Scripture Verse

That which you have hold fast till I come. Revelation 2:25


Words & Mu­sic: Phi­lip P. Bliss, 1870 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Philip P. Bliss

Origin of the Hymn

Bliss wrote this song af­ter hear­ing Da­ni­el Whit­tle re­late the fol­low­ing in­ci­dent from the Am­er­i­can ci­vil war:

Just before [Will­iam Te­cum­seh] Sher­man be­gan his fa­mous march to the sea in 1864, and while his ar­my lay camped in the neigh­bor­hood of At­lan­ta [Georg­ia] on the 5th of Oc­to­ber, the ar­my of Hood, in a care­ful­ly pre­pared move­ment, passed the right flank of Sher­man’s ar­my, gained his rear, and com­menced the de­struc­tion of the rai­lroad lead­ing north, burn­ing block­hous­es and cap­tur­ing the small gar­ris­ons along the line.

Sherman’s ar­my was put in ra­pid mo­tion pur­su­ing Hood, to save the sup­plies and larg­er posts, the prin­ci­pal one of which was lo­cat­ed at Al­too­na Pass [Al­la­too­na Pass]. Gen­er­al Corse, of Il­li­nois, was sta­tioned there with about fif­teen hund­red men, Col­o­nel Tour­te­lotte be­ing seco­nd in com­mand.

A mil­lion and a half ra­tions were stored here, and it was high­ly im­port­ant that the earth­works com­mand­ing the pass and pro­tect­ing the sup­plies be held. Six thou­sand men un­der com­mand of Gen­er­al French were de­tailed by Hood to take the po­si­tion.

The works were com­plete­ly sur­round­ed and sum­moned to sur­ren­der. Corse re­fused and a sharp fight com­menced. The de­fend­ers were slow­ly driv­en in­to a small fort on the crest of the hill. Ma­ny had fall­en, and the re­sult seemed to ren­der a pro­long­a­tion of the fight hope­less.

At this mo­ment an of­fi­cer caught sight of a white si­gnal flag far away across the val­ley, twen­ty miles dis­tant, up­on the top of Ken­e­saw Moun­tain. The sig­nal was an­swered, and soon the mes­sage was waved across from moun­tain to moun­tain:

Hold the fort; I am com­ing. W. T. Sher­man.

Cheers went up; ev­ery man was nerved to a full ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the po­si­tion; and un­der a mur­der­ous fire, which killed or wound­ed more than half the men in the fort—Corse him­self be­ing shot three times through the head, and Tour­tel­otte tak­ing com­mand, though him­self bad­ly wound­ed—they held the fort for three hours unt­il the ad­vance guard of Sher­man’s ar­my came up. French was obliged to re­treat.

Sankey, pp. 168–75

Click here for more his­to­ry of this song.


Ho, my comrades! see the signal waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing, victory is nigh.


Hold the fort, for I am coming, Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, By Thy grace we will.

See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone!


See the glorious banner waving! Hear the trumpet blow!
In our leader’s name we triumph over ev’ry foe.


Fierce and long the battle rages, but our help is near;
Onward comes our great commander, cheer, my comrades, cheer!