The bands played, the men shouted, threw their hats in the air, and became the boys who would have the honour of accomplishing what had long been the motto: “On to Richmond.”
But Hooker had overlooked the fact that he had to deal with Stonewall Jackson. Again, they were reminded of the solemn fact that “it is appointed unto all men once to die.”
The 153rd with the other regiments of the Eleventh Corps broke camp and marched to the neighborhood of Hartwood Church. After a short night’s rest, they moved on to Kelley’s Ford, arriving there in the afternoon. On this second day of the march, which all old soldiers well know is the most trying, the regiment did well.
The stragglers from it formed a tiny number of those brought up in the rear by the provost guard. On the same evening at eleven o’clock, the camp was broken. In silence, the Corps was the first to cross the pontoons and penetrate the darkness and swamps of the southern side of the Rappahannock.
After David had crossed on the pontoon, the men marched up a high hill. Looking back, he had a view of most of the army, and a grand sight it was. It was approaching in three columns, each headed for one of the three pontoon bridges. The serpentine movements of the troops with their flying flags were a beautiful sight.
Again, in the night between one and four, in heavy rain, the Corps crossed upon a narrow and dangerous bridge. Immediately, all the men expected an attack, having had their rear harassed by some of the rebel artillery during the day, but they crossed unimpeded. They advanced along the plank road to its junction with the turnpike at Peck’s farm, about two miles west of Chancellorsville. That night, full rest was given.
Just before going to sleep, David took the scarf-bound books out of his haversack and made an entry into his diary.
Somebody in my camp had liquor, at least our captain’s little French cook seemed to have had too much. During the night, he accidentally discharged a rifle in his tent. The captain was very much frightened, and greatly excited, called the company to ranks. He wanted to know who attempted to shoot him, and under great stress of alarmed feelings demanded to know. We were finally dismissed and returned to our tents, but not to sleep much that night.
On Friday, General Howard made the disposition of the Corps in three lines of battle. Through the woods and across a road leading into the turnpike stood the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The General used them more like a close line of skirmishers than a regular line of battle. They were ordered to stand three feet apart. They were still in this position on Saturday at noon, supporting a section of artillery commanding the road.
David assisted in the slashing of the trees to make a barricade in front of the regiment, on the Chancellorsville battleground. General von Gilsa was present and told the men how to cut the timber, but when he was hit by a falling tree, he told the men, “Quit, that’s enough.”
Information was brought by a runner that an attack was expected on the right flank. Skirmishers were thrown forward into the woods, and, at about five o’clock in the afternoon, they reported the rebels were amassing and approaching.
Hardly had the information been brought in, and the line called into readiness when the tooting of numerous small bugles was heard, and the whizzing of balls began. The explosion of shells, over and alongside everybody, clearly demonstrated that the rebels were in force. A fact which the thirty-five cavalrymen on patrol had not been able to discover.
The rebels advanced, close-in mass with their whole force. The attack was a concentrated volley of gunfire directed along their line of the brush barricade from end to end. And the Rebels were rushing over the cleared space where the trees had been cut down. At the opening of the battle at Chancellorsville, John Ribble was the first man wounded. David stood in line next to him and saw him fall. He never moved again. The dead man was removed in a wagon and taken to the rear.
Sometime later, David made an entry into his diary.
I was on the picket line when the rebels came rushing upon us through the woods yelling like fiends. At the command of the officer in charge, I fell back into line, and soon the command to fire was given. My comrades dropped by my side. Soon the retreat commenced, one of the provost Marshalls trying to rally the scattered forces, struck at me with his saber, hitting my rifle, cut a deep gash into the barrel, by which I knew it ever after.
After the first volley, the Forty-fifth New York, accompanied by two pieces of artillery, sought refuge in a very rapid change of base. And soon after, the Fifty-fourth New York also retired. After both supports had withdrawn in mass, the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers still stood. And as a regiment, they gave a parting volley to the enemy, which the rebel prisoners reported to have fearfully mowed down the ranks of the advancing First Virginia Brigade.
