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Old June 3, 2006, 12:10 AM   #151
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continued from previous post.

Conclusion.

While this was going on the commandant slipped down-stairs and dispatched his orderly for a guard. Soon the sound of tramping feet was heard. In a voice of thunder the Major ordered them to arrest his seranders, and the guard closed round. However, the quartette was soon secured, especially the one who was asleep; but the performers, using their instruments in a manner never intended by their manufacturers, made most vigorous resistance. Forgetting that they had ceased to be free American citizens, at present devoted to the muses, they knocked and banged and struck out valorously, while the guard, not willing to use their weapons, closed in on the musical fighters, and after a fierce struggle and with many bruises, mastered them one by one. The cornet flattened his weapon on the corporal's occiput, raising a bump unnamed in phrenology; the fiddle was smashed to atoms over some other skull, while the banjo came down squarely, or rather roundly, on the top of a guard's head; he wore it as a necklace, the handle sticking out behind like a gigantic queue. The flute, just about the size of a police officer's club, might have been a dangerous weapon, only being hollow it shivered to pieces at the first blow, its sound and fury signifying nothing. The bass viol performed prodigious antics, describing a huge parabolic curve, and striking with fearful force the cranium of yet another guard; there was a confused jangling of the strings and down went the guard prone on the ground; a second blow and one more guard fell, while a third man was happy enough to catch the blow on the butt of his musket. This finished the irate old 'big fiddle,' but with the head-piece the serander laid about with such vigor that victory might have perched thereon, only, seeing the odds, the valorous warrior broke out of the surroundings and took to his heels; in short, the whole party were lugged to the guard-house, where they remained all next day. As for the bass viol, he was found in the morning sound asleep on a pile of planks in Smott's lumber yard, with the head-piece firmly clutched in his hand. It is safe to say no more permissions were granted serenading parties.

If I knew band practice could be so fun, I would have taken up music as a kid.
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Old June 6, 2006, 10:02 PM   #152
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Let these men pass

“The soldiers sometimes wrote their own passes and countersigned them with the name of the colonel and generals. But that ruse failed to be effectual, for officers well vesed in all the wiles of solders’ strategy, as well as detectives who could tell at a glance whether or not the countersigns were genuine, scruntinized each pass with as much care as an expert does the signature of witnesses in a disputed will case.

On one occasion two of Company A (myself and comrade), with anything but tender consciences, lay awake at night trying to devise some plan that would obtain free ingress to the city, keep us unmolested while there, and bring us safely out. The result was, that after so many hours spent in sifting the pros and cons, it settled down to a single, plain, stubborn fact, that unless we could get the bona-fide signatures of the general commanding, all efforts would be in vain. That was a bright idea, surely, as bright indeed as the young rodent in the fable, who moved in a congress of rats, ‘that the cat should be belled.’ So with us it was who was to ‘bell the cat,’ and how?

We drew straws for the unlucky one of the two, and Walter A. Drew the short straw, and was thereafter left to his own devices; and from the depths of down-reaching ruminations, which he feared would unsettle his brain, evolved the following letter:

‘My Dear Aunt:
‘As requested, I hereby send you the autograph of our Commander-in-Chief, General Johnston.’

Then, going boldly to his tent, he asked the orderly for admittance, for with General Johnston the private could often obtain an audience when officers high in rank were kept in waiting. The solder, handed the General his letter, who with one quick glance at his petitioner, seized his pen and wrote his name at the bottom. To salute and get out of the tent was the work of a second; and then the young rascal ran as fast as his legs could carry him to his confrere in camp. Together in banded iniquity, we rubbed out the words in pencil and inscribed others, so that the paper read:

‘Pass in and out of Richmond, at will, the bearer and friend for two weeks. J. E. Johnston, Commanding General.’

On that pass we went in and out, and out and in, till the very stones in the road knew us; so virtue is ever its own reward.”
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Old June 12, 2006, 08:39 PM   #153
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Git to a preachin'

"While our regiment was encamped at Murfreesboro a man by the name of Hester made application to Colonel Moore for appointment as chaplain. Colonel Moore told him that he would not appoint him unless a majority of the regiment expressed a preference for him. He then began to canvass for votes. M. Luna, a rollicking, jolly, good soldier of Company I, also announced for this office. He swore that he could preach as good a sermon as L. Hester, and he appointed a time and place where the boys could have a sample of his sermons. He would mount a stump or woodpile, and the service would begin by lining out a song, 'Old Grimes,' 'Ryestraw,' or some other doggerel familiar at that time. He would then announce as his text, 'Whar de hen scratch, dar de bug also,' or 'Gnaw a file and flee to the wilderness, whar de lion roar and de whangdoodle moans.' After his 'sermon,' he would say, 'Now, if you don't believe I'm a better preacher than L. Hester, vote for him, darn you.' Needless to say, Mack was elected by a big majority; but when he applied to Colonel Moore for credentials, he was told to go back to his company and behave, or he would be sent to the guardhouse. That was the last we heard of a chaplain until Rev. M. B. DeWitt came to us. He was a devout Christian and was loved by all."

And this concludes this week's sermon. Amen.
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Old June 17, 2006, 02:12 AM   #154
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Another reason for the Civil War

A reb PoW was asked a question. Here's his account.

"What are you Rebels fighting for, anyway?"
The question struck me there and then as supremely ludicrous. Here were we Virginians standing on our own soil, fighting on our native heath against an invading army, defending what every man holds dear - his home and fireside. As well asked a game-cock why he crows and bares his spurs on his own dung-hill. So I replied:
"We are fighting to protect our mint-beds."
There was an Irishman on the staff, and he nearly fell off his saddle; he spurred his horse forward and slapped me on the shoulder and said:
"True for ye, me boy, there's not a lad in ould Ireland that wouldn't do the same for his poteen."
Even the brigadier smiled, and said that he had heard often of a Virginia julep but never tasted one, and the group clattered away, laughing.
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Old June 18, 2006, 06:46 PM   #155
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Captain Flynn's shot

This happened in the flintlock days.

