Daily Observations from The Civil War http://dotcw.com Day by day writings of the time. Tue, 01 Nov 2016 07:00:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.6 Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-194/ Tue, 01 Nov 2016 07:00:09 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-194/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

November 1st, 1866.—My dear little friend, my confidential friend of many years, I am telling you goodbye. Whatever the future may bring me of weal or woe will not he recorded. This is MY DAY, my wedding day.

“Happy is the bride that the sun shines on” and from dawn until the evening hour the sun has shone forth in all his splendor. Soon the man of God will come and with him will come “My Soldier in Gray,” and

“I’ll love him more, more,

Than wife e’er did before

Be the clays dark or bright.”

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-193/ Fri, 28 Oct 2016 07:00:05 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-193/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

October 28th, 1866.—It has been said “the course of true love never does run smooth,” but our marriage seems to have met with the approval of all concerned. I am glad it is so. Both families are perfectly satisfied, no one comes to the front with objections as is often the case. We will live here with Father and Mother and I fail to see what more I could ask of life.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-192/ Sun, 16 Oct 2016 07:00:02 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-192/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

October 16th, 1866.—Father has given me a beautiful little book to read, “The Ribbon of Blue.” It tells of the necessity of love and forbearance in the married state and is full of selections from poets, who have written on that subject. And yet, after all, there is no advice better than was given to us by an old negro preacher, when we met him on the road.

He stopped us and said, “I done hear dat you chilluns is gwine ter git marri’d.”

“That is so,” said my Soldier. “What do you think of it, Uncle Caesar?”

“I thinks well of it, but I got suppin’. fur ter tell de bofe of you, Trus’ in de Lord, dat is needful, but dere’s anurer thing: don’t you nebber, de two er you, git mad at de same time.”

Now, if that is not matrimonial wisdom I cannot see where you will find it.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-191/ Wed, 05 Oct 2016 07:00:01 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-191/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

October 5th, 1866.—My dress has been bought and Mrs. Kinnebrough says she will have all my things ready; the dress is of plain white silk, to be trimmed with pearl bandings and illusion. With it I am to wear Sister Mag’s lovely set of pearls. I like time-honored customs, so have ordered a wreath and corsage bouquet of orange blossoms from Paris. They will come on the next steamer. There is one time-honored custom, however, which will not be observed. There is to be nothing intoxicating served to the guests at my wedding. No wife nor mother shall look back with mortification to my wedding night. Another custom also has been prohibited by Mother’s orders: She has let all our friends know that “no wedding presents must be sent.” She says the South is impoverished, there are few who can afford to give a handsome gift and yet almost every one will spend that which they can ill-afford, rather than be outdone in generous giving. I am well satisfied with this arrangement. I would not like to think our friends had deprived themselves to give to us. Mother is quite right.

We have company most of the time these days, coming and going, day by day. Sometimes I think I would like the quiet home life just now.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-190/ Sun, 25 Sep 2016 07:00:57 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-190/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

September 25th, 1866.—Nearly a month since I have opened my diary, but I am busy these fall days. There are so many stitches to take, so many plans to make and remake; visitors coming and going; rides with my Soldier in Gray; long talks with Father in the twilight and helping Mother with the housekeeping, for she has not felt quite well of late. All this keeps me busy but I am happy. One of Father’s favorite sayings is “Happiness is a road-side flower growing on the highway of usefulness.”

Mrs. Kinnebrough is making some dresses for me. She is a good dressmaker and a pleasant lady; a real lady, the daughter of an English clergyman, she is quite pretty, too. It is time to be deciding just what my wedding dress is to be. Sister Mart will soon come home from Tennessee and she will help me to plan.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-189/ Sat, 27 Aug 2016 07:00:55 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-189/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

August 27th, 1866.—The grapes are a little late in ripening this year, they are at their best now and today we have had a couple of dozen friends to feast on them. They brought baskets and took home a goodly share. It is very pleasant to share what we have.

When we were children Mother used to read us stories from “A Father’s Tales to His Daughter,” a lovely little book, now out of print. It was printed in the last century and my copy is worn and old. What I remember best is this, “The Bunch of Cherries,” and the lesson taught (every story in those days had a moral) was “what you possess becomes doubly valuable when you are so fortunate as to share it with another.” A kindly thought, is it not?

