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Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2013, Volume 34

"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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Complete Issue: National Anti-Slavery Standard (26 March 1864)
J. C. Hagen, "Hymn of the Corps D'Afrique" National Anti-Slavery Standard (26 March 1864): [4]View Poem Image
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            TuneHail to the Chief.[3]
Glory to God, who our fetters has broken! Filled be our hearts with thanksgiving and praise! Glory to God for the word he has spoken— The word that to freemen a people can raise; Giving us strength and will Bravely our place to fill, Till none so blind but our manhood can see; Teaching the traitor throng, Blasting the earth so long, All in God's image made shall be free!
Proudly the star-spangled banner waves o'er us; Dark though the deeds 'neath its folds to us done, Now like an angel of promise before us, Cheering us onward, it gleams in the sun. Never again to wave Over the hapless slave, Terror of tyrants for aye it shall be; All 'neath its folds who dwell Shall the glad tidings tell— Where that blessed banner floats, man is free!
Victory awaits us, for God has decreed it, Countless and strong though the foes that assail. Scoffers revile us, but little we heed it; Ours is the truth, and the truth must prevail. Firm as a rock we stand, Guarding some sea-girt land; Pledged heart and hand, Freedom's champions are we, Never to cease the strife While we have breath of life, Till all can proudly say, "We are free!"
Christian Inquirer.[4]


  1. General Nathaniel Banks, commander of the Department of the Gulf, ordered the formation of "the Corps d'Afrique" on May 1, 1863. The corps assimilated a number of existing regiments, including the Louisiana Native Guards. By mid-September, Banks had gathered enough recruits to organize the Corps d'Afrique into two divisions. In 1864, the Bureau for Colored Troops (est. May 1863) reorganized and renamed the regiments of the Corps d'Afrique as the United States Colored Troops.Go back
  2. John Cole Hagen (1815?–?), author of Foot-prints of Truth; Or, Voice of Humanity (1853) and Ballads of the Revolution (1866). Hagen contributed a handful of pieces to the Christian Inquirer during the war. "The Freedman's Offering" and "The Second Coming of the Truth" (Christian Inquirer, March 14, 1863) suggest that he was a member of the Reverend Octavius Brooks Frothingham's reform-oriented congregation in New York.Go back
  3. The tune "Hail to the Chief" was composed by James Sanderson to accompany one of the songs in a theatrical adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's The Lady of the Lake. By 1815, productions including the tune had pleased audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. The tune became "a regular tribute to the U.S. president under the administration of John Tyler (1841–45)" (Elise K. Kirk, "'Hail to the Chief': The Origins and Legacies of an American Ceremonial Tune," American Music 15 [1997]: 133). Closely associated with American patriotism and triumphant advance, the march complemented Hagen's martial subject. His "Hymn," however, identifies God, rather than the president, as chiefly responsible for emancipation and military victory.Go back
  4. A leading Unitarian weekly, based in New York City (Frank L. Mott, A History of American Magazines, 1850–1865 [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1938], 2:72). Founded by William Kirkland in late 1846, the Inquirer was published under the auspices of the Unitarian Association of the State of New York. After Kirkland's death, Henry Bellows served as "chief editor" until 1850. From 1856 until 1863, the Reverend Abiel Abbot Livermore edited the paper; Livermore passed his responsibilities into the collective "hands of the Unitarian clergymen of New York, Brooklyn, and the vicinity" until a "proper editor" could be found to replace him (Christian Inquirer, September 12, 1863, 2).
    "Hymn of the Corps D'Afrique" also appeared in the Anglo-African of April 2, 1864. The Standard and Anglo-African texts are identical.
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