The Civil War was the most momentous event in American History. It was strictly an "American affair," fought right in our own backyards. Descriptions of the battlefields abound with designations of peach orchard, cornfield, wheatfield, etc. Armies occupied towns, sometimes outnumbering the inhabitants by 100 to 1. The armies, mostly without payment, consumed everything the inhabitants had, and destroyed, intentionally or unintentionally, their crops and property. Most of the single young men were in the service and even many of the older men with families. In both cases, men often returned as invalids, or did not return at all. It was impossible to ignore this war; it was everywhere and sentiments ran high on both sides. It was truly a brother against brother fight; many families had soldiers on both sides, including the Vanderfords.
The following Vanderfords are documented as serving for the Union in the war:
The following Vanderfords are documented as serving for the Confederacy:
Of the half million men who enlisted in the armies of one side or the other, fewer than 16,000 were regular soldiers. The majority were farmers, men or boys, who had never been away from home. The adjustment from farmer to soldier was difficult and at times nearly unbearable. William R. Vanderford (4054) of Company K, 88th Indiana Volunteers contacted a spinal fever which left him partially deaf and blind and permanently debilitated. D. J. Bowman of Larwill, Indiana on April 22, 1885 wrote the following account of the events leading to William's sickness.
"...Our Regiment the 88 was organized at Fort Wayne, Indiana about August the 12th, 1862, put in heavy woolen uniforms instead of our light summer clothing. We were soon hurried off to Louisville, Kentucky to defend that city against General Bragg who passed that way. After General Buell and his army arrived at Louisville his army was reorganized including our Regiment 88 and a general review had of all the troops. Our Regiment being new and not accustomed to marching were ordered out for review, comrade William R. Vanderford was present and in good health. With packed knapsacks on and 40 rounds of cartridges, canteens filled and I think only 2 days rations, we were marched from Camp Gates to Louisville some 8 miles and halted on one of the principle streets of the city, paved with cobble stone. At about 11 o'clock A.M. the thermostat about 115 here we were allowed to rest in places in the center of the street. But not allowed to break ranks under any circumstances, not even to get a good cool drink from a pump nearby. We rested (or rather roasted) in the broiling hot sun for some two long hours or more. Then the marching commenced and continued without halting, over different streets, for about 2 hours, when all at once, men began to drop, right and left, some insensible. The troops halted without orders, the officers on horseback put forth every effort to continue the march making threats, drawing swords, and revolvers, but all in vain. The hot sun, heavy loads and continuous marching had done its work on the new troops and our Regiment was unable to move till late in the evening and then but a few miles out and camped for the night. Some companies only having 6 to 8 men on reaching camp. There were some deaths at the time, some lingered for days and died and many sustained lasting injuries. Soon after this, about October 1st 1862 we started for Perryville, went through the Battle and on to Crab Orchard, thence to Bowling Green and on to North Rolling Forks (all in the state of Kentucky) where we were promised tents, not having had any tents or shelter since leaving Louisville and endured a number of cold rains and a snow storm of 5 to 6 inches about the 25th of October 1862 at North Rolling Forks before getting our tents. After receiving tents we marched to Mitchellsville, Tennessee where comrade William R. Vanderford entirely broke down and took very sick."45
Even under horrible conditions, it was possible to take a few moments to rest and write a letter home. Lieutenant Alonzo A. Vanderford (3056) of Company D, 21st South Carolina Infantry was on the lines near Chickahominy, Virginia when his fellow officer Samuel D. Sanders wrote home on June 2, 1864: "I am sitting where the bullets are flying every minute nearly and there has scarcely been a moment today when our arms have ceased to send their din through the air. I am tired down with marching, fighting, working and watching. A very unpromising condition to write...Since I last wrote we have been moved to General Lee's Army above Richmond. And we have been busy fighting nearly every day."46
To be effective an army needs equipment and this task fell to ordnance officers like Captain Charles F. Vanderford (3047). It was his job to obtain the equipment and assure that it was distributed to the fighting men. Captain Charles based his munitions requisitions on weekly armament and ammunition reports submitted to him by each battalion commander. On April 27, 1863, Captain Charles was still waiting for the delivery of over 44,600 rifles he had ordered, including 31,000 58 caliber rifle muskets, 9,600 577 caliber Enfields and 4,000 69 caliber Bunch and Bulls. As ordnance officer for Cleburne's Division, Captain Charles wrote to Lieutenant Colonel H. Oladowski, Chief Ordnance Officer, Army of Tennessee, requesting that his order be filled. He added "Will be very glad however to get any portion of the items required."47
On April 29th, 1862, J. B. M. Tracy replied to a letter from his sister, Miss Jane Tracy. From this letter, we know that William M. Vanderford (3054), who was only 17, was interested in corresponding with Miss Jane, and that her brother, like most brothers, recommended against it. Hopefully, she ignored his advice.
Fredericksburg - December 13, 1862
On November 5, 1862, Lincoln had finally had enough of General McClellan's indecisiveness, and replaced him with Major General Ambrose E. Burnside. Lincoln wanted action and he got just that. Unfortunately for the Union the place chosen for this action was Fredericksburg. The Confederates occupied the heights above Fredericksburg, turning it into a nearly impregnable fortress. Six Union assaults were turned back before nightfall ended the slaughter.