"There was an old Irishman named Captain Flynn who owned a small schooner which plied along the Potomac River and its estuaries, buying fowls, fruits and garden truck from the country people and selling them in the Baltimore markets.

"It happened that the Captain, a week before Christmas, dropped anchor off Cutler's Creek, and there came an unexpected freeze, and for four days he was held hard and fast. All his meat gave out, so he traveled over the ice to the home of one of his best customers, a spinster named Miss Tilda Jenks, who made her living by raising poultry.

"Miss Tilly was cited among her neighbors as being the sharpest and the shrewdest bargainer in the whole country round; indeed some of the old hands said that she could even beat a preacher in a horse trade.

"When Captain Flynn went to purchase a dozen fowls the ancient spinster promptly doubled her price. This made the old Captain so mad that he went back to his sloop, swearing he would starve before he would pay it. Then ensued a struggle between his stomach and his pride, which resulted in his going back the next day and paying the spinster her price. As he saw the great number of fowls in the enclosure he said:

"'Miss Tilly, how much will you charge me to let me shoot in the thick of them, an' let me have all I kill?'
"The woman studied for a while and then answered:
"'Captain, if you let me load your gun you kin have all you kill for one dollar.'
"'Bedad! an' it's a bargain, an' here's your dollar,' answered the Irishman, 'an' now I'll go fer me gun.'

"He hurried back to his boat, got out an ancient bell-mouthed blunderbuss that had belonged to his grandfather, put in a handful of powder, rammed in a bunch of tow; next a double handful of shot was dropped down the barrel and held tight with another bunch of tow; then Captain Flynn sawed off about four fingers of the ramrod, picked the flint, called his crew, which consisted of an antiquated d**ky, and proceeded inland.
"Miss Tilly first carefully measured the gun with the ramrod, then, despite the protest of the Captain, she loaded the gun with only a thimbleful of powder and one of shot.
""A bargain is a bargain, Captain,' she said tauntingly, 'and here's your gun; now you can have all you kill.'
"Captain Flynn asked for an ear of corn; this he shelled along for about a hundred yards from the woodpile, then lying behind a log, he signified to Miss Tilly that he was ready.
"The gate was opened and the fowls of all sizes, sexes and condition came running, flying and fluttering out, and there was a confused mass of heads, wings and feathers mixed up as far as the eye could reach. The Captain sighted along the line, and uttered a prayer; the d**ky got behind a tree and clapped his hands over his ears; the spinster stood with her horn spectacles on her forehead, serene and confident; then the Captain, having finished his orisions, pulled the trigger. There was a thundering report that reverberated clean to the Virginia shore and back, then the smoke covered everything; when it lifted, there was the Captain, sitting up, rubbing his shoulder; Miss Tilly had her arms raised to heaven, crying, 'I'm ruined and undone!'
"The d**ky was dancing a jig.
"The spoils were counted: sixteen chickens, twelve guinea keets, five hen turkeys, one gobbler, two geese, two pigeons, four ducks and the old lady's pet pig."

That's one fine shot for a dollar.
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Old July 12, 2006, 11:11 PM   #156
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Note for Bears: Don't mess with Apache women

From Geronimo's autobiography (which I picked up from the Smithsonian's Museum of American Indians).

"The four women who were captured at this time by the Mexicans were taken into Sonora, Mexico, where they were compelled to work for the Mexicans. After some years they escaped to the mountains and started to find our tribe. They had knives which they stolen from the Mexicans, but they had no other weapons. They had no blankets; so at night they would make a little tepee by cutting brush with their knives, and setting them up for walls. The top was covered over with brush. In this temporary tepee they would all sleep. One night when their camp fire was very low they heard growling just outside the tepee. Francisco, the youngest women of the party (about seventeen years of age), started to build up the fire, when a mountain lion crashed through the tepee and attacked her. The suddenness of the attack made her drop her knife, but she fought as best she could with her hand. She was no match for the lion, however, her left shoulder was crushed and partly thrown away. The lion kept trying to catch her by her throat; this she prevented with her hands for a long time. He dragged her for about 300 yards, then she found her strength was failing her from loss of blood, and she called the other women for help. The lion had been dragging her by one foot, and she had been catching hold of his legs, and of the rocks and underbrush, to delay him. Finally, he stoped and stood over her. She again called her companions and they attacked him with their knives and killed him. Then they dressed her wounds and nursed her in the mountains for about a month. When she was able to walk they resumed their journey and reached our tribe in safety."
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Old July 22, 2006, 06:38 PM   #157
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Relieving boredom in the trenches

"There are many hours when the men and officers have literally nothing to do, but to 'while away' the time as best they may. They take old musket barrels, enlarge the vents, load them heavily with powder from some unexploded shell, put in one or two bullets, set the battery up in the sand, and fire it - the bullets falling a third or a half a mile away within the enemy's line. Possibly the enemy employs a similar means, for one of the men of our Brigade was killed while sitting with his back leaning up against the inside of our earth-works, a bullet penetrating the top of his head in such manner as if it had fallen straight down out of the sky. Our men play with still another 'battery' where the lines are very close together. A stout stick with a small stone one on end is balanced upon a log, the opposite end of the stick is struck a heavy blow with an axe, and the stone goes far over towards the enemy's line - and sometimes it is claimed that a particularly lucky blow will send a stone within them. A reproduction, for amusement, of a very ancient device."
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Old July 30, 2006, 10:38 PM   #158
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Horse thievery or camouflaged horse