Then the order to retreat was given, and the 153rd indeed withdrew to have men left to fight again. It was a moment of great excitement. As David retired from the Rebel advance, he saw the stacked guns of the 41st Regiment, but all the men were gone. He took a gun from the stack and fired. He found out the regiment behind the 153rd had retreated and left their weapons. Those troops were supposed to be guarding the rear. At a military hearing held after the battle, Comrade Rhoads testified that when he retired from the Rebel flank at Chancellorsville, he saw the stacked guns of the 41st Regiment and the men gone.
Several vain attempts were made to rally the retiring forces of the Eleventh Corps. Still, they were preceded on the retreat by the brigades and divisions trying to get as far away from the enemy as they could. It was impossible to find cover from the Rebel sharpshooters.
After the main body of soldiers had gone back about a hundred yards, David saw Captain Howard Reeder of Company G standing not ten feet away. He was deliberately discharging his revolver into the ranks of the onrushing Rebels. He then turned and ran.
David wondered to himself, “How he ever got away without being killed was a miracle,” as the Rebels could not have been more than 15 feet from him.
This was indeed the type of leader that orders his men, not “Go forward here and there,” but “Come along with me, boys.”
Comrade Benner’s regiment occupied a position on the right-wing, facing the Southern Army under General Jackson. At the beginning of the engagement, the regiment had been ordered to lie down on their stomachs. And to shoot and roll over on their backs to load guns, thereby escaping the rebel balls. While in the act of loading his rifle, a cartridge became jammed in the barrel. Comrade Benner arose to his feet to force the round into place. While doing so, a Rebel soldier about ten paces in front of him took deliberate aim and fired, wounding him in the right shoulder, bringing Comrade Benner to his knees. But he bravely returned fire on the Rebel soldiers four times. The regiment was ordered to retire before Jackson’s attack.
While retreating, Comrade Benner met an ambulance, which took him to the field hospital. Here he remained all night. The next morning the order came for all the wounded that were able to hurry across the Rappahannock at United States Ford. The hospital was in line with the ammunition train, which the Rebels were shelling.
The next morning, the Rebel army commenced throwing shells across the river towards the signal station and ammunition train. And again, the order came for all the wounded soldiers that could to run. Fifteen of the wounded soldiers, including Comrade Benner, were loaded into an army wagon and taken to Stoneman’s Switch. There they were loaded into a cattle car and taken to Aquia (ah-qui-a) Creek Hospital. After coming home, Comrade Benner’s wound became worse, and he was unable to return to the front. He was finally mustered out with his regiment on July 24, 1863, at Easton, Pa. As soon as any, the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers was rallied and spent the greater part of the night digging rifle pits. Then, just before going to sleep, David wrote by candlelight in the little book of his life. He tucked the diary away in his Bible and wrapped them up in the scarf, and along with his haversack, made himself a pillow. He fell asleep with his head resting on what he had just written.
There was a time today when the cannon fire was so fierce that every living thing tried to leave the thicket all at once. I watched as our lines began to break and fall back. The instinct of survival took over, and I began to run. I saw a wounded man struggle to get to his feet, and as he fell back with his last breath, he waved me back and gasped, “save yourself, boy.” I ran through a cloud of dust, smoke, and blood, hardly breathing from sheer terror. Shortly after making it to the safety of our battery lined up along the hill, a call came out throughout the camp for volunteers to be runners. I was informed that my name had already been put on the list by an officer that saw me running from the cannon fire earlier. I was sent along with the men who stepped forward to the hospital tent to have a quick examination to make sure we were fit for duty as runners. Out of twenty-two applicants, but three passed the examination, and I was one of them.
David was detailed as a courier on the staff of General von Gilsa. The 153rd Regiment was a favourite with the general, and David was often associated with it. The general had also detailed several other men to be runners and selected them from the 153rd.
On Sunday morning, David moved with the company again into the front line of entrenchments. They stood opposite the center of General Hooker’s line of battle. They remained there until Wednesday morning when the Corps covered the withdrawal of his army to the other side.
On Wednesday, amidst terrible rain and the natural condition of Virginia mud, the exhausted men returned to the former camp near Brooks Station. They spent the night recuperating their weary bodies. David was awakened long before dawn. He was summoned by an officer whose lantern was dimmed so low that David could not see who it was. Quickly, he found himself on his first mission as a courier, comfortably seated in a carriage, with a driver whom David had seen before, taking many parties over the ground.
