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Ron Franklin

Ron Franklin

This blog is Civil War BSC: Perspectives of a Black, Southern, Christian. That background gives me a perspective that is, I believe, underrepresented in the Civil War community. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing the Civil War through my eyes.

Please read About Ron Franklin

Index to Ron Franklin’s Civil War Articles on other web sites.

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The Last Confederate Christmas in Atlanta, 1863

Christmas about 1860In 1897 writer Wallace Putnam Reed (author of History of Atlanta, Georgia) published an article in the Atlanta Journal sharing his memories of the Christmas of 1863. That was the last Christmas before a particularly unwelcome visitor by the name of William Tecumseh Sherman, along with about 100,000 rowdy friends, came to town. 1863 would mark the last care-free holiday season in Atlanta for decades to come.

Atlantans knew that since the Confederates lost the battles of Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge some weeks earlier, there was a huge Union army based in Chattanooga just waiting for the right time to swoop down on them. But during that Christmas season, no worries about such a possibility disturbed anyone’s holiday cheer. The city was confident that General Joseph E. Johnston, keeping vigilant watch up near the Tennessee line, would never allow a Yankee army to get anywhere near Atlanta.

Christmas was no less commercial then than now

At that time Atlanta was one of the Confederacy’s thriving commercial hubs. Although its population as reported in the 1860 census was under 10,000, Reed says that by 1863 more than 30,000 people called the city home. In addition, as a military center, Atlanta hosted a large cadre of soldiers either stationed in the area, or constantly passing through.

All that bustle meant there was money to be made that Christmas season. In addition to all the soldiers around the city, thousands of civilians were employed either by military facilities in the area, or by the many foundries and factories that were kept busy churning out the materiel of war. And though it took 20 Confederate dollars to buy one gold dollar, and four or five for a U. S. greenback, there were plenty of those Confederate bills floating around in potential customers’ pockets.

Well before the holiday season arrived, Atlanta merchants had prepared themselves. They sent their buyers to cities throughout the Confederacy to procure the goods they knew would fly off their shelves when Christmas shopping began in earnest. In addition, customers who had the money had placed their orders for luxury goods with blockade runners (remember Rhett Butler?) months before. All in all it was a very vibrant Christmas shopping season in Atlanta.

Show me your papers!

Besides the blockade that made it difficult to find that perfect stocking stuffer, there seemed to be only one way in which the reality of civil war intruded on Atlanta’s festive holiday atmosphere. With military manpower needs getting harder to fulfill, the Confederate government had instituted a draft in April of 1862. Now there were stringent rules in place to insure that men who should be in the service didn’t evade their responsibility.

In Atlanta that Christmas season, guards were stationed, sometimes it seemed on every street corner, to demand that any man walking the streets of the city show a pass, a furlough, or exemption papers to prove his right to be there rather than in an army camp. For men who came to Atlanta to do their Christmas shopping, having to produce papers over and over again became, to understate the case, quite annoying.

A Christmas fixed indelibly in memory

Despite the war and the storm clouds the more perceptive inhabitants could discern just over the horizon, that Christmas of 1863 was uniquely memorable. It even snowed on Christmas Day!

Atlanta would see one more holiday season with the Confederate government still reigning in Richmond. But, given the events that would shadow the Christmases of coming years – Sherman in 1864, Confederate surrender in 1865, and Reconstruction thereafter – for decades after, Atlantans remembered that Christmas of 1863, some with fondness, others with relief, as the last Confederate Christmas their city ever experienced.

Ron Franklin

© 2015 Ronald E. Franklin

Photo: Public domain via Wikimedia

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Huckabee’s Trashing of Obama On Iran Is Nothing New

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee stirred up a firestorm recently with his claim that the deal President Obama negotiated with Iran to prevent that country from obtaining nuclear weapons “will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” Most who weighed in, including fellow opponents of the deal, protested that Huckabee crossed a line in his criticism of the president.

I certainly agree that Huckabee, in an apparent desperate attempt to snatch some media attention away from fellow candidate Donald Trump, went way over the top in his charge. But as a student of the Civil War, I’m not shocked. Accusing the president of wicked intentions and malevolent actions is nothing new.