I don't recommend stealing other people's horses and in the old days, it was a hanging offense. Not a bad idea today either. Nonetheless, during the Civil War horse stealing was quite common. Here's how one unit got away with it:

Quote:
'Ambulance Brown' prefers a black moustache on his amiable face to the huge paler hued one which nature supplies. The color he takes along in his pocket is handy to have... Our excellent Asst. Surgeon Small finds among the captured horses one that suits his fancy. A whining rebel citizen appears and begs for his 'dear horse.' The Colonel tells this Mr. Secesh to go among the herd and pick out his horse, and he will see about his return. The horse has a white foot or two, a white star in his face and a white nose. Brown, however, the moment he sets his sharp eyes upon this horse, sees that he is a valuable animal, and suspects that he will be demanded. He decides that this particular horse is not the horse he was, and to prove it, he whips out his moustache dye - without the knowledge of the Colonel or Asst. Surgeon Small - and colors all the white marks on the horse jet black. This job has hardly been completed, when Mr. Secesh appears in the herd, and still further proves the horse was not his he was, by being utterly unable to find his lost property - the work so well done he does not recognize his own 'dear horse,' and goes his way lamenting. When it is safe to do so the color is washed off - and now he is the horse he was. He does good service in the army, and is brought North at the end of the war. No one but 'Ambulance Brown' would ever have thought of dyeing a horse's moustache - but you see the habit of dyeing moustaches had grown strong upon him."
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Old July 31, 2006, 09:16 PM   #159
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Post Civil War Army Life. Here's some interesting observations of a post-Civil War soldier. An immigrant to this land, he sees many strange new sites and is literate enough to record them.

In the guardhouse
Quote:

"Another class of our heroes paid their debts, twenty-five cents interest on every dollar for two months or less, after which they [would] go out for a spree that meant a beastly drunk, returning to quarters with empty pockets, generally missing one or two roll calls. Put in the gurdhouse he would be taken care of by a kindhearted guard and fellow prisoners. The latter would go through him and take all the money the sirens missed. If he had no money left the rest of the prisoners would convey a court. This august tribunal would sentence him to receive so and so lashes, administered to him while held across a chair, or to be 'blanketed' - which means the prisoner is put into a blanket which four strong men hold by the corners. A jerk sends the poor victim flying in the air, arms and legs working to all points of the compass, caught and thrown again. These guardhouse court-martials are more dreadful than the legal military punishments."
Our hero avoids the guardhouse by behaving himself (coward) and staying out of trouble (strict Germanic upbringing as a child). He gets himself assigned as a cook and he makes an interesting repast:

Quote:
My entree in the kitchen as cook took place soon after. We had on the fare for that day beans, regular army beans [that had] been soaking in water overnight. Being late that morning I put them in a boiler without examination. When looking at the beans a half hour later I discovered scorpions floating on the top. Time was precious and something had to be done to give the men their dinner. It was too much of a loss to throw the beans away and I concluded to taste them - should they make me sick the beans would have to be thrown away - if not I concluded to go on and prepare them for dinner. The beans stood on the table that noon - and never had tasted better to the men before. Useless to say I did not eat beans that day, and I examined pots before using [them] in the future.
Note: in the olde days dinner was served at noon and supper in the evening.
Our hero observed the glorious life of the Red Man, whose lifestyle practically all of us would envy today.

Quote:
The squaws did all the work in or out of camp and even saddled the horses for the men. The latter hunted and fought, but generally did nothing, or attended to the duties of the family. The girls were brought up to work and were mothers before they were women. The boys were given all the liberties of the race, were early instructed in archery and hunting, and taught the secrets of warfare. They used a stick with different marks as a geographic map.
Here's more on the stick map. He talks about one Indian in particular and it's quite fascinating stuff.

Quote:
At his first raid into Mexico he was given a stick by his father with a serrated mark for each hill, river, or particular formation of the country as his map, to guide him to a certain village or farm.
I'd still love to see how they made those markings and indicated what was what.
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Old August 13, 2006, 10:43 PM   #160
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Security blankets

Anyone old enough to remember Charles Schulz's comic strip, Peanuts, will remember Linus and his blanket. Well, Linus was probably a reincarnation of a Civil War soldier whose life was saved by his blanket. Here's a story of a man who was saved more than once by his same army issued blanket. Our hero participated in the Burnside's attack against the Confederates who were posted behind the stone wall of Marye's Heights in Fredericksburg. He was injured and pinned down with no cover to speak of.

Quote:
...bullets were flying so thick around me that the thought struck me to pull or work my blankets off my shoulder and to place them in front of my head. They would serve as at least a slight protection from the deadly missiles. Fortunate, indeed, that I thought of this. Double fortunate that I succeeded in doing it. The prospect of death now seemed to increase. My clothing was literally being torn from my back by the constant and furious musketry fire of the enemy from three points. A ball struck me on the left wrist inflicting another painful but not serious wound. Another one which would undoubtedly have proved instantly fatal but for my blankets pierced through six plies of the blanket. It left me the possessor of a very sore head for six weeks after. With such force did this bullet come that for some time I really though it had embedded itself in the skull. My blankets were the receptacles of 32 other bullets which dropped out when I opened them up the next morning in Fredericksburg...
Our hero decides to escape and waits for darkness and a lull in the firing.

Quote:
I decided that my only chance to escape safely from my dangerous position would be during the intervals between the Rebel fire. I resolved to attempt it. Just as the sounds of another volley of the enemy died away at about eight p.m., I regained my feet with much difficulty and excruciating pain... I crept slowly back from the dangerous Rebel front... My friendly balnkets, although then mysteriously and unaccountably heavy, I did not relinquish. I dragged them along.
Enroute back, he sees a light and discovers it's a lantern. Best of all, it's a lantern carried by a friend. He calls out and is helped to an ambulance. He is taken to a field hospital and is given medical care. While recovering, our hero feels cold and asks another soldier to unroll his blanket.