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-188/ Fri, 26 Aug 2016 17:01:25 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-188/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

August 26th, 1866.—We have to look ahead and plan for the fall wedding which My Soldier pleads for. He was born on All Saints’ Day and he is asking for a birthday gift. It is almost two months off and I have been talking with Mother this morning. I do not want a grand wedding such as my sisters had; circumstances are so different now. Father’s fortune has been swept away by the results of the war. It is true, he still has his land but that is almost valueless at present and it may never bring in anything again as land without labor is a poor proposition.

Father has aged since the surrender and he will never be able to recoup his losses. All this show and expense is wholly unnecessary. What I would like would be a pretty wedding dress, every girl wants that, but I want a quiet wedding with my family and his family present and some of his friends and some of my friends for attendants. Beautiful flowers from Mother’s garden, some of Hattie’s lovely japonicas, simple refreshments and NO WINE.

The Rev. William Esten Eppes, whom both families love, is our choice of a minister. Mother listened to all I had to say and then she said, “I will talk to Mag and Martha about it,” and I knew my cause was lost. Even so it was and I can do no more. Something less grand would suit us better for we are beginning life with “stout hearts an’ willin’ hands but nae siller.”

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-186/ Wed, 24 Aug 2016 07:00:10 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-186/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

August 25th, 1866.—This is Father’s birthday and Mother always makes a “Red-letter Day” of it, with the delicacies of which he is most fond. Each of us had a present, selected with reference to his taste. He is sixty-eight today and so handsome.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-185/ Sat, 20 Aug 2016 07:00:07 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-185/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

August 20th, 1866.—This is a quiet neighborhood just now, so many of our number are away for the summer. Uncle Richard and Father do not feel the need of other company, they are so devoted to each other but I am sure Mother feels a little lonely sometimes.

Jordan has gone long ago and she has no regular carriage driver. She misses her drives around the country and the visits to the neighbors. She misses the large force of servants she used to manage so skilfully. Like the rich man in the Bible, she could “say to one go and he goeth and to another come, and he cometh,” and now all is different. The few servants we have are no longer cheerful and willing, they are given to grumpy spells, when they go around muttering to themselves and looking as cross as two sticks. Then, too, we never know at night if we will find any servants at all the next morning; all this is very trying to a housekeeper of the ancient regime.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-187/ Thu, 04 Aug 2016 07:00:16 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-187/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

August 4th, 1866.—I have not made a success of training Frances. She was taught the Ten Commandments. She committed them to memory, each one was carefully explained, but in spite of this I do believe she has broken them all save the sixth, she has not yet been guilty of murder, though I am afraid the will to do it is not lacking.

Mother keeps in her wardrobe a bottle of chloroform, she is very careful of this dangerous medicine and it is used for Mattie when she is suffering with the toothache. Mother locks the door of the wardrobe and usually puts the key under her pillow, but we have not yet become accustomed to the need for a lock and a key and sometimes it is forgotten.

This morning, just before day, Mother was awakened by the strong and penetrating fumes of chloroform. She opened her eyes and there stood Frances pouring the drug out on her pillow. Mother was so drowsy she could not move but by a mighty effort she screamed, this aroused Father and Frances ran, but he was too quick for her and locked the door by which she had entered the house.

She fell on her knees and implored forgiveness; said she was looking for money; said she did not intend to hurt “Miss Patsy,” but when daylight came her mother and her grandparents were summoned and the case laid before them. The result is that they have sent her to an uncle who lives in Tallahassee, with orders never to come here again. I am sure I would be glad to be rid of her, for she has given me more trouble than words can tell.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-184/ Mon, 01 Aug 2016 07:00:03 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-184/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

August 1st, 1866.—There is a new member of the family tonight, Richard McPherson Whitehead. He is named for his uncle Mac, who was killed at Winchester. His father and mother are delighted beyond measure and I believe it is the name more than the baby, as they loved that brother so dearly and mourned him so deeply.