Look, for example, at some of the comments the Richmond Dispatch republished from Northern newspapers under the headline “Spirit of the Northern Press” in its issue of March 13, 1863:

The Detroit Free Press exclaimed that President Lincoln was worse than Napoleon or the Russian Czar in his attempt to “crush and exterminate ten millions of people, armed and united in the cause, which they esteem that of their liberty, their homes, and their honor.”

Lincoln as demon signing EmanProc-loc'gov@exhibits@treasures@images@at0005_3s

Abraham Lincoln as a demon signing the Emancipation Proclamation (Library of Congress)

The editor of the Free Press apparently had no compunction about declaring Abraham Lincoln a mass murderer bent on “exterminating” millions of Southern patriots. The name Hitler hadn’t yet appeared in history, but if it had, it’s very probable the Free Press would have had little hesitation in declaring Lincoln the reincarnation of der Fuhrer.

Then there was the Fort Warren (Indiana) Sentinel, which was sure of “the determination of Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck, to prevent Gen. McClellan or any of his friends – or, in fact, any Democratic General who designs carrying on the war for the salvation of the Union rather than to build up the Abolition party – from successfully carrying on a campaign.”

So, in the eyes (and columns) of the Sentinel, Lincoln and his Washington clique were deliberately and actively thwarting the efforts of faithful and brilliant generals like McClellan, because they didn’t want a Democrat to succeed in winning the war.

If Mike Huckabee wants to defend himself against those who complain that his statements about President Obama are outrageous, he can claim ample precedent by pointing back to how that other Illinois politician who served as commander-in-chief in time of war was characterized by his political enemies.

Ron Franklin

© 2015 Ronald E. Franklin

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Whose Heritage Does The Confederate Flag Represent?

Confederate flag on flagpole detail 02As the Confederate flag is being taken down from places of honor in public places around the country, there are still many people who protest that such actions are unwarranted and hurtful. They insist that the flag they love is not an emblem of hatred, but of Southern heritage, and they feel that the enforced lowering of the Confederate battle flag from publicly owned spaces manifests disrespect for that heritage.

But whose heritage should be respected when it comes to how the Confederate flag is viewed? For example, I was born and raised in the South. Should my heritage be taken into account in determining what the Confederate flag represents?

I recently commented on an article about the flag by a Southerner who is in agreement with it coming down from public grounds, but who wondered why it couldn’t represent all that’s good in Southern history rather than the oppression, racism, and violence that many others, including most African Americans, see in it. Here is what I said:

I understand your desire to honor your Southern heritage. I too was born and raised in the South (Tennessee).

The heritage the Confederate flag represents to me is the childhood memory I have of cowering in the back seat of my mother’s car as we drove past a public square in my city where men dressed in white sheets and hoods had made a big fire out of something (I’m not sure whether it was a cross). It’s of not being allowed to go to the biggest and best amusement park in the area, and being consigned to a few see-saws and swings in Lincoln Park. It’s of never attending a non-segregated school until I went off to the University of Tennessee.

You think of the good things you remember about the South and ask, “Why can’t the flag represent that?” The answer is, it simply doesn’t. The Confederate battle flag has more than 150 years of very public history behind it, from the men who marched under it with Robert E. Lee in defense of a system every one of them knew was founded on human slavery, through becoming an official symbol in several Southern states of their unyielding resistance to equal rights for African Americans during the civil rights era, right up to its adoption by white supremacist hate groups today.

The “heritage” that flag represents is obviously very different for us two Southerners. But actually that fact is not relevant to the issue. What is relevant is that in the century and a half of its existence, the Confederate flag has been invested with a meaning that cannot be changed by what you or I think of it. It is what it is. And “what it is” is not something we need to take into the future with us.

Nobody is trying to take the Confederate flag away from those who identify with it. Because this is a free country, they have the right to keep it and display it on their property. But to fly it over publicly owned land, where all of us should be represented, is a kick in the face to those of us who have experienced the kind of “heritage” the history of that flag invests it with.