Quote:
I asked him to remove the strings from my blanket which still remained rolled up. He willingly and cheerfully complied, remarking in doing so, 'How many blankets are here?' 'Only one,' I said. 'It's damned heavy then,' he said. The strings off, the officer, in order to open it up and spread it over me, raised it from the floor. To his sudden astonishment, a shower of Rebel bullets, 47 in number, dropped out of it around his feet, with a rattling noise on the boards. 'How's this?' he said, 'do the men of the 116th carry ammunition in their blankets?' I smiled and replied, 'Oh, no, we carry it in a much more convenient place and get rid of it as soon as possible.' I then explained to him the circumstance of my having placed it in front of my head while lying on the ground as a protection against the enemy's fire. 'Lucky boy,' he said, 'it just saved you from being riddled with Rebel lead.'"
And that concludes our rambling anecdote for the day.
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Old August 15, 2006, 06:48 PM   #161
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The curmudgeon meets the Petersburg Volunteers (War of 1812)

We drew up, in military array, at the base of the hill on which the great house was erected. About half way down the hill stood a very homely old man, dressed in plain Virginia cloth, his head uncovered, and his venerable locks flowing in the wind. Some of our quizzical clique at once marked him as a fit subject of fun. "I wonder," said one, "What old codger that is, with his hair blowing nine ways for Easter Monday." "Why, of course, said another, "it is the overseer, and he seems to be scared out of a year's growth. I suspect he never saw gentlemen volunteers before." But how we were astonished when he advanced to our officers and introduced himself as THOMAS JEFFERSON! The officers were invited to a collation while we were marched off to the town, where more abundant provisions had been made.
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Old August 20, 2006, 09:52 PM   #162
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Proof that we are all reincarnated...

How many of us pick up discarded brass while we're at the range? I do. I figure even if it's no good, I've got brass that I can get melted for other projects like triggerguards, buttplates, sideplates or what nots. Brass is brass whether you buy it from a metal supplier or scavenge it. The same for lead. How many of us pick up lead when we're inspecting our targets? I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Well, there are historical precedents to lead scavenging and we need only look to our family feud of the 19th Century: The American Civil War. E. Porter Alexander, who was the general commanding the artillery in Longstreet's Corps, was known to offer rewards for recovered lead. He was known to have picked up lead and placed it in his haversack for return to their arsenals for recasting as fresh minie balls. Little boys were paid good money for bringing in buckets of lead they found around Gettysburg. Here's Confederate General Dabney Maury's account where the lead pickers weren't given money but a day off.

Quote:
We expended daily from twelve thousand to thirty-six thousand rounds of rifle cartridges; our supply was not great. The enemy poured a constant stream of lead into our lines, and Gibson gave every man who would bring in so much lead paroles of twenty-four hours to visit Mobile. A number of enterprising fellows eagerly pursued this traffic and greatly enjoyed the reward.
O.K. So it's not quite proof that we're reincarnated, but that's as close as I can prove it. Until next entry, be good.
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Old August 23, 2006, 06:18 PM   #163
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Another dog story

Earlier I related a dog story whereby some Union soldiers tricked their officers into eating a dog. Here's the Confederate counterpart:

Quote:
"As I have finished the campaign of 1863, I will continue this chapter with a joke that some of the boys got on a lieutenant in one of the Georgia Brigades, as it was told to me by a responsible man of Hill's corps. He said that it was certainly the truth, or I would not tell it.

He said they had a regular rear guard commanded by a bigoted lieutenant (as we will call him D--). He would take everything he could from the boys who had been out foraging. He kept this up for some time till all of the boys got to hating him. They went out, caught and killed a real fat dog, dressed him nicely, cut off one of his hind quarters, cut off the foot, wrapped it up and came up in the rear of the guard in a real suspicious way, apparently trying to conceal something.

The ever vigilant lieutenant saw that they had something and asked them what it was. The fellow stepped back a few steps and the lieutenant cursed him and went to see. The man apparrently gave it to him very reluctantly, and said it was a piece of lamb. The lieutenant took it and gave it to his negro cook and told him to cook it for his supper. The boys went on to their camp well pleased.

The negro cooked some and the lieutenant sat down to eat it. He cursed the negro and told him that he had poisoned it, for he had never eated as strong mutton as that was. The lieutenant then cooked some himself, but it was no better. The next day he asked the man whom he had taken it from what it was. He said in a low, drawling way, 'Why Lieutenant, it was a piece of dog.' Such a laugh as that raised!

It was such a good joke it was all over the camps in a few hours. Men would hollow out, 'Who eat the dog?' and you would hear answered from all over the camps, 'Lieutenant D.' My friend told me they run that so far till 'D' ran away and quit the army."
Boys will be boys.
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Old August 24, 2006, 09:29 PM   #164
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War Paint

A Union Artilleryman observed one Massachusetts colonel apply war paint:

Quote:
The water in the spring had been roiled, so I searched for another higher up the run. While searching for it I saw a colonel of inantry put on his war paint. It was a howling farce of one act - one brief act of not more than twenty seconds' duration, but the fun of the world was crowded into it. This blond, bewhiskered brave sat safely behind a large oak tree. He looked around quickly. His face hardened with resolution. He took a cartridge out of his vest pocket, tore the paper with his strong white teeth, spilled the powder into his right palm, spat on it, and then, first casting a quick glance around to see if he was observed, he rubbed the moistened powder on his face and hands, and then dust coated the war paint. Instantly he was transformed from a trembling coward who lurked behind a tree into an exhausted brave taking a little well-earned repose. I laughed silently at the spectacle, and filled my canteens at a spring I found, and then rejoined my comrades, and together we laughed at and then drank to the health of the blond warrior. That night I slept and dreamt of comic plays and extravagant burlesques; but in the wildest of dream vagaries there was no picture that at all compared with the actual one I had seen in the forest. That colonel is yet alive. I saw him two years ago.
Too bad the author never identified the brave colonel.
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Old September 4, 2006, 03:01 PM   #165
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A Fisherman Goes to War.

