The Plymouth Church in Framingham, Massachusetts
Across the United States, there is no shortage of historical churches. Ranging from different time periods, denominations, and congregations, churches across America have been a defining feature throughout the nation’s history. Although many churches have a unique history, there is one church in Framingham that has a particularly notable distinction as being the first public performance and singing of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
The church was founded in 1701 and by the time of the American Civil War, it was called the Hollis Evangelical Congregational Church. On the evening of February 22, 1862, the residents of Framingham gathered in the church to celebrate the 130th anniversary of George Washington’s birthday and read aloud his 1796 farewell address as encouraged by President Lincoln via national proclamation three days earlier. The speech was read by Norman School principal George Bigelow and the program was concluded with the singing of Battle Hymn of the Republic by Julia Ward Howe which was published in The Atlantic Monthly that same month.
The song became extremely renowned in the United States with its abolitionist and religious themes resonating strongly with supporters of the Union cause during the American Civil War. It was one of the most popular songs among Union troops and became a staple of United States military music. Today, it’s considered a classic patriotic song with many renditions, tributes, and parodies.