In the New York Metropolitan is an answer to “The Conquered Banner.” It is written by Lord Houghton and is fine, but I wish the English people had discovered their real sentiments while there was yet time to help us; still I must admit it is a beautiful poem.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-183/ Thu, 21 Jul 2016 07:00:00 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-183/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

July 21st, 1866.—This is the anniversary of the Battle of Manassas. How hopeful we were then and it seems ages ago, so much has been crowded into life in these last years. The weather is intensely warm, clouds are gathering and a storm is evidently brewing. That will cool us off. Uncle Randal died today and Father feels it very much. He was so good to his slaves and really fond of them.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-182/ Mon, 04 Jul 2016 07:00:55 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-182/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

July 4th, 1866.—We do not keep the Glorious Fourth ; we feel no thrills of patriotism when the stars and stripes float on the breeze. That is, we are not thrilled with love of country. Our flag has been immortalized by Father Ryan in the “Conquered Banner” and in its furled folds all our love of country, all our patriotism is enfolded.

“Furl that banner, it is gory,

Yet ’tis wreathed around with Glory,

And ’twill live in song and story

Though its folds are in the dust.

For though conquered, we adore it

Low the cold dead hands that bore it

And wildly we deplore it

Furl its folds though now we must.”

There are hard things in life ; we cannot see why and faith must be our guide along this uncertain road. Some day, perhaps, we will understand and in time we may even forgive but never can we forget.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-181/ Sun, 05 Jun 2016 07:00:44 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-181/

June 5th, 1866.—I will have to do some shopping and I am such a very indifferent shopper, but Mother positively will not go to Tallahassee, while the blue-coats have possession and Sister Mart is not here. Sister Mag is not well enough to trouble her with such things and Aunt Sue has gone away for the remainder of the summer. Father says make a list and give it to him and he will write to Smallwood, Earle & Co., to buy in New York and. ship to him. Mrs. Smallwood is a friend of the family and will select what I describe.

Captain Bernard is going to Europe and will get the silk dresses I need, in France. There is a first-class dressmaker in Tallahassee, so I hope we will not have too much trouble with my trousseau.

I wish they were willing for me to have only simple clothes for I am marrying a poor man and I do not ever intend to live beyond his means. Father would be willing but Mother and the sisters think, because they had these clothes I must have them, too. One thing certain, Father shall not get me any expensive jewelry, he shall not get any at all; I would not see him worried for the most costly gems in the world.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-180-2/ Sun, 15 May 2016 07:00:33 +0000 http://dotcw.com/637/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

May 15th, 1866.—We did not stay as long as we expected and Sister Mart came home with us. Night before last we were sitting in the parlor and Captain Houstoun was sitting outside, on the porch talking to the doctor, who attends the plantation. The Captain has a low voice but the doctor has a loud, rasping voice, which carries far. We could not avoid hearing him if we had wished to do so.

“Yes, Captain,” he said, “this case is the worst case of confluent small-pox I ever saw in my life. You can hardly tell he is a human being; he is just a mass of corruption.”

When Captain Houstoun returned to the room I asked where this case of small-pox was? He made light of it and called the doctor “a calamity howler,” but before I slept I had looked up Fannie, Sister Mart’s black mammy, and found out from her that the sick negro was in a cabin very near the house in which we were staying.

That was enough. No rest for the Captain until he made arrangements for us to leave the next morning. Bright and early we went to Gainesville, where we waited for the train to take us home.

Last spring a battle was fought in the streets of Gainesville between General Dickinson’s men and the Yankees. The doors and windows of the dwellings are still full of holes from the musket balls and splintered wood-work showed where the artillery had showered shot and shell. The citizens showed us where the branches had been cut from the trees by these same balls. The hotel where we waited had been the centre of the attack and was sadly in need of repairs, both to wood-work and glass.

Leaving Gainesville behind us, we gladly welcomed the “iron horse” which would take us back to Tallahassee. There was a stop at every little station and at one of these a stout young man in farmer’s clothes almost lifted into the car, a feeble old woman. She was dressed in black calico, with a bonnet of the same, and she was weeping bitterly.

As the man turned away, after kissing her goodbye, he said, “He’ll meet you at the depot, Mother, I writ him you was comin’.”