Those of us who are rifle shooters, sniping enthusiasts and students of small arms will recall Herbert McBride's A Rifleman Went to War. It's a classic account of trench warfare and sniping during The Great War. McBride, an American, is impatient to enter the fray and so he crossed the border into neighboring Canada and enlists as an infantryman. Originally an officer, he resigns his commission so as to see the elephant. He becomes a member of a machine gun unit but quickly moves into sniping, remaining in sniping school only long enough to get a scoped rifle. Then he goes out to hunt the Hun. Good reading. However, this story is of a different nature. It concerns a fisherman and is told to us by Sir Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement.

Quote:
Dynamite bombs were made up in small potted meat and milk tins for use as hand grenades, with slow match fuzes, with complete success by Lieutenant Feltham. Sergeant Page, champion bait thrower of Port Elizabeth, by using a whip stick and a short line was able to throw these with accuracy over a distance of 100 yards.
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Old September 20, 2006, 06:58 AM   #166
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Fool them every time.

Here's an amusing anecdote from the past.

Quote:
Confederate soldiers seen on the other side of our picket line presented an appearance comic and woeful, from the poverty of their apparel, each one wearing such garments as suits his fancy (or necessity.). Yet they are of the elite of State troops, being a sort of militia composed of planters and merchants. They have remarked that our men seemed to average small in stature, so with the laudable desire to improve our reputation, one of the Company A's tall men, when on post neareset the enemy, having on a long overcoat, took gigantic strides back and forth as the "rebs" tall man (conspicious by his red pants and hieght at about seven feet) was accustomed to do. Upon returning to his post behind the trees our tall man noticed that the faces of all the "rebs" seated opposite were turned toward him and seemed to be considering the matter. One of the Union men said "sometimes we would play a joke upon the 'rebs' by placing a small man upon the shoulders of a tall man, and then throwning a blanket over them, as a shawl; the small man would shoulder his musket and the combination would march up and down in full view of the enemy, and when the curiousity of the Confederates was at it highest the small Yankee would suddenly throw off his blanket and jump from his seat, and all hands would cheer.
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Old October 21, 2006, 09:27 AM   #167
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Who's the better marksman?

Reported in one Richmond Paper during the Civil War:

Quote:
A Tragic Affray in Hardin county, Ill.
--A dispute arose in Hardin county, Ill., on the 23d ult., between Captain Vaughn and Arch. Rutherford, as to their science as marksmen, which resulted in a set-to at fisticuffs, in which Rutherford proved the better man, when Captain Vaughn's son- in-law, William Norton, interfered and shot Rutherford, seriously wounding him. An attempt was made on the part of David Denton to arrest Norton, who fired on Denton, killing him almost instantly, the ball from the pistol having entered his head. It is thought that Rutherford will recover. Norton has not been arrested.
Better to hold a friendly shooting match that resort to fisticuffs and gunfights.
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Old October 21, 2006, 09:38 AM   #168
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Knife fight?

Here's something about the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run to the Yankees). Truth or fiction? You decide.

Quote:
A Zouave's account of bowie-knife fighting.
A Washington correspondent of the Baltimore Sun writes:

One of the New York Fire Zouaves, who was wounded at the battle of Manassas on Sunday week, a stalwart, hardy fellow, of considerable intelligence, passed through this city yesterday, en route homeward, remaining here several hours waiting for the cars.--He, of course, has the privilege, like all others, of telling his own tale, without apprehending, for the present at least, successful contradiction. From him I obtained a thrilling narrative of a rencontre between his regiment and a regiment of Mississippians.

After the battle had been raging for some hours, according to the account of this Zouavian hero, he saw an immense body of Mississippians, accompanied by some (believed to be) Baltimoreans, rush furiously ever the Confederate ramparts. They at once saw the conspicuous uniform of the Zouaves, and made at them. The Mississippians, after approaching near enough, sent a terrible volley from their rifles into the Zouave ranks. This done, they threw their guns aside and charged onward until each contending enemy met face to face and hand to hand, in terrible combat. The Mississippians, having discarded their rifle after the first fire, fell back upon their bowie-knives. These were of huge dimensions, eighteen to twenty inches long, heavy in proportion and sharp, or two-edged at the point. Attached to the handle was a lasso, some eight or ten feet in length, with one end securely wound round the wrist.

My informant says when these terrific warriors approached to within reach of their lasso, not waiting to come in bayonet range, they threw forward their bowie-knives at the Zouaves after the fashion of experienced harpooners striking at a whale. Frequently they plunged in, and penetrated through a soldier's body, and were jerked out, ready to strike again whilst the first victim sunk into death. On several occasions the terrible bowie-knife was transfixed in a Zouave, and the Zouave's bayonet in a Mississippian, both impaled and falling together. So skillfully was this deadly instrument handled by the Mississippian that he could project it to the full lasso length, kill his victim, withdraw it again with a sudden impulse, and catch the handle unerringly.

