Lead Me to Calvary


THIS week’s hymn was suggested by reader David Maples. It has a crucifixion theme, but I don’t see why Easter hymns should be kept in a box and taken out only once a year.

The words are by Jennie Evelyn Hussey (1874-1958). She was born in Henniker, New Hampshire, in an old farm home that had been occupied by four generations of Quaker ancestors. She attended Quaker meetings from childhood. Much of her life was spent caring for an invalid sister, which she did cheerfully, often referring to Luke 9 v 23: ‘And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.’

She began writing verses when she was eight and some were published when she was thirteen. At 16, she began writing children’s stories and articles about flowers and designing crochet patterns for magazines. When she was twenty-four, in 1898, her first hymn was published. 

Miss Hussey is also known for her poem The War Dog, telling the true story of Sallie, a brindle Staffordshire bull terrier or pit bull terrier who became the regimental mascot for the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. She was given to First Lieutenant William R Terry when she was just four weeks old. She followed the men closely on marches and to the battlefield.

In 1863 at a review of the Union army, Sallie marched along with her soldiers. Abraham Lincoln, in the reviewing stand, raised his hat in salute. At Gettysburg, Sallie became separated from the 11th in the chaos. Three days later she was found guarding Lt Terry’s body. She was killed by a bullet in 1865 at Hatcher’s Run and buried on the battlefield under heavy enemy fire. A lifesize monument of Sallie now stands in Gettysburg, directly in front of the monument that commemorates the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry.

These are the only words I can find from TheWar Dog, but I feel sure there must be more.

Sallie was a lady;
she was a soldier too.
She marched beside the colors,
our own red, white and blue.
It was in the days of our Civil War
that she lived her life so true.

Although born into a Quaker family, Miss Hussey chose to identify with the Baptists as an adult. Since Quakers did not practise water baptism, she asked to be baptised at First Baptist Church in Concord, New Hampshire. She told the pastor: ‘I’ve spent much of my life hidden away in the country, and I’d like to have the opportunity, before God takes me home, to tell everybody, “I love Jesus”.’

She wrote more than 150 hymns, many of which were successful in her day, but Lead Me to Calvary, also known by its first line King of My Life, I Crown Thee Now, is the only one still remembered. It is thought to have been born out of Miss Hussey’s painful battle with arthritis from middle age onwards. She wrote it during one Passion Week and, at the urging of church friends, submitted it for publication. It appeared in New Songs of Praise and Pow­er in 1921. 

These are the words:

King of my life I crown thee now —
Thine shall the glory be;
Lest I forget thy thorn-crowned brow,
Lead me to Calvary.

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget thine agony,
Lest I forget thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

2 Show me the tomb where thou wast laid,
Tenderly mourned and wept;
Angels in robes of light arrayed
Guarded thee whilst thou slept. [Refrain]

3 Let me like Mary, through the gloom,
Come with a gift to thee;
Show to me now the empty tomb  –
Lead me to Calvary. [Refrain]

4 May I be willing, Lord, to bear
Daily my cross for thee;
Even thy cup of grief to share  –
Thou hast borne all for me. [Refrain]

A tune called Duncannon was written for the hymn by William J Kirkpatrick. I wrote about him last year but to save you looking it up, here is a synopsis.

He was born in Ireland but his family emigrated to America in 1840, when he was two, settling in Duncannon, Philadelphia. He showed early musical promise and was unusually versatile, playing the cello, fife, flute, organ, and violin. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and his first collection of hymns, Devotional Melodies, was published in 1859.

He married Su­san­na Doak in 1861, and they had three child­ren. He supported his family by working as a carpenter, while continuing to write hymns.

Susanna’s death in 1878 spurred him to give up his trade and devote himself fully to music and composition. He began collaborating with another composer, John R Sweney, of Chester, Pennsylvania, and between 1880 and 1897 they published 49 major books.

In 1893, Kirkpatrick married again, to Sar­ah Lank­ford Kel­logg Bourne, and in 1895 he published the tune to Away in a Manger which is most widely used in Britain, which I wrote about here. 

Here is a performance by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge:

Over the years Kirkpatrick published close to 100 major works and many other works such as anthems for Easter, Christmas, and children’s choirs. Total sales of sheet music ran into the millions.

Kirkpatrick’s second wife Sar­ah died in 1917 and he later mar­ried Lizzie Swe­ney, wi­dow of John R Swe­ney.

As he and his wife were about retire for the night on September 20, 1921, he told her that he had a tune running through his head and he wanted to write it down before he lost it. During the night she went downstairs and found him dead in his study. Duncannon must have been one of the last melodies he wrote.