The next time you hear someone say the Confederate flag represents “heritage, not hate,” you might ask them whose heritage they’re talking about.

Ron Franklin

More on the Confederate flag:

Just Seeing the Confederate Flag Triggers Racism, Research Says

Confederate Flag: Why “Heritage not Hate” Is Irrelevant

A Confederate Flag Thought Experiment

South Carolina takes down the Confederate flag, and turns a corner in its history

Photo credit: Bryan Maleszyk via flickr

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This Week In 1865: Confederate Diary posts for March 6-8, 1865

As General Grant tightened his grip on Richmond, and Sherman was coming up from behind, residents of the city looked forward fearfully to its evacuation by General Lee’s army.

Saturday, March 4, 1865

J. B. Jones

John Beauchamp Jones (1810-1866) was a writer who worked in the Confederate War Department in Richmond during the war. His diary was published in 1866 as “A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital.”

“Gen. Lee’s family, it is rumored, are packing up to leave [Richmond].”

It is now reported that Gen. Early made his escape, and that most of his men have straggled into this city.

The President and his wife were at church yesterday; so they have not left the city; but Gen. Lee’s family, it is rumored, are packing up to leave.

Twelve M. They are bringing boxes to the War Office, to pack up the archives. This certainly indicates a sudden removal in an emergency. It is not understood whether they go to Danville or to Lynchburg; that may depend upon Grant’s movements. It may, however, be Lee’s purpose to attack Grant; meantime preparing to fall back in the event of losing the day.

Four days hence we have a day of fasting, etc., appointed by the President; and I understand there are but three day’s rations for the army–a nice calculation.

Gen. Johnston telegraphs the Secretary that his army must suffer, if not allowed to get commissary stores in the North Carolina depots. The Secretary replies that of course his army must be fed, but hopes he can buy enough, etc., leaving the stores already collected for Lee’s army, which is in great straits.

Tuesday, March 7, 1865

J. B. Jones

“Preparations to evacuate the city are still being made with due diligence. “

Preparations to evacuate the city are still being made with due diligence. If these indications do not suffice to bring the speculators into the ranks to defend their own property (they have no honor, of course), the city and the State are lost; and the property owners will deserve their fate. The extortioners ought to be hung, besides losing their property. This would be a very popular act on the part of the conquerors.

The packing up of the archives goes on, with directions to be as quiet as possible, so as “not to alarm the people.” A large per cent. of the population would behold the exodus with pleasure!

Emma Leconte

Emma Florence LeConte (1847-1932) lived in Columbia, SC and witnessed Sherman’s burning of the city.

“We live in absolute ignorance while our fate is being decided”

We can hear nothing from our army. For the first time we are without the excitement of daily telegraphic news and I miss the breakfast-table discussions of the war news and the movements of the forces. We live in absolute ignorance while our fate is being decided, and speedy peace and long-continued war are trembling in the balance. At all events we miss perhaps a thousand unfounded and conflicting rumors. We are hoping for intervention, but that may mean humiliating concessions. If recognition meant the opening of our ports only that would be all we would ask. Once freely supplied with materials for war we would soon be independent. That is all we need.

Wednesday, March 8, 1865

J. B. Jones

“It may be feared the war is about to assume a more sanguinary aspect and a more cruel nature than ever before”

President Lincoln’s short inaugural message, or homily, or sermon, has been received. It is filled with texts from the Bible. He says both sides pray to the same God for aid – one upholding and the other destroying African slavery. If slavery be an offense, and woe shall fall upon those by whom offenses come, perhaps not only all the slaves will be lost, but all the accumulated products of their labor be swept away. In short, he “quotes Scripture for the deed” quite as fluently as our President; and since both Presidents resort to religious justification, it may be feared the war is about to assume a more sanguinary aspect and a more cruel nature than ever before. God help us! The history of man, even in the Bible, is but a series of bloody wars. It must be thus to make us appreciate the blessings of peace, and to bow in humble adoration of the great Father of all. The Garden of Eden could not yield contentment to man, nor heaven satisfy all the angels.