The carriage proceeded by way of the Plank Road towards Chancellorsville, stopping at the Salem Church. This would shortly be the scene of a desperate fight that prevented the Sixth Corps from joining the main Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville.
The Command chose this place for officers and couriers to meet face to face, so they could better recognize the line of communication in battle. The meeting was over almost before it started because shelling was heard in the distance. David was returned to the exact spot where he had been sleeping, and in the morning, none of the other men knew he had ever left.
When death is a daily reality, promotion comes quickly on the battlefield. About the time they left Brooks Station, David was appointed Acting Assistant to General Howard. His horsemanship and ability as a marksman were well-known, and he was a favourite among his men. David had proven himself earlier as a runner of great speed and agility. He was promoted to Corporal and given a document of free passage to permit his traveling as a courier. In David’s capacity as an aide, he had unlimited opportunities by day and night of seeing every one of the regiments in this division. At all times and under all circumstances, he found both the officers and men of the regiment in the best of spirits. No regiment in the Corps went more gladly to battle, or more cheerfully submitted to privations.
One night, David was called upon to be an envoy to Major Freuhauff (fru-hoff), who had been wounded. His men helped David bring the major across the Rappahannock River while retreating from the field. They crossed under cover of darkness. They had only gone a short distance on the other side when the horses refused to go any further. David had travelled down wooden plank roads before riding on the same horse. They were very bumpy, you had to go slow, but the horses never had a problem before.
As quietly as they could, the men forced the horses forward. Then one of the men, using very poor judgment, tried to light his pipe. The campfires of the enemy were burning all around them. In the flash of the match, the men could see they had been traveling on the bodies of the dead. The man immediately threw away his torch and used his spurs to get his horse into a full gallop. Each man got out of there the best way he could in the dark.
No one ever talked about what had happened, not even to each other. The men arrived at the hospital early in the morning but found everything full. The major suggested that the men lie down on the ground. No sooner had they touched the ground than they all fell asleep, totally worn out.
About 7 or 8 o’clock, I felt the point of the major’s elbow in my side, when he said, “look here.” I looked, and the army was passing by, banners flying and the troops in full retreat for Falmouth and the old campgrounds.
The Confederate command become aware of weak points in the Union Army, and they made a circuit that completely enveloped their line. David later wrote about it.
I am an expert runner when I’m scared, and i was not long deciding what disposition to make of my ‘worldly goods,’ rifle and ammo pack, but to leave them behind and made my way through the dense thickets, escaping with my life
There was but one point of the compass which suggested personal safety – and that was due North. The next day was Sunday. David continued to use his athletic abilities until he reached the Rappahannock River. Here he stopped long enough to take account of stock and investigate the surroundings. He finally concluded to go back and see how many of the boys of Company D could be found. David followed the line of breastworks of the different regiments and finally came to his men, and they were all glad to see him. He missed a few comrades of the company, and Chunky had the unfortunate job of telling him about personal friends who were killed at the opening of the battle. Among them were two members of the band that Chunky played in.
On Monday morning, they had a very lively brush with a line of rebel skirmishers on an opposite hill. David felt proud to see the coolness, determination, and spirit animating those Northampton County boys. Major J.F. Frueauff, commanding the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteers, had his point of view published in all the newspapers of Northampton County.
At such times to particularize would be improper; suffice it to say that “no officer was shot by a private, and no private cut down by an officer.” Those who have fallen—and, alas! We mourn a number of such—have fallen in the noble discharge of their duties, slain by the hands of traitors; those who have been wounded, have received honourable wounds by the shots of rebels; and those who are prisoners are now in the hands of “our southern brethren,” not in consequence of their own faults, but by the fortunes of war. Hoping this exposition may set to rest all slanders, and assure every true and loyal patriot that he need in nowise be ashamed or should sneer at ‘Colonel Glanz’s regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers,’ and desiring you. For the sake of justice to your fellow-citizens now in the front rank of the army, bravely battling for all they hold dear at home.
