The "Battle Hymn of the Republic" originated when Julia Ward Howe, the wife of a prominent Boston abolitionist, visited a Union army camp in Virginia during the Civil War. There, she heard soldiers singing "John Brown's Body" to a tune attributed to William Steffe, a Philadelphia insurance salesman, and probably composed in 1855 or 1856. Howe decided to write new verses more fitting to the conflict between the North and the South. Her "Battle Hymn" was published in The Atlantic Monthly in February 1862 and has expressed America's resolve during every conflict since. The arrangement heard at these concerts was prepared by Peter Wilhousky (1902-1978), a New York-based chorus master who also prepared a popular version of the holiday favorite, "The Carol of the Bells."
-- John Mangum