Another report of the defeat of Sherman is current to-day, and believed by many.

Ron Franklin

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This Week In 1865: Confederate Diary posts for March 4-5, 1865

NOTE: General Jubal Early commanded the last Confederate force in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. On March 2, 1865, in an encounter at Waynesboro with cavalry units under Union General Philip H. Sheridan, Early’s army was defeated, routed, and for all practical purposes, disbanded.

Saturday, March 4, 1865

J. B. Jones

John Beauchamp Jones (1810-1866) was a writer who worked in the Confederate War Department in Richmond during the war. His diary was published in 1866 as “A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital.”

“Gen. Early’s little army is scattered to the winds”

We have vague reports of Early’s defeat in the Valley by an overwhelming force; and the gloom and despondency among the people are in accordance with the hue of the constantly-occurring disasters.

Confederate General Jubal A. Early

Confederate General Jubal A. Early

Gen. Early’s little army is scattered to the winds… Sheridan advanced to Scottsville; and is no doubt still advancing. Lynchburg is rendered unsafe; and yet some of the bureaus are packing up and preparing to send the archives thither. They would probably fall into the hands of the enemy.

Brig.-Gen. J. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, has been rebuked by Gen. Lee for constantly striving to get mechanics out of the service. Gen. Lee says the time has arrived when the necessity of having able-bodied men in the field is paramount to all other considerations.

Brig.-Gen. Preston (Bureau of Conscription) takes issue with Gen. Lee on the best mode of sending back deserters to the field. He says there are at this time 100,000 deserters!

Two P. M. There is almost a panic among officials here who have their families with them, under the belief that the city may be suddenly evacuated, and the impossibility of getting transportation. I do not share the belief–that is, that the event is likely to occur immediately.

Gen. Lee was closeted with the Secretary of War several hours to-day. It is reported that Gen. L.’s family are preparing to leave the city.

George H. Murphy

George H. Murphy (born c. 1836 in Martinsburg, VA) was a lawyer who first joined the Confederate army in 1861. From May of 1864 he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 23rd Virginia Cavalry. At the beginning of March, 1865, he was trying to get to Gen. Early’s army after a furlough.

“We know how badly in need of Cavalry Genl. Early is, but to get to him is impossible.”

The day spent in rolling ten pins. Cannot learn whether our Brigade has left Pendelton for the Valley.

Am in a quandary what to do. The enemy are between Staunton and Waynesboro. No possible chance of getting there. The roads miserable. Do not like the idea of laying here idle when we know how badly in need of Cavalry Genl. Early is, but to get to him is impossible.

Sunday, March 5, 1865

J. B. Jones

“Gen. Early, when last seen, was flying, and pursued by some fifteen well-mounted Federals, only fifty paces in his rear.”

I saw an officer yesterday from Early’s command. He said the enemy entered Charlottesville on Friday at half-past 2 o’clock P. M., between 2000 and 3000 strong, cavalry, and had made no advance at the latest accounts. He says Gen. Early, when last seen, was flying, and pursued by some fifteen well-mounted Federals, only fifty paces in his rear. The general being a large heavy man, and badly mounted, was undoubtedly captured. [NOTE: Early was not captured]. He intimated that Early’s army consisted of only about 1000 men! Whether he had more elsewhere, I was unable to learn. I have not heard of any destruction of property by the enemy.

There is still an accredited rumor of the defeat of Sherman. Perhaps he may have been checked, and turned toward his supplies on the coast. I learn by a paper from Gen. Gorgas, Chief of Ordnance, that the machinery of the workshops here is being moved to Danville, Salisbury, and other places in North Carolina. He recommends that transportation be given the families of the operatives; and that houses be built for them, with permission to buy subsistence at government prices, for twelve months, that the mechanics may be contented and kept from deserting. This would rid the city of some thousands of its population, and be some measure of relief to those that remain. But how long will we be allowed to remain? All depends upon the operations in the field during the next few weeks-and these may depend upon the wisdom of those in possession of the government, which is now at a discount.

