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

Phi­lip P. Bliss, 1870 (🔊 pdf nwc).

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Philip P. Bliss (1838–1876)

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. 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. 150–51

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

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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!

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

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

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