Again we were on our way, the poor old woman continued to sob. When lunch time came, I fixed as tempting a lunch as I could and, pouring a glass of port wine, I took it to the end of the car, where she was sitting and asked if she would not have some dinner?

Her poor old face was red and swollen and her voice trembled as she said, “Thank you, but I don’t feel like I ever want enything to eat no more.”

Are you sick ? I asked.

“No, I ain’t sick in the body, it’s my heart is sick,” she replied.

“Try to eat just a little bite,” I begged, “and drink this wine, it is not strong and it will do you good.”

“Jis to please you chile,” she said, but appetite was lacking and her efforts to eat were soon over. “Suppose you tell me what is troubling you, maybe I can help,” said I.

“No, no,” she sobbed. “You nur nobody can help, they is hanged my baby, my dear baby, what never done nothing to nobody.”

I was shocked beyond measure and my first thought was that I had found a lunatic, but her next words told the whole dreadful story.

“Chile, ain’t you read the papers ?” she cried. “Don’t You know how them devils hung poor Mrs. Surratt and my boy, my baby boy? The papers call him Lewis Payne, but that warn’t his name, he tuken that name so he couldn’t be caught up with. When Conscription fust come and my oldest son went in the army and wore the gray clothes, I mourned and cried but pretty soon he deserted and after he hid around a while, he went to the Union men and he tole ’em he couldn’t noways fight but he would work for them if he could get a safe place. Them men sent him up North somewhere and he done pretty well.

“All this time my baby boy was growing bigger and bigger and I knowed soon the conscriptors would be a takin’ him, so I writ a letter to the Yankee general an’ tole him he could have my baby son if he would let him work in a shop. Soon some of the blue-coats come and got him an’ they said I must remember his name was Lewis Payne and his home would be Washington City and he hadn’t ever been in Florida. I promised all this and I was so satisfied because I had kept him out of the Confederate Army. I thought it was such a smart thing to do, and now, they have killed my chile—they hung him with a rope. They said he had plotted to murder President Lincoln. My baby chile, who never had the heart to hurt nothing.”

I found myself crying with this poor mother, she was old and ignorant, she had tried to cheat her country and this was her reward.

The train slowed up, another man closely resembling the first, boarded the train. He took the weeping woman in his arms, kissing her wrinkled face and murmuring words of comfort, but is there any comfort for such self-reproach as hers ? I will probably never see her again but I shall not forget.

I did not write of these happenings in my diary because it was heart-rending and such a blot on the history of any country. Some day when reason resumes her sway, even the perpetrators of these cruel and useless murders will blush with shame for their own ignominy. The reckoning will not come here on this earth, but what will be the verdict when they stand before the bar of God? I am sorry I saw this broken woman but I wish I could remember the real name of her murdered son. She told me but I cannot recall it. All the way home I thought of her and I am debating whether to tell Father and Mother of her or not. It has made me feel dreadfully. I wept, for Anna Surratt was refused even the scant comfort of bidding her mother goodbye.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-180/ Mon, 02 May 2016 07:00:52 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-180/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

May 2nd, 1866.—All is ready and we leave as soon as breakfast is over. Goodbye little Diary. “Sleep tight and wake bright,” for I will need you when I return.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-179/ Sun, 01 May 2016 07:00:49 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-179/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

May 1st, 1866.—Now that Sister Mart is feeling better, she is beginning to talk of going back to Marion County. Captain Houstoun says he has been keeping “bachelor’s hall” quite long enough. She has invited Cousin Martha, Nina Houstoun and me to go back with her and will also invite other guests and have a merry “House Party.” Captain promises us “all the beaux in Marion and some besides.”

We are going and doubtless will enjoy it, but I hate to leave home when our domestic affairs are in such shape. We never know when, as uncle Arvah says, “servants will turn up missing.” I am gradually learning how to do the needful things and am really a help in the house but Father and Mother think it best for me to go. Sister Mart has had a long and serious illness and has but little strength.

I am going to leave you at home, my Diary. I will have to share a room with the other girls and it is best for you to be out of the way.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-178/ Sun, 24 Apr 2016 07:00:44 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-178/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

April 24th, 1866.—William Henry Harrison bade us goodbye this morning. Long since he has discarded the Yankee uniform he wore when he first came, and looks well in his suit of white and the cap, which he insisted on wearing, though we told him it belonged to a chef.

