Julia Ward was born in New York City on May 27, 1819. She was an intelligent, inquisitive child who read voraciously, studied philosophy and literature, and became fluent in seven languages. In 1843 she married Samuel Gridley Howe, a physician and social reformer who founded the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. While raising six children, Julia managed to write poetry, plays, and essays in her spare time. She was inspired to write “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” after a trip to Washington, DC in 1861 during which she and her husband met President Lincoln. The song was published in the Atlantic Monthly in February of 1862 and soon became wildly popular. When Julia died in 1910 at the age of 91, thousands of people attended her memorial service and sang the hymn in her memory.
Here is a performance of Julia Ward Howe’s greatest hit by the U.S. Marine Band and the Armed Forces Choir at the National Cathedral in Washington DC, at the funeral of Ronald Reagan on June 11, 2004.