The Secretary of the Treasury is selling gold for Confederate States notes for reissue to meet pressing demands; the machinery for manufacturing paper money having just at present no certain abiding place. The government gives $1 of gold for sixty of its own paper; but were it to cease selling gold, it would command $100 for $1.

Ron Franklin

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This Week In 1865: Confederate Diary posts for March 1-3, 1865

Wednesday, March 1, 1865

J. B. Jones

John Beauchamp Jones (1810-1866) was a writer who worked in the Confederate War Department in Richmond during the war. His diary was published in 1866 as “A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital.”

“The enemy’s columns are approaching us from all directions. They say the rebellion will be crushed very soon.”

We have no news, except from the North, whence we learn Lieut. Beall, one of our Canada raiders, has been hung; that some little cotton and turpentine were burnt at Wilmington; and that the enemy’s columns are approaching us from all directions. They say the rebellion will be crushed very soon, and really seem to have speedy and accurate information from Richmond not only of all movements of our army, but of the intentions of the government.

Lieut.-Gen. Grant has directed Col. Mulford, Agent of Exchange, to say that some 200 prisoners escaped from us, when taken to Wilmington for exchange, and now in his lines, will be held as paroled, and credited in the general exchange. Moreover, all prisoners in transitu for any point of exchange, falling into their hands, will be held as paroled, and exchanged. He states also that all prisoners held by the United States, whether in close confinement, in-irons, or under sentence, are to be exchanged. Surely Gen. Grant is trying to please us in this matter. Yet Lieut. Beall was executed!

Emma Leconte

Emma Florence LeConte (1847-1932) lived in Columbia, SC and witnessed Sherman’s burning of the city.

“Heavens – have we not suffered enough?”

There was a rumor afloat yesterday that a negro regiment was marching from Branchville to garrison Columbia – Heavens – have we not suffered enough? I do not believe it but the very thought is enough to make one shudder.

Thursday, March 2, 1865

J. B. Jones

“Tobacco is being moved from the city with all possible expedition.”

The Negro bill still hangs fire in Congress.

Remains of a Locomotive of the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad

Remains of a Locomotive of the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad

The government is impressing horses in the streets, to collect the tobacco preparatory for its destruction in the event of the city falling into the hands of the enemy. This fact is already known in the North and published in the papers there.

I saw a paper to-day from Mr. Benjamin, saying it had been determined, in the event of burning the tobacco, to exempt that belonging to other governments-French and Austrian; but that belonging to foreign subjects is not to be spared. This he says is with the concurrence of the British Government. Tobacco is being moved from the city with all possible expedition.

 Friday, March 3, 1865

J. B. Jones

“We must have a victory soon, else Virginia is irretrievably lost.”

This morning there was another arrival of our prisoners on parole, and not yet exchanged. Many thousands have arrived this week, and many more are on the way. How shall we feed them? Will they compel the evacuation of the city? I hope not.

Our nominal income has been increased; amounting now to some $16,000 in paper — less than $300 in specie [gold]. But, for the next six months (if we can stay here), our rent will be only $75 per month — a little over one dollar [in gold]; and servant hire, $40-less than eighty cents [in gold].

It is rumored that Gen. Early has been beaten again at Waynesborough, and that the enemy have reached Charlottesville for the first time. Thus it seems our downward career continues. We must have a victory soon, else Virginia is irretrievably lost.

Ron Franklin

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This Week In 1865: Confederate Diary posts for Feb 28, 1865

Tuesday, February 28, 1865

J. B. Jones

John Beauchamp Jones (1810-1866) was a writer who worked in the Confederate War Department in Richmond during the war. His diary was published in 1866 as “A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital.”

“The President’s inflexible adherence to obnoxious and incompetent men in his cabinet is too well calculated to produce a depressing effect on the spirits of the people and the army.”

The Northern papers announce the capture of Wilmington. No doubt the city has fallen, although the sapient dignitaries of this government deem it a matter of policy to withhold such intelligence from the people and the army. And wherefore, since the enemy’s papers have a circulation here-at least their items of news are sure to be reproduced immediately.