“Never mind” he said, “when I gets back to ole Virginny to my ole mistis, the fust thing she is gwine to ask me is, ‘William, are your dining room suits clean?’ ”

He said the cap was considered a part of this equipment. We are sorry to give him up, his “ole mistis” certainly knew how he ought to be trained. Many of the negro soldiers, who were disbanded here at Centreville, have hired out on the plantations in the vicinity and some have invested their pay in small farms. Land sells for almost nothing now.

Brother Amos says we are all “land poor,” and we truly have but little else. I had a crowd of girls to stay a few days and we had a delightful time. In the evenings the boys of our acquaintance came and we danced or played cards.

I do not let anyone but Father see my diary and sometimes he criticises. He only reads selected portions but he asked, “Why is it you say so little of your girl friends, when you are so fond of them and take such pleasure in their company?”

I told him that from my earliest recollection of such matters, Mother has impressed upon me the importance of speaking well of other girls. She says nothing sounds worse than to hear one girl speak ill of her companions, and that a woman should always take sides with her sister woman. This is why I do not write or speak of any faults I see and with this thought continually following me I have fallen into the habit of saying nothing, in that way I cast no reflections.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-177/ Sat, 23 Apr 2016 07:00:39 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-177/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

April 23rd, 1866.—Father is looking better than he has for a year past. After the negroes left us in January, he concluded not to plant a crop of any kind but simply use his broad acres for pasture. He has a very large herd of cattle and a vast number of hogs, and these continue to increase. Though the number is often cut down by the freedmen, who lose no opportunity to help themselves, there are enough left to make quite a show. When the year 1865 ended Sergeant Cornell and Private Hibell were recalled by General Foster and I rather dreaded for Father, in his state of health, to have to struggle with plantation life. I see now I need not have feared for him.

Once having made up his mind as to the best course to pursue he is perfectly content; he has always been a student and he finds great pleasure in study. He also likes us to listen, in his leisure hours, while he tells us of his researches. This is very improving and, what I like even better, are the arguments carried on in his library. When men of bright minds get together it is a treat to listen. We go to ride every morning in Father’s big, old-fashioned buggy. He taught me to drive long ago and I enjoy it.

Colonel Wyatt Aiken was here a few days ago and he drove over all three plantations with Father. He is preparing to bring out a new farming magazine, “The Rural Carolinian,” and is gathering all available material. I wish he had been here when Dr. Caldwell spent the night with us. I learned from hearing him talking to Father what causes the difference between the white and the black races. Father, being a physician, knew it but he had not thought best to tell me. I am no longer a child, however, and while I have not exactly “laid aside childish things,” I take a deep interest in scientific investigation. I came near going to sleep over some statistics Colonel Wyatt gave us relating to soils and fertilizers.

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Through Some Eventful Years http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-176/ Fri, 22 Apr 2016 07:00:34 +0000 http://dotcw.com/through-some-eventful-years-176/ Post image for Through Some Eventful Years

April 22nd, 1866.— I have had a trying time today. Soon after breakfast this morning my friend, the captain was announced. He came alone and he was in no hurry to go. Again he offered for my acceptance the splendid, sparkling French Marquise ring. He has made all his arrangements to go to Brazil and there make his home and he wants me to go with him, but that, I cannot do. Even if there was no other reason I would not be willing to leave our poor, conquered country to her fate. This is the time for every true-hearted, loyal son and daughter of the South to bend every energy to restore and upbuild the ruin the war has wrought. We can do this and with God’s help we will. But there is another reason still and I had to tell the captain this before he could be convinced that his case was a hopeless one. He described in glowing colors the ease and luxury of the life in Brazil; the wealth to be acquired in that favored land; he painted sad pictures of the trials which awaited those who elected to cast in their fortunes with a country devastated and ruined as this is; he said Southern women were totally unfit for hardship. Perhaps so, but like my Scotch ancestress, “I am minded to try it” and, though I forbore to tell him so.

“I had rather wed Jamie, wi’ bonnet in han’, than to wed Saundie wi’ housen and lan’.”

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