If by any mischance the bowie-knife missed its aim, broke the cord fastening it to the arm, or fell to the earth, revolvers were next resorted to and used with similar dexterity.--The hand-to-hand closing in with both pistol and bowie knife, cutting, slashing, carving and shooting almost in the same moment, was awful beyond description. Blood gushed from hundreds of wounds, until, amid death, pitiful groans and appalling sights, it staunched the very earth. My Zouave champion says himself and comrades did hard fighting, stood up manfully to the murderous conflict, but never before knew what undaunted bravery and courage meant. He felt no further ambition to engage in such rencontres. Having been shot through the wrist by a revolver, after escaping the fearful Mississippi weapons, and disabled from further active participation in the struggle, he willingly retired to reap the glory won, convinced that to fight against Mississippians, with bowie knives and pistols, after receiving a volley of their sharp-cracking rifles, is no ordinary fun.

This same informant states, though not with certainty, that several Baltimoreans were with the Mississippians, and amongst those of them left dead on the field was a young man named Wm. H. Murry, a Captain of the Maryland Guard--at least such was the name told him — and another, who he thinks was called Polk, both of Maryland.
That's the story and I'm not going to change it (after all, I'm just quoting). Here's a rebuttal printed in the same paper:

Quote:
A comment.
The Baltimore South, commenting on the above, says:

In the correspondence of a morning paper, upon no better authority than that of a New York Zouave, whose comrades have shown that they can lie much better than they can fight, a young gentleman of this city, now a Captain in the Confederate army, is mentioned as having been "left dead upon the field," although the next breath, the same Zouave discredits everything that he says, by a monstrous story about a regiment of Mississippians harpooning their adversaries with bowie-knives, eighteen to twenty inches long, fastened to their wrists with a lasso some eight or ten feet in length. Certainly, since Sunday we have been favored with a variety of accounts of the battle by the Northern journals, many of them sufficiently minute, and in which no effort was spared to magnify the horrors of the scene; many of these very Zouaves have told their tale, or had it told for them by some ingenious correspondent; but not one word have we heard of a mode of fighting at once so terrible and so peculiar, that had it been resorted to it must have attracted universal attention, until this single Zouave whispers it in the ear of the Washington correspondent, who publishes it to the world.
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Old October 21, 2006, 11:52 PM   #169
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Dem danged yankees shore is moughty fine liars Ain't they?
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Old November 4, 2006, 03:41 PM   #170
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Scottish Fowl...ymmmm

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A story is told of a certain Scotschman who, shortly after arriving form his native land, procured a position at the Furnace and one day shot some turkey buzzards while wandering around in Pond Creek bottom, mistaking them for a bird he had eaten in Scotland. With these he prepared a surprise dinner for his friends. All enjoyed the meal very much until the "Scoth Fowl" was indulged in. Many commented on the peculiar flavor of the meat, but, fearing they might offend their host by declining to eat abundantly of his much-prized dish, they partook freely. They begged to know more about this peculiar "Scotch fowl." After some persuasion he proudly told them where and howhe had captured this most palatable of birds. The guests threw up their hands in horror. They not only refused to continue the meal, [/b]but even declined to keep what they had already accepted![/b]
So, the next time a kindly country Scotman offers you dinner, ask for Haggis and a lot of it.
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Old November 8, 2006, 06:54 AM   #171
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Lawd's Prayer

This was composed by L. D. Griggs, of Company D, 25th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, while his unit was part of the besieging army before Atlanta:

"Our Father Abraham, who art in Washington, honored be thy name. Thine administration come. Thy will be done in the South, as it is done by the Republicans in the North. Give us this day our daily ration of hard tack, beans and bacon. And forgive us our foraging, as we forgive those who forage upon us. And lead us not into the field of battle, but deliver us from the land of the enemy: for thine is the administration, and the power, so long as thou are in office. Eight men."

Source: History of Muhlenberg County by Otto A. Rothert. fn on page 280.
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Old November 8, 2006, 07:28 AM   #172
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Wood cannon (or kids, don't try this at home)

Definitely do not try this at home. Taken from the History of Muhlenberg County (pages 295-296). Muhlenberg County is in Kentucky. Some background first. Earlier some (pro-Union) youngsters staged several fake raids as if they were members of (Confederate) Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry. They chased "shot" down or captured the fleeing Unionists (their buddies) who previously warned the locals of Forrest's approach. This caused much alarm and left many timid folks shivering. So, along that line, another group of enterprising youths decided to have their share of fun:

Quote:
There were some youngsters who thought if the bogus cavalry could play "Forrest," they could play "Buckner." When Geneal Buckner passed through the county he had several little brass cannons with him, that were greatly admired by all the young fellows who saw them. These boys concluded that they wanted a cannon to shoot and scare the timid natives. Three or four of the youngsters got together and called on Edward O. Pace, then a blacksmith near the Pisgah neighborhood, and asked him if he could help get up a cannon. He said that he could. Pace was then a young man, and although he had been married a few years he nevertheless enjoyed the fun and prank of boys. So he told the youngsters to go to the woods and cut out a black gum log eight or ten inches in diameter and about three feet long and bring it to his shop, and he would manufacture a cannon for them.

A log was procured, taken to Pace's shop at night, and the work on the cannon was commenced at once. The bark was shaved off nicely. Pace had a two-inch auger with a long shank, and with this he bored a hole in the endo fhte log down to a depth of fifteen or sixteen inches; he then had a half-inch auger with a long shank, and with this he bored a hole through the log to the bottom end of a touch hole. He had a lot of old wagon-tires in his shop, and out of these he made a number of bands and drove them on the wooden cannon as close as he could conveniently get them. He then loaded the big gun with some powder and made a trial shot to test its strength. It stood the test and was pronounced ready for "warfare."

