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March 17, 2008

ULM receives rare, historical manuscript of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Today, the University of Louisiana at Monroe received an extraordinary gift: an original, authenticated manuscript of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," written in Julia Ward Howe's hand.

ULM President James Cofer expressed his appreciation to Linda Noe Laine, a longtime friend of the university. Laine donated the manuscript and a rare, framed photograph of Howe.

"The acquisition of an original manuscript of Julia Ward Howe's 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ as well as a rare photograph of Howe herself, means that ULM has historical artifacts of an intense and transformative period in American history, that of the Civil War,” Cofer said. “We appreciate these gifts and are extremely grateful for the generosity of Mrs. Laine.”

Laine’s attorney has confirmed that while it is an authenticated, original manuscript, it is not necessarily the original. There were probably "several manuscript copies made at the time the piece was composed." The manuscript has been authenticated by a paper conservator who supervised its restoration and framing.

The hymn was born during the American Civil War, when Howe visited a Union Army camp on the Potomac River near Washington, D. C. She heard the soldiers singing the song “John Brown’s Body,” and was taken with the strong marching beat. The hymn appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862.

Dr. Gordon Harvey, ULM history department head, spoke about the hymn’s traditional associations. “The connection between religious tunes and the abolitionist movement can’t be overstated.”

Of her gift to ULM, Laine said: "This hymn has inspired us, as Americans, and indeed the whole world since it was written--Sir Winston Churchill requested that it be sung at his funeral, and it was also sung at the funerals of Robert F. Kennedy and President Ronald Reagan. It is my hope that it will continue to inspire the students of ULM, the citizens of Louisiana, and all who can hear and heed its message."

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