A Hymn Inspired By History by Quintella Davenport
“Hold the Fort” is a controversial Christian song. Controversial because some Christians believe we should not be “holding the fort”.
My view is that we all go through times in our lives when “holding the fort” is a blessing and at that point in time the only thing we can do to survive. Hear the history of this song and see if it touches your emotions as it did mine.
In 1870, Major Daniel Whittle, a former officer in the Civil War, imparted a stirring sermon at a YMCA conference using Revelation 2:25, “But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.” Major Whittle then shared an illustration of his war experience to close the emotional message.
A small force of Northern soldiers in charge of guarding a great quantity
of supplies at the Allatoona Pass was besieged and hard pressed by
by greatly superior Confederate forces. Finally General French,
the Confederate leader, commanded the Federal troops to surrender.
At that moment on a hill some distance away the Northern leader,
General Sherman, flashed a signal to his troops—“Hold the fort, I am
Philip P. Bliss, a well-known writer of early gospel music, was in the audience that night. He was so motivated by this account Major Whittle shared in closing that he could not rest that night until he had written both the text and music for a new song, “Hold the Fort.” The next day at the YMCA service, Bliss introduced the new gospel hymn. The hymn received an immediate and enthusiastic response.
This hymn later became greatly favored in the Moody-Sankey campaigns in America and Great Britain. During a Moody-Sankey campaign in the British Isles in 1874, Lord Shaftesbury, an esteemed Christian statesman, spoke to the audience at the closing service: “If Mr. Sankey has done no more than teach our people to sing, ‘Hold the Fort,’ he has conferred inestimable blessing on the British Empire, and it would have been worth all the expense of these meetings.”
Prior to his untimely death at the age of 38, Philip Bliss contributed other wonderful hymns which are still enjoyed: “My Redeemer,” “Hallelujah, What a Savior,” “Jesus Loves Even Me,” ”Wonderful Words of Life,” and many more.
Although Philip Bliss never considered today’s hymn to be one of his most powerful songs, his monument at Rome, Pennsylvania, relays this inscription—“P.P. Bliss, author of ‘Hold the Fort.’”
I challenge you to look up the hymn and read the words. I don’t think you will find anything “non-spiritual” about this song.