In the opening of the battle in the Chancellorsville campaign, David had been detailed to a detachment of men on skirmish duty. He was among the first to discover the approach of the Jackson skirmishers. The slashings of the trees had been done under the direction of the General in person. They were of the nature of abatis (field fortification).
One of the men I recall who was detailed with me to assist in the cutting of the trees in front of the line was Andrew Seigler. He rode a sorrel mare. He was one of the first men killed from the regiment. I still have a letter we started to write together to his wife in my haversack. I will try to send it to her on the next mail call.
Now David was spending more time with officers, doing things he could not talk to the other men about. He felt like, “the chief, cook, and bottle washer,” because he had so many jobs from one end of the shovel to the other end of the spyglass.
About this time, Sergeant Kiefer reported the woods in front of the troops was being amassed with men behind the thickets for a charge. David found out that by crouching down, he could see their legs up to their knees, and saw that the force was a large one. The Sergeant was captured later near the Almshouse and was a prisoner for several weeks, but he was paroled. The Union Army was driven back by the Rebels at Chancellorsville on the afternoon of May 2. Captain Oerter of Company C was doing his best to rally the retreating soldiers. David, along with some other brave men, remained with him as long as they could. But when it got too warm, he found it would be madness to continue there any longer. When David followed the men to the rear and entered the woods, he discovered a mistake. They found themselves in the rear of the enemy who had advanced its lines in pursuing their forces.
I spent the entire night trying to get out of the woods and eluding some of the enemy’s scouts. I drank water from the spring, near the McCool house, which slaked the thirst of many of the wounded and dying of both armies during the memorable siege.
In the battle of Chancellorsville, David’s regiment occupied a unique position at the extreme right of the Army of the Potomac. It was the first to receive the attack of Stonewall Jackson’s Corps of Lee’s Confederate Army. During the attack, a rebel bullet grazed one of his fingers, merely breaking the skin. David was in danger, as he lay on the field, of being shot again by his comrades. That this did not occur was entirely owing to the kind services of a Confederate soldier.
Nearby there was a clump of large trees which David and his men helped cut down. Now in the enemy’s line, formed in the rear, was one particular Rebel who took advantage of the protection afforded by these fallen trees.
As the balls from his own Union forces were flying fast all around him, David asked the Rebel to place a large, loose tree stump that lay a short distance away, in front of him. “I don’t like the idea of being hit by my own regiment,” David said.
The Reb kicked the stump toward him, almost hitting him in the face. Hardly had the Rebel gotten back behind his tree when three minie balls struck the stump in front of David. “Young man, I saved your life,” called the Rebel. David was not scant in his thanks, as may well be imagined.
The Rebel was more talkative than David was, and he listened to him chatter until it got dark. Then the Confederate soldier just stood up and walked right over to David and sat down with him behind the stump fortress. “I got some tobacco, and some good corn squeezin’s and I be will’in to trade for some real coffee,” the Rebel boasted as he showed off his jug.
It was very obvious to David that the man from Dixie had already been squeezin’ the corn because he sat down hard enough on his fanny to lose his breath for a second. He did not give David any chance to answer before he started talking again. “Don’t worry, none, no one is watching us here, they all watching the fireworks from that-thar artillery,” the Rebel pointed to the shells overhead.
David had some hardtack with him, and he gave it to the Rebel along with a good drink from his canteen. Then the Rebel left him in the dark, but not before giving David some good southern tobacco and a pull on his jug of whiskey.
The Rebel shells exploded over the men all night in mass quantities. David was lying on his back, supported on his elbows, watching the shells explode overhead. He was speculating as to how long he could hold up his finger before it would be shot off. The very air seemed full of bullets. When the order to “get up” was given, David turned over quickly to look at Col. Kimball, who had given the order, thinking he had suddenly become insane. It was as if the order was never given, for Col. Kimball did not repeat it, and the men did not obey it.
While lying on the field, out of nowhere came a boy by the name of Aaron Meyers of Co. D. He had a flesh wound in his leg, yet he still carried water to David as he took cover. David cautioned the younger soldier to be careful, but he saw his body a short while later on the field.
