Hymn History: “Hold the Fort”

2 min

The Confederate cannons boomed, hurling heavy ammunition that exploded in thudding, fiery, noisy bursts. The Civil War battle of Allatoona Pass, Georgia, was brutal. Union soldiers despaired inside the fort atop the hill. They were completely surrounded! Within the strong stone walls, their fellow soldiers lay wounded and dying. Confederate soldiers barraged the fort, skillfully shooting with accuracy as their bullets hit their marks. Only a few wayward bullets whistled past the ears of disheartened Union soldiers. 

On October 5, 1864, the Allatoona Pass fort was attacked by the Confederates. The fort held the prized treasure of 1.5 million food rations for the Union army. The Union soldiers guarding this precious resource were now outfought. Once thinking they were secure, the men now had lost all hope of survival, much less victory. Soon the demand for surrender came. The weary Union soldiers looked at both the fallen and those barely standing. Hopelessness was evident on each face.

Wait! Approximately twenty miles away, a tiny white speck waved from another high hill. Every eye strained to see. Some peeked cautiously over the stone wall and some peered through peepholes. What was the signaled message?

“Hold the fort. I am coming. Sherman.” 

The general was coming! Help was on the way! With renewed hope, the fort’s defenders sprang to their posts on the wall. Seven words had reenergized the men! Encouraged, they mustered strength and repelled the Confederates’ relentless attack for three more hours until General Sherman and reinforcements arrived. 

Six years later, Major D. W. Whittle shared this true story with an attentive Sunday School audience. His enthralled listeners felt the distress of the surrounded Union soldiers and gasped when they heard about the signaled message. In the audience was hymn writer Philip P. Bliss. Inspired by the story, Mr. Bliss wrote down words and music before retiring that evening. The next morning, he spoke in a YMCA meeting. Writing the chorus on a blackboard, Mr. Bliss led the attendees in singing the newly composed hymn that encouraged those facing difficulties and spiritual battles. With its stirring tune and words, the hymn instantly became popular and was soon a favorite song during the Moody-Sankey evangelistic campaigns in the United States and Great Britain.

Determination is “purposing to accomplish God’s goals in God’s time regardless of the opposition.” The hymn’s powerful message reminds us to faithfully serve the Lord because He is coming! Regardless of opposition, let us determine to do God’s will, knowing He is our present and future Hope. He is able to help us when we call to Him.

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