The Governor of Mississippi has called the Legislature of the State together, for the purpose of summoning a convention of the people. Governor Brown, of Georgia, likewise calls for a convention. One more State calling a convention of all the States may be the consequence-if, indeed, rent by faction, the whole country does not fall a prey to the Federal armies immediately.*

Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown

Governor Joseph E. Brown of Georgia

Governor Brown alleges many bitter things in the conduct of affairs at Richmond, and stigmatizes the President most vehemently. He denounces the President’s generalship, the Provost Marshals, the passport system, the Bureau of Conscription, etc. etc. He says it is attempted to establish a despotism, where the people are sovereigns, and our whole policy should be sanctioned by popular favor. Instead of this it must be admitted that the President’s inflexible adherence to obnoxious and incompetent men in his cabinet is too well calculated to produce a depressing effect on the spirits of the people and the army.

T. N. Conrad, one of the government’s secret agents, says 35,000 of Thomas’s army passed down the Potomac several weeks ago. He says also that our telegraph operator in Augusta, Ga., sent all the military dispatches to Grant

* For more on the convention of the states idea, see States rights would doom the Confederacy even if they won the war.

Emma Leconte

Emma Florence LeConte (1847-1932) lived in Columbia, SC and witnessed Sherman’s burning of the city.

“At the market place we saw the old bell – ‘Secessia’ – that had rung out every State as it seceded, lying half buried in the earth.”

Cousin Ada and I went to call on Mrs. Carroll yesterday but found she is not in town, having run away just before the advent of the Yankees!

Coming home we walked down Main Street – slowly in the middle of the street for fear of falling walls, trying to conjure up the well-known shops and buildings from the shapeless heaps. At the market place we saw the old bell – “Secessia” – that had rung out every State as it seceded, lying half buried in the earth and reminding me of Retzsch’s last Outline in “The Song of the Bell”, showing “That all things earthly disappear.”

We walked through the State-house yard and examined the marks of the shells in the new Capitol. Large pieces of granite are sometimes broken off. On one end alone we counted places where eight shells had struck and exploded. We have since heard that in the accidental explosion of the Charleston freight depot, from the igniting of powder strewn upon the floor, 150 or 200 people were killed.

Judith Brockenbrough McGuire

“Ministers of the Gospel and others have gone out to the various county towns and court-houses, to urge the people to send in every extra bushel of corn or pound of meat for the army.”

Judith Brockenbrough McGuire (1813-1897) was the daughter of a member of the Virginia state Supreme Court and the wife of an Episcopalian minister. A Confederate sympathizer, she fled with her husband from her Alexandria, VA home when the city was occupied by Union forces in May of 1861. For rest of the war the McGuires lived in the Richmond, VA area as refugees. Judith McGuire published “Diary Of A Southern Refugee During The War” in 1867.
Judith Brockenbrough McGuire

Judith Brockenbrough McGuire

Our new Commissary General is giving us brighter hopes for Richmond by his energy. Not a stone is left unturned to collect all the provisions from the country. Ministers of the Gospel and others have gone out to the various county towns and court-houses, to urge the people to send in every extra bushel of corn or pound of meat for the army.

The people only want enlightening on the subject; it is no want of patriotism which makes them keep any portion of their provisions. Circulars are sent out to the various civil and military officers in all disenthralled counties in the State, which, alas, when compared with the whole, are very few, to ask for their superfluities. All will answer promptly, I know, and generously.

Louis Leon

Louis Leon (1842-1919) was a Jewish Confederate soldier who was born in Germany, but settled in Charlotte, NC. He joined the rebel army in 1861, fought at Gettysburg in 1863, and was captured in May 1864. He spent the rest of the war in Northern prisons. His 1865 diary entries were written as a prisoner of war.

“The smallpox is frightful. There is not a day that at least twenty men are taken out dead.”

February – The smallpox is frightful. There is not a day that at least twenty men are taken out dead. Cold is no name for the weather now. They have given most of us Yankee overcoats, but have cut the skirts off. The reason of this is that the skirts are long and if they left them on we might pass out as Yankee soldiers.

Ron Franklin

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