The youngsters carried the cannon to a field near Pisgah Church. They procured all the powder they could get, and one night commenced a regular cannonading. They put in heavy charges of powder and the report fairly shook the earth; the noise rolled and reverberated in the distance like thunder. The whole neighborhood became alarmed. Some of the people were badly scared, for they thought Buckner or some other army was right in their midst. James Jones, of Long Creek, who happened to be visiting the nearby house of W. C. Martin, became so frightened at the first shot that he crawled under the bed and remained there for some time. The whole neighborhood was dumfounded a the loud shooting. The roaring of this cannon was heard in Greenville, over on Pond River, and near the Christian County line. The next day there was a considerable stir among the natives, for most of them inquired about the shooting. No one seemed to know who had kept up such a cannonading. In the meantime the boys were reaping the pleasure of having played "Buckner" so well.

After the cannon had rested a while it was taken over on the upper Hopkinsville Road, where some repairs were made on it at the James Rice blacksmith shop, then run by W. H. and E. Rice. E. Rice did the work for the boys, and a few nights later the cannonading was carried on inthat neighborhood, where it caused considerable alarm.

The cannon was next carried near to the house in which Billy D. Rice then lived. There it was again put into service, but before discharging it, E. Rice loaded it with a shop-hammer for a ball and aimed the barrel at a nearby tree. The cannon went off with a tremendous roar and sent the shop-hammer deep into the trunk of the tree, where I presume it has remained buried ever since.
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Old November 8, 2006, 08:52 PM   #173
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Fall in for Militia Muster!

Get your guns, powder horns, scalp'n knives and tomahawks out boys! We're going to conduct a militia muster. It's for the safety of hearth & home, our loved ones, our community and for our nation.

Quote:
...from the year 1825 until the law obliging all men to drill was abolished, the musters were more or less a farce. The laws regulating the militia of the Commonwealth were amended and changed so often that, as a consequence, they became more complicated than the maneuvers were unmilitary. Humphrey Marshall, in 1824 ("History of Kentucky, Vol. 2, page 14), wrote: "It is in vain to suggest tha tneither officer nor soldier will ever trouble himself to know the law, when it may, and probably will, be changed before he has an opportunity of reducing his knowledge to practice." Musters became gatherings in which everybody participated, regardless of age or social position. The men who attended were not so much prompted by a desire to drill, and thus live up to that article of the Constitution, as they were to take advantage of the chance to mingle with the crowd of men, women, and children, renew old friendships, make new ones, hear the news, see the races, trade horses, partake of a good dinner, and incidentally have a good time at "the big to-do."
Sounds like our modern rendezvous, don't they? Read on.

Quote:
The military features of these affairs grew insignificant as compared with those of their social, political, and business nature. The ordinary picnic basket was too small for these gatherings. Trunks and boxes packed with fired chicken, boiled ham, roasted pork, pies and other edibles, with coffee-pots and whiskey-jugs, were brought to the place of rendezvous in wagons, and everybody was welcome to their contents. Gunsmiths were in abundance. Since the greater number of people came in wagons or on horseback, there was neccesarily a large aggregation of horses, from colts and two-year-olds down to worn-out plow-horses, and from carefully groomed quarter-nags to neglected horses whose tails and manes were filled with burrs. This led to the appearance of blacksmiths, who repaired wagons and shod horses. It also resulted in much "horse swapping," which in turn gave occasion for betting and horse-racing. The combination led to drinking, and drinking frequently brought on "fist and skull fights" and other disturbances.

In those days, as in the earlier days, every man furnished his own gun - muzzle-loaders of any sort, flintlock rifles, muskets, shotguns, or horse-pistols. Those who had no firearms to bring, or who had forgotten them, would enter the drills with a trimmed sapling or a cornstalk - consequently the name, the Cornstalk Militia.

When the captain was ready to order his company into ranks he usually mounted a convenient stump, rail fence, or empty barrel and called out: "Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Oh, yes! All you who belong to Captain So-and-So's company (giving his name) fall into ranks and parade!" The "Oh, yes," it might be well to add, is derived from the old French "oyez" - "hear ye." Hence the Court of Oyer and Terminer - to hear and to finish. If the captain's first order failed to move his men he would again appeal to them - "Everybody in my company, off the fence there and fall into line! Now come on, men, come on, everybody, and let's get started with our revolutions!" After all, or nearly all, of his company had responded to his call, he ordered ""Tention, the whole!" after which most men gave him more or less attention. Right or left dress was usually lengthened into the command to "Look to the left and dress!" or right, as the case might be. "Stop!" or "Hold!" was the command for halt. It is also said that although keeping step was a matter indifference or beyond the control of some of the privates, they were nevertheless permitted to remain in ranks and follow as best they could or would through the drills.

Company, battalion, and regimental drills were conducted on the Russell Old Field from May to October, making a total of at least six different musters on that tract every year. It became a great gathering place, especially when a Big Muster (a battalion or regimental drill) was scheduled. Horse-races on such occaisons were then by far the most prominent feature on the program, and they soon became more frauds than the drills were farces...
There's a lot more to this. In our next installment, you'll read more about what happened during a militia muster. Don't miss out on our next exciting installment of Rambling Anecdotes. Brought to you by Rich Lucibella and the staff of TFL.
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Old November 9, 2006, 11:22 PM   #174
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Militia Muster, Part II

We continue our tale of the militia muster.

