Scripture Verse

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

Introduction

Words & Mu­sic: Phi­lip P. Bliss, 1870 (🔊 pdf nwc). Ap­peared in The Charm (Chicago, Illinois: Root & Ca­dy, 1871), page 21.

portrait
Philip P. Bliss (1838–1876)

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.

Lyrics

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

Refrain

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!

Refrain

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

Refrain

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

Refrain