In the morning of Sunday, May 3, David got up and started for the regiment, but didn’t get very far before he found himself in the line of the Rebs. They had set out pickets during the night, so he had no way but to be captured. He was marched about 2 miles to a field and joined there by a squad of about 150. They waited for about an hour, then another squad of about 1000 came up. Finally, they were marched off, arriving at Spotsylvania Court House, where they slept in the jail yard until morning. David awoke to relieve himself, and, under the bright light of a full moon, he jotted down some notes.
May 3, 1863:
I was captured in the battle of Chancellorsville, at about 8 o’clock in the morning, and about one mile from our Saturday’s line of battle. In company with 4000 prisoners. I marched to Spotsylvania court house, where we were kept overnight in the jail yard. Having two gum blankets, I shared with Colonel Glanz, he and I sleeping together. On the next morning, we left for guinea station. While resting on the way, the colonel gave me money requesting me to buy him a pair of shoes., as he found it very hard marching in his high-topped boots. After a long search, I found a pair, but which proved to be too small for him. I then started out and exchanged them for a larger pair, which were all right. I also carried his overcoat for him on the march. We remained at guinea station three and a half days, during which time Stonewall Jackson was brought here wounded. He died before we left, only a short distance from our camp.
Lieutenant General Thomas Jonathan Stonewall Jackson rose to prominence. He earned his most famous nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas, as Confederates called it) on July 21, 1861. As the Confederate lines began to crumble under the massive Union assault, Jackson’s brigade provided crucial reinforcements on Henry House Hill, demonstrating the discipline he instilled in his men.
Brig. Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr. exhorted his own troops to re-form by shouting, “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Rally behind the Virginians!” He was killed almost immediately after speaking.
Jackson has since then been generally known as Stonewall Jackson. During the battle, Jackson displayed a gesture familiar to him. He held his left arm skyward with the palm facing forward; this was interpreted by his soldiers as a prayer to God for success in combat. His hand was struck by a bullet or a piece of shrapnel and suffered a small loss of bone in his middle finger. He refused medical advice to have the finger amputated.
Darkness ended the assault. As Jackson and his staff were returning to camp on May 2, they were mistaken for a Union cavalry force by the 18th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. His own soldiers shouted, “Halt, who goes there?” but they fired before evaluating the reply. Frantic shouts by Jackson’s staff identifying the party were replied to with the retort, “It’s a damned Yankee trick! Fire!” A second volley was fired in response, and in all, Jackson was hit by three bullets, two in the left arm and one in the right hand. Several other men in his staff were killed in addition to many horses. Darkness and confusion prevented Jackson from getting immediate care. He was dropped from his stretcher while being evacuated, because of incoming artillery rounds.
Because of his injuries, Jackson’s left arm had to be amputated by Dr. McGuire. Jackson was moved to Chandler’s plantation named Fairfield. He was offered Chandler’s home for recovery, but Jackson refused and suggested using Chandler’s plantation office building instead. He was thought to be out of harm’s way, but unknown to the doctors, he already had classic symptoms of pneumonia, complaining of a sore chest. This soreness was mistakenly thought to be the result of his rough handling in the battlefield evacuation.
Dr. McGuire wrote an account of Jackson’s final hours and his last words:
A few moments before he died, he cried out in his delirium, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks”—then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face. Then he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”
His death was a severe setback for the Confederacy, affecting not only its military prospects but also the morale of its army and of the general public. Jackson, in death, became an icon of Southern heroism and commitment. He became a mainstay in the pantheon of the “Lost Cause.” Military historians will consider Jackson to be one of the most gifted tactical commanders in U.S. History. Jackson’s tactics will be studied worldwide as examples of innovative and bold leadership.
David and the other captured Union Soldiers spent all day marching until about 6 in the evening. They were allowed to rest for about 15 minutes then forced to start again. The men marched about 1 mile and forded a creek about ½ mile wide and thigh deep. The Rebel guards marched them into the woods and made camp. It rained all night, and the men did not get much sleep all wet. The next morning the Rebel guards got them up at 7 am and started the march early for Hanover Station.
Just before they got started, David removed the haversack from his shoulder. He took out the scarf and made his bag into a chair. He sat down to rest, even for a moment, knowing good and well that a hard march was coming. He wrote in his diary.
