"Marching On" — the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Colored Regiment Singing John Brown's March in the Streets of Charleston,
February 21, 1865
Harper's Weekly, 18 March 1865
(Library of Congress)
Of all of the remembrances that followed Brown's death, the farthest reaching was the Civil War marching
song "John Brown's Body," which proved to be the most popular lyric sung by soldiers of the Union army. Its clear
differentiation between the impermanence of the body (John Brown's body lies a-mold'ring in the grave) and the eternal
life of the soul (His soul goes marching on) must have been reassuring to young men marching toward what could be the
scene of their final earthly endeavors. Its lyrics were written just before the war by members of the 12th Massachusetts
Regiment, one of whom, a Scotsman named John Brown, provided the inspiration.
The stirring refrain, "Glory, glory hallelujah!," was retained when the song was reinvented as "The Battle
Hymn of the Republic," written by Julia Ward Howe, the wife of "Secret Six" member Samuel Gridley Howe.