Mr. Bliss said to me once, not long before his death, that he hoped that he would not be known to pos­ter­i­ty on­ly as the au­thor of Hold the Fort, for he be­lieved that he had writ­ten ma­ny bet­ter songs. How­ev­er, when I at­tend­ed the de­di­ca­tion of the Bliss mon­u­ment, at Rome, Penn­syl­van­ia, I found these words in­scribed:

P. P. Bliss
Author of Hold the Fort

The pine tree from which [Will­iam Te­cum­seh] Sher­man’s sig­nal was flown was cut down a few years af­ter the war, and was made in­to sou­ve­nirs, I re­ceiv­ing a ba­ton with which to lead my choirs.


Hold the Fort was used fre­quent­ly in our meet­ings in Great Bri­tain dur­ing 1873–4. Lord Shaftes­bu­ry said at our fare­well meet­ing in Lon­don: If Mr. San­key has done no more than teach the people to sing ‘Hold the Fort,’ he has con­ferred an in­es­tim­a­ble bless­ing on the Bri­tish em­pire.

On a trip to Swit­zer­land, in 1879, I stopped ov­er Sun­day in Lon­don with the fa­mi­ly of Will­iam Higgs, and at­tend­ed morn­ing ser­vic­es at the Me­tro­pol­i­tan Ta­bernacle.

While seat­ed in a pew with Mrs. Higgs and three of her daught­ers, I was dis­cov­ered by Mr. [Charles] Spur­geon. At the con­clu­sion of his ad­dress he sent one of his dea­cons down to the pew, in­vit­ing me to his pri­vate room at the rear of the pul­pit.

There I was warm­ly greet­ed by the great preach­er. In the course of our con­ver­sa­tion he said: “A few days ago I re­ceived a copy of a bill pend­ing in Par­lia­ment in re­la­tion to the ar­my, with a let­ter from a Chris­tian gen­tle­man ask­ing if I couldn’t preach a ser­mon on this bill. I have de­cid­ed to preach that ser­mon to-night, and I want you to come and sing, ‘Hold the Fort.’

I re­plied that he was not a man to be de­nied; and al­though I had not ex­pect­ed to sing in pub­lic in Lon­don on this trip, I would glad­ly com­ply with his wish if I could have a small or­gan to ac­com­pa­ny my­self up­on.

This I sup­posed he would not be have, as he did not ap­prove of or­gans at pub­lic wor­ship and ne­ver used one in his church; but he re­plied that when I ar­rived at the meet­ing there would be an in­stru­ment on the plat­form for me.

In the ev­en­ing, at the close of his ad­dress he an­nounced that I was pre­sent and would sing Hold the Fort; and he asked them all to join heart­i­ly in the cho­rus. An or­gan had been se­cured from the Stu­dents’ Col­lege. When the cho­rus was sung it was heard blocks away. At the con­clu­sion of the ser­vice Mr. Spur­geon exclaimed: There now, I think our roof will stay on af­ter that!

On reach­ing Swit­zer­land I sang in ma­ny cities. Sail­ing across Lake Lu­cerne, and as­cend­ing the Ri­gi, there I again sang Hold the Fort, much to the in­ter­est of the Swiss pea­sants.

An in­di­ca­tion of the im­press­ion this and oth­er Am­er­i­can songs made up­on the peo­ple may be seen in the case of the two ac­tors who came on the stage in one of the larg­est the­a­ters in Eng­land and at­tempt­ed to car­i­ca­ture Mr. Moody and my­self. The gal­ler­ies struck up “Hold the Fort,” and kept on sing­ing the piece un­til the ac­tors had to with­draw from the stage.

On their re­ap­pear­ing, with the pur­pose of con­tin­u­ing the per­for­mance, the song was once again start­ed, and con­tin­ued un­til that part of the en­ter­tain­ment was giv­en up. I have been in­formed that the cab­ling of this in­ci­dent to [Amer­i­ca] at the time it took place turned the at­ten­tion of our coun­try­men more tho­rough­ly to our work across the sea than all the re­ports pre­vious­ly sent in re­la­tion to the move­ment ov­er there.

Shortly af­ter the ev­an­gel­is­tic work of Hen­ry Var­ley in York­ville and To­ron­to, about 1875, when the songs in the first ed­i­tion of “Gos­pel Hymns” were heard all ov­er the land, a car­pen­ter and his ap­pren­tice were work­ing on a build­ing in York­ville. The man was a Chris­tian and had con­se­crat­ed his fine te­nor voice to the Mas­ter’s use. The boy had just giv­en himself to Je­sus and was al­so a sing­er for the Lord. One morn­ing, as they met at the usu­al hour for work, the fol­low­ing di­a­log took place be­tween them:

Do you know who is com­ing here to work to­day?
No, I did not hear of an­y­bo­dy com­ing here.
Well there is; and it is Tom­my Dodd.
And who might Tom­my Dodd be?
He is a paint­er, and the great­est drunk­ard and wife-beat­er in York­ville.
Well, Joe, we must give him a warm re­cep­tion.
Yes, we will sing like ev­ery­thing, so that he can’t get a bad word in.

So, when Tom­my Dodd came, they struck up Hold the Fort. And they kept on sing­ing till he left his work and came clos­er to list­en. He asked them to sing it ov­er and ov­er again, join­ing heart­i­ly in it him­self, for Tom­my was ve­ry fond of sing­ing.

This was fol­lowed by an in­vi­ta­tion to the young men’s pray­er-meet­ing, where the Spi­rit led him to sur­ren­der to Christ. Af­ter­ward he was found at the church in­stead of the sa­loon, sing­ing the sweet songs of Zi­on.

Dr. [Reu­ben Arch­er] Tor­rey, on his re­turn from Eng­land re­cent­ly, called on me and told me that while he and Mr. Al­ex­an­der were hold­ing meet­ings in Bel­fast, one of the most en­thu­si­as­tic help­ers was a ty­pi­cal Ir­ish­man, well-known as an ac­tive work­er all over the ci­ty. He was con­stant­ly bring­ing drunk­ards to the front and deal­ing with them, said Dr. Tor­rey, and hold­ing meet­ings in the op­en air all ov­er the ci­ty.

The sto­ry of his con­ver­sion was ex­ceed­ing­ly in­ter­est­ing. At that time he was a pri­son­er in a cell in Bel­fast. The win­dow of his cell was op­en. Mr. San­key was sing­ing Hold the Fort in an­o­ther build­ing. There in his cell he ac­cept­ed Christ un­der the in­flu­ence of this hymn. I think he ne­ver saw Mr. San­key in his life.

My Life and the Sto­ry of the Gos­pel Hymns, by Ira D. San­key (Phi­la­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia: Sunday School Times Com­pa­ny, 1907), pp. 152–55