May 8, 1863:
Raining again this morning. Arrived at Hanover junction at 6 in the evening, still about 30 miles to Richmond. It started on the morning of the 9th. Marched until 9 in the evening, then arrived at the Libby prison; to-day marched through mud and water ankle deep all day, very tired, could hardly stand on one foot anymore, for supper we got nothing.
May 10, 1863:
Sunday, in the morning at 9, we got about 1 pound of bread and ½ pound pork. In the evening at 9 the same.
May 11, 1863:
Monday, we got nothing till noon, then we got the same in the evening, 1/2 cup bean soup.
The Colonel gave David a twenty-dollar Confederate bill requesting him to purchase some cakes from the Rebels for their use. He took a gum blanket in which to carry them. One of the most essential items a soldier carried on campaigns was the water-proof gum blanket. One of these blankets were issued to every soldier in the Union Army to help keep him and his bedroll dry. By the end of the War, all gum blankets were coated with rubber.
David found a Sutler’s tent and laid down the bill for the cakes. A Sutler was a person who followed an army and sold provisions to the soldiers, but he said, “I won’t take that money.”
David asked, “Why not? It is your own money.”
He replied, “Yes, but our money won’t go to England, and yours will.” David went back and reported to the Colonel, who made some remarks which were not very complimentary to the Rebel Sutler.
On Sunday the 10th, he gave David a five-dollar greenback. For this, they got about three or four pounds of what they called ginger snaps. On returning, he handed them to the Colonel, but he said, “No, pass them among our men.” This was done until there were four of five left; these the Colonel refused, so David ate them.
A massive thunderstorm arose, and the men were thoroughly drenched. They left the Station on May 8 at about noon and marched to Hanover Junction. Here they remained overnight and had rations dealt out to them, consisting of two crackers and about two ounces of boiled ham to each man.
David asked the Colonel of their guard how far it was to Richmond. He said, “Thirty-two miles boys, and we must march the distance without stopping.” Which they did, excepting short stops for rest. So, off they started with the intention of marching all night. The men were force-marched until about 7 pm. Then the hardest shower that anyone had ever seen came up, but they wouldn’t let the men stop and made them march on.
The Rebels kept it up until about 9, and then they let their captives rest for the night. But again, very few got any rest, for it rained. So, the men lay in the wet until the morning of the 14th. David thanked the Lord that he still had his gum blanket. Other men were not so lucky: theirs were lost or stolen. That day they passed thru City Point, a lovely place, but all deserted. It contained some 12 or 15 houses, and all of them were pretty-well riddled with shells that McClellan had fired in there from his gunboats.
They arrived at Libby Prison at about ten o’clock that evening. About nine o’clock the next morning, they were given a five-cent loaf of bread for eight men. Later in the evening, the men were served with a cup of black bean soup, which was feeble stuff. These rations were a sample of what their daily diet would be during their confinement.
Every day the officer of the floor would come in and say, “Yanks, fall in, in groups of fours.” In this way, they were counted instead of having a roll call.
Union and Confederate forces exchanged prisoners sporadically, often as an act of humanity between opposing commanders. Support for prisoner exchanges grew throughout the initial months of the war, as the North saw increasing numbers of its soldiers captured.
At the outbreak of the War, the Federal government avoided any action, including prisoner exchanges, that might be viewed as official recognition of the Confederate government in Richmond. Still, public opinion forced a change after the First Battle of Bull Run when the Confederates captured over one thousand Union soldiers.
Being taken to Libby Prison, David thought his time fighting was over. Still, along with several other men, they were only confined for a short period of five days. Then, they were immediately exchanged at City Point and re-joined their regiment. David had experienced some prison time, and now he had to endure the march to Gettysburg. Later he would argue with himself about which one was worse.
When I came out of prison, confederate women were waiting to supply us with one cent biscuits at twenty-five cents apiece. 1 paid two dollars for eight biscuits. We marched to Petersburg the first day. We were in the rain all day and all night, but with cover at night. We left the woods about daylight and marched to city point, a distance of nine miles, and arrived at 2 pm, having marched about 32 miles. We were under escort of cavalry and infantry. The rebels were moving empty cars in the same direction we were going to bring back their prisoners, and they could have taken us on board the cars as well as not.
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