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Every nation has a memorable day - a day of songs and rejoicings. With us the fourth of July, twenty-second of February, and Christmas, are all holidays, or days of joy and pleasure. But of all the grand days in this martial old Commonwealth of ours, those set apart for militia training are (at least in the estimation of militia captains) the grandest and most exciting. If you should happen within ten miles of a mlitia muster on one of those eventful days, every step you took, and every object that met your gaze, would remind you of war, with its glorious and thrilling panoply, its noise and wild tumult. Boys, negroes, and men, on foot and on horseback, in cart, wagon, and carriage, single, double, and treble, are crowding from every direction and hurrying with anxious speed toward the scene where mimic battles are to be fought and won. Old shotguns, rustly rifles, long-untried fowling-pieces, cornstalks, and hickory sticks are in great demand, while the Sunday fineries, drawn from their secret hiding-places, adorn the martial forms of their proud-treading owners. Cider-wagons, ginger-cakes, apples, whiskey, and all the other et ceteras of the camp, are rushing pellmell into the place of rendezvous. Arriving at the parade field, your ears are greeted with every imaginable noise - the squealing of pigs, neighing of chargers, barking of dogs, braying of asses, laughing of happy negroes, and hoarse commands of military chieftains being mingled together in the most harmonious concord of discord. Jingling spurs, rusty sabers, black cockades, and the fierce little red plume, everywhere meet your wandering eye and fill up the interstices of this moving, animated scene.

Such an exhibition of warlike enthusiasm might have been seen, if you had only been present, dear reader, at Pleasant Grove, on the morning after the night described in our last chapter. Noise and wild confusion were the order of the day. The thrilling fife and a cracked drum were pealing forth their stirring notes, and calling loudly upon the brave sons of old Kentucky to shoulder their arms and sustain the glory of their ancestors. Generals, colonels, majors, captains (we have no lack of titled gentry in Kentucky), and privates were mingled together in a confusd mass, talking, laughing, shouting, swearing, drinking, and eveyr now and then taking a pleasant knock-down, merely to vary the bill of entertainment, keep up the excitement, and cultivate a proper military ardour. Candidates were there, too (like all other aspirants for office), shaking hands, treating, speaking, and making known to the warlike assembly the past, present, and future (they were no prophets, merely reasoning from cause to effect) glory and renown of Kentucky and her gallant sons. Horse-racing, cock-fighting, rifle-shooting, wrestling, and boxing, upon this occaison, all had their votaries, and all were busily engaged in their respective amusements. Bable, in her planiest day, was a mere "tempest in a teapot" compared with a militia muster in the backwoods of Kentucky. The Carnival at Rome or the ancient Saturnalia of the Romans, in the very height of their revelling, would be tame and insipid when placed in juxtaposition with such an occasion. We know of nothing that can be compared, for noise and wild confusion, with a regiment of boisterous, merrry, reckless militia, along with their chivalrous leaders, adorned with flowing red sahs, bullet-button coats, tin-foil epaulets, and stiff, ragged, red plumes, just preceding or succeeding "the training."

But suddenly a great change comes over the moving, tossing mass gathered on the battlefield at Pleasant Grove. Some order (a devilish little, by-the-by, if it can be called order at all) takes the place of the late disorder, and a comparative calm - in a figurative sense - settles down upon this raging storm. The commanding officer of the day, strippling his saddle of its red girth, belts on his trusty, trenchant blade, dons his swallow-tailed blue, adorned with bullet-buttons and red tape, borrows the best charger he can find, scrambles on his back with the assistance of a stump or a kind hand, and, when once safely moored, waves his plumed beaver around his warlike head and shouts his order to parade. Now comes a busy, stirring, wild and moving panorama. Men, before ignoble and unknown from the common herd, draw from their bosoms, pockets, and hats the red plume and sash (that is if they are so lucky to have any), and soon become leaders and chieftains of the day. A fierce struggle now commences who shall get their companies first formed into a line, or who shall first gain a preemption right to the shade of a tree, under which to marshal and form. Although each company has, or rather has had at some former time, a captain and inferior officers (for they often assemble on parade-ground with out any), in reality every man in the corps, being fully competent to command, takes the responsibility of giving orders.
In our next installment, we'll learn more about how the companies form up and drilled.
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Old November 12, 2006, 08:03 PM   #175
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Militia Muster (final installent)

In our final installment, we learn the difficulties of the militia.

Quote:
It may be thought an easy matter by the inexperienced to form a company of men into a straight line; but if it is so, our militia captains have never discovered that fact. They commence at one end of the winding line, and with threats, entreaties, and much trouble to get a tolerably fair and straight row, especially if there be any corn-ridges in the immediate neighborhood, but, unfortunately, before they reach the other extreme, their soldiers having a predisposition for Mahometanism, are generally in a crescent, and then they are compelled to begin afresh. And thus we have seen them go on for hours and hours, and at last end of their labours, not being in much better array or condition than at the beginning of their arduous and impossible undertaking. Tall, low, long, short, thin, and fat, old and young, men and boys, clothed with fur and wool hats, caps, and no hats at all; cloth coats and jeans, calico and linsey, and no coats at all; boots, shoes, and moccasins, and no shoes at all; new and old pants, white, black, and striped, and no pants at all; shirts ruffled and unruffled, white, black, green, and gray, cotton, linen, and calico, and no shirts at all - are all mingled together in the most beautiful and checkered confusion, giving a motley and ludicrous appearance to the ununiformed, straggling, and crooked corps.

The officers are generally the most silly and ignorant men of the community, for none but such will seek a command in so farcical a concern as a militia company; and most frequently elected, as the saying is, unanimously, for they are considered most “unanimous fools,” and no one will vote either for or against them. As for a knowledge of military tactics, they never dream of any such thing. They are unable (with a few exceptions, of course) to form even a straight line, unless they have the assistance of a ditch or a corn-row, and as for giving any other orders save “About face!” to which they add “right!”) “March!” it is a thing not only unknown but unheard of. Those who can read are accustomed to carry “Scott’s Tactics” in their pockets, from which they read out the different commands for manoeuvres, but as for knowing what it is then to be done, after spelling through the various movements, they don’t think of such a thing, for it is none of their business. They are placed there to give the orders, and it is the duty of the company to obey; and if they fail to do so, then it is their own fault, for their skilful captains have read out all the necessary instructions as plain as Scott himself could give them.
If militia musters were like this, I'd attend too for fun & food.
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