music from the abolitionist song “John Brown‘s Body”. Howe’s more famous lyrics were written in November 1861 and first published in The Atlantic Monthly in February 1862. It became popular during the American Civil War. Since that time it has become an extremely popular and well-known American patriotic song.
The tune was written around 1856 by William Steffe. The first known lyrics were called “Canaan’s Happy Shore” or “Brothers, Will You Meet Me?” and the song was sung as a campfire spiritual. The tune spread across the United States, gaining a reputation as the best song of its time.
Thomas Bishop, from Vermont, joined the Massachusetts Infantry before the outbreak of war and compiled a popular set of lyrics, circa 1860, titled “John Brown’s Body“, which became one of his unit’s walking songs. According to writer Irwin Silber (who has written a book about Civil War folk songs), the original lyrics were about John Brown, the famed abolitionist.