This is the version of the hymn chosen by David Maples:

Here is a contrasting rendition by the Grace Thrillers of Jamaica:

Here is a lovely lockdown version from Singapore, recorded last month.

Finally, my favourite: a bluegrass performance by the Brent Rochester Family.


2 Replies to “Lead Me to Calvary”

  1. I enjoyed reading your article about Jennie Evelyn Hussey’s life and work. I was not familiar with her or her hymns, but knew of her poem “The War Dog.” Below is the poem as it appeared in the 1962 book, also called “The War Dog,” by John D. Lippy, Jr. Growing up at Gettysburg, he had heard Sallie’s story from soldiers returning to the Battlefield, and he felt moved to write her story and publish it himself.

    “The War Dog”

    Sallie was a lady; she was a soldier too—
    She marched beside the colors, our own red,
    white and blue.
    It was in the days of our Civil War that she
    lived her life so true.
    She was named “Sallie Ann Jarrett,” for some
    Pennsylvania belle—
    Who lived in old West Chester where many knew
    her well.

    And Sallie loved the colors, the uniforms she
    Of every fighting soldier, the gray as well as
    There is nothing inconsistent in Sallie’s double
    For in these days of Wacs and Waves, the Army
    Auxiliary Corps,
    Women with men together, marched as they never
    did before.

    In feed box, and haversack she rode, or in some
    soldier’s arms,
    When on forced marches she must go, to keep her
    safe from harms.
    One of the men of Company I, was called the
    And with his knapsack carried a lantern, in case
    of need real soon.
    With haversack and canteen, which often would
    prove a boon.

    With musket and accoutrements, I think a full
    load had he;
    But Sallie was not a burden, because she was
    loved, you see.
    At Williamsport she rode in a baggage wagon
    And the waters of the wide Potomac were thus in
    safety crossed.
    ‘Twixt pet and loving master, a bond is never

    Once for just a little while, Sallie seemed
    lost at last,
    Until she was found in a root-bound cave, when
    the dead leaves aside were cast.
    But Sallie was not as proud of her pups as a
    mother you’d wish to see;
    Their feeding time she would neglect when in
    the ranks, she would be.
    And the poor little hungry puppies might not
    be very full of play.
    But I think they lived to grow up, just the
    And to proudly march was more than just a

    The regiment was mustered out at Harrisburg,
    we are told—
    And Sallie’s good friend, the “Dageroon,” was
    killed ere he enrolled
    In a regiment he was to join, and taps for him
    were played.
    But soldier Sallie marched away and through more
    battles stayed—
    At Camp Curtin and Annapolis, in Provost Guard
    she shared
    In drilling fatigue and railroad still her happy
    life was spared
    Though from the wagon back, once, with rope tied
    around her neck
    A sudden jolt threw her, suspended in air, nearly
    ending her army trek.

    At Gettysburg she waited by the dying and the
    Licking the wounds of those, from whom life had
    not yet fled.
    Sallie was fond of making friends, of first one
    and then another
    To whom partiality she would show more than to
    any other
    Annapolis, Manassas Junction, Falmouth and
    Aquia Creek—

    Rapidan, Cedar Mountain, as well as many a
    goal to seek,
    At Rappahannock, Shenandoah, Chantilly and
    Bull Run, too.
    Sallie followed faithfully as good soldiers
    all must do.
    With the company on dress parade, white gloved
    and paper collared
    Sallie wore a paper collar, as well, for Sallie
    was no dullard.

    At Gettysburg historic, the battle and the place,
    Where she had marched with the regiment at a long
    and rapid pace.
    From Fredericksburg, well known to all-now entering
    the first front line,
    She boldly went into the thick of the fight, close
    following every sign.
    From a hill she looked down again on the dying and
    the dead.
    Returning to soothe the wounds that cruelly
    smarted and bled.

    When she herself fell, she was tenderly laid
    ‘neath the sod
    By comrades who led in the paths where her
    willing feet had trod.
    Now in closing the story of Sallie, what
    better than to say—
    That “A soldier most true to the Union was
    buried here, this day!”

    Too many were her experiences to place in order
    In any kind of danger it seemed Sallie never
    knew fear.
    But at last death came to this soldier as it
    comes alike to all.
    And her comrades gently buried her, near the
    place where she had to fall
    And I’m sure, if there is a heaven for dogs,
    the loyal ones and the true,
    Soldier Sallie will answer to her name, in that
    final grand review.

    1. Hi, thanks so much for the words – I will use them in tomorrow’s Midweek Hymn.

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