“For The Last Time On Earth”

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     This year, 2011, is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War in America.  Many commemorative events are scheduled throughout the year in significant places where battles were fought and history was made.  Recently, Wayne Motts, director for the Civil War Museum in Gettysburg, PA, wrote an article which told the story of Aaron T. McNaghten, a Civil War soldier.  Wayne is the son of Warren Motts who is the director for the Military Museum in Groveport, OH. 
     The title of the article was, “For The Last Time On Earth.”  It appeared in the publication called, From the Trenches published in the spring of 2011 (vol. 19, issue 1).  Motts relates some of the background on McNaghten.  Not far from the boyhood home of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman in south-central Ohio, stands a memorial stone to a Civil War soldier named Aaron T. McNaghten who never made it home from the war.  McNaghten served in Company D, 62nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment, he died in the famous attack againt Battery Wagner on Morris Island during the campaign to take Charleston, South Carolina in the summer of 1863. 
     While he had been in the military service some two years, McNaghten had never before been engaged in a military battle.  We do not know how, but McNaghten knew he would not survive his first action.  He tore a piece of paper from his stationary and penned a note: “If anything happens to me while out on this expedition send this to my brother James N. McNaghten, New Salem, Fairfield Co., Ohio.”  A short time later he  penned his last letter.  The last line read, “I now subscribe my self in my full name for the last time on earth.”  He then signed his name for the last time to the letter.  He was killed in battle on July 20, 1863. 
     The Bible says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).  All of us have an appointment with death!  All of us will be held accountable before God for our words and deeds (Rom. 2:6).  It is sobering to consider that at some point in our lives we will say or do something for the last time.   James declares, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).  Life is both brief and uncertain.  This means that we should live every day to the fullest and we should live every day as if it were our last.  Perhaps McNaghten was thinking these very thoughts before he wrote the last line of his letter and signed his name for the last time on earth.