An excerpt from the beginning:
A In order to understand how this song of our "THE BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC" nation sprang into sudden being we must study that stormy past - the prelude of the Civil War. How greatly it affected my mother we shall see from her own record, as well as from the story of the events that touched her so nearly. My own memory of them dates back to childhood's days. Yet they moved and stirred my soul as few things have done in a long life.
Therefore I have striven to give to the present generation some idea of the fervor and ferment, the exaltation of spirit, that prevailed at that epoch among the soldiers of a great cause, especially as I saw it in our household.
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel.
So many years have elapsed since the evil monster of slavery was done to death that we sometimes forget its awful power in the middle of the last century. The fathers of the Republic believed that it would soon perish. They forbade its entrance into the Territories and were careful to make no mention of it in the Constitution.
The invention of the cotton-gin changed the whole situation. It was found that slave labor could be used with profit in the cultivation of the cotton crop. But slave labor with its wasteful methods exhausted the soil. Slavery could only be made profitable by constantly increasing its area. Hence, the Southern leaders departed from the policy of the fathers of the Republic. Instead of allowing slavery to die out, they determined to make it perpetual. Instead of keeping it within the limits prescribed by the ancient law of the land, they resolved to extend it.
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 gave the first extension of slavery, opening the great Territory of Missouri to the embrace of the serpent. The fugitive-slave law was signed in 1850. Before this time the return of runaway negroes had been an uncertain obligation. The new law took away from State magistrates the decision in cases of this sort and gave it to United States Commissioners. It imposed penalties on rescues and denied a jury trial to black men arrested as fugitives, thus greatly endangering the liberties of free negroes. The Dred Scott decision (see page 10), denying that negroes could be citizens, was made in 1854. In 1856 the Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Kansas and Nebraska law.* Additional territory was thrown open to the sinister institution which now threatened to become like the great Midgard snake, holding our country in its suffocating embrace, as that creature of fable surrounded the earth. It was necessary to fling off the deadly coils of slavery if we were to endure as a free nation.
* Abraham Lincoln said of this law: "I look upon that enactment not as a law, but as a violence from the beginning. It was conceived in violence and is being executed in violence" (letter to Joshua F. Speed, August 24, 1856).show more