William M. Vanderford (3054) and his brother Wade Hampton Vanderford (3055) were in the 15th South Carolina Infantry, part of Kershaw's Brigade, which was assigned to the sunken road and stone wall below the heights. This position had a critical role in the battle. Hampton was probably wounded at Fredericksburg, as he appeared on the list of wounded soldiers shortly thereafter. He recovered, but later died of wounds received at Gettysburg.
Lieutenant-General James Longstreet, the commander of the First Army Corps at Fredericksburg, wrote the following:
"In front of Marye's Hill is a plateau, and immediately at the base of the hill there is a sunken road known as the Telegraph road. On the side of the road next to the town was a stone-wall, shoulder-high, against which the earth was banked, forming an almost unapproachable defense. It was impossible for the troops occupying it to expose more than a small portion of their bodies. Behind this stone-wall I had placed about twenty-five hundred men, being all of General T. R. R. Cobb's brigade, and a portion of the brigade of General Kershaw, both of McLaws's division. It must now be understood that the Federals, to reach what appeared to be my weakest point, would have to pass directly over this wall held by Cobb's infantry.
"An idea of how well Marye's Hill was protected may be obtained from the following incident: General E. P. Alexander, my engineer and superintendent of artillery, had been placing the guns, and in going over the field with him before the battle, I noticed an idle cannon. I suggested that he place it so as to aid in covering the plain in front of Marye's Hill. He answered: 'General, we cover that ground now so well that we will comb it as with a fine-tooth comb. A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it.'"49
Major-General Lafayette McLaws, the division commander, described the battle as follows:
"My line of defense was a broken one, running from the left along the sunken road, near the foot of Marye's Hill, where General Cobb's brigade (less the 16th Georgia) was stationed. During the 12th the defenses of this line had been extended beyond the hill by an embankment thrown up to protect the right from sharp-shooters, as also to resist assaults that might be made from that direction, and then the line was retired a hundred or more yards to the foot of the hills in the rear, along which was extended Kershaw's brigade of South Carolina troops, and General Barksdale's Mississippians, from left to right, the brigade of General Semmes being held in reserve. The Washington Artillery, under Colonel Walton, were in position on the crest of Marye's Hill over the heads of Cobb's men and two brigades under General Ransom were held here in reserve. The heights above Kershaw and Barksdale were crowned with 18 rifle-guns and 8 smooth-bores belonging to the batteries, and a number of smooth-bores from the reserve artillery. The troops could not see the sunken road, near the foot of Marye's hill, nor do I think they were aware, until it was made known to them by our fire, that there was an infantry force anywhere except on top of the hill, as Ransom's troops could be seen there, in reserve, and the men in the sunken road were visible at a short distance only.
"Soon after 11 am the enemy approached the left of my line by the Telegraph road, and, deploying to my right, came forward and planted guidons or standards (whether to mark their advance or to aid in the alignment I do not know), and commenced firing; but the fire from our artillery, and especially the infantry fire from Cobb's brigade, so thinned their ranks that the line retreated without advancing, leaving their guidons planted. Soon another force, heavier than the first, advanced, and were driven back with great slaughter. They were met on retiring by reinforcements, and advanced, again, but were again repulsed, with great loss."50
There was a lull in activity around 1 pm which allowed ammunition and reinforcements to be brought forward. General Cobb had been severely wounded and General Kershaw was directed to take command of the force at the foot of Marye's Hill. In a letter dated December 6th, 1887, General J. B. Kershaw described his troop deployment at that time.
"In the morning of that day, my troops were stationed at the foot of Lee's Hill. After the assaults on General Cobb's position had commenced, I was directed to send two of my regiments to reenforce Cobb, and did so. Before they had reached him, tidings arrived of the fall of General Cobb, and I was immediately ordered to take the rest of my brigade to the position held by his forces, and assume command of the troops of McLaws's division there. I preceded my troops, and as soon as possible arrived at the Stevens House at the foot of Marye's Hill. As my brigade arrived they were placed - two regiments, the 3d and 7th South Carolina, at Marye's House on the hill, and the rest of them in the sunken road, with the left resting about the Stevens House. The last regiment that arrived was the 15th South Carolina (Colonel De Sussure's). He sheltered his command behind the cemetery on the hill until his proper position was made known, when he moved deliberately and in perfect order down the road to the Stevens House, and proceeded to the right of my line. ...I had [engaged] five regiments and a battalion (my entire brigade), each of which suffered more or less severely."51
At around 2:45 pm the Union made a heavy assault on the left, but all the reinforcements were in place. Major-General McLaws continues with the description of the battle:
"...The enemy, then deploying in a ravine about three hundred yards from the stone-wall, advanced with fresh lines of attack at short intervals, but were always driven back with great loss. This was kept up until about 4:30 pm, when the assaults ceased for a time; but the enemy, posting artillery on the left of the Telegraph road, opened on our position; however, they did no damage worth particularizing.
"The enemy in the meanwhile formed a strong column of lines of attack, and advancing under cover of their own artillery, and no longer impeded by ours, came forward along our whole front in the most determined manner; but by this time, as just explained, I had lines four deep throughout the whole sunken road, and beyond the right flank. The front rank, firing, stepped back, and the next in rear took its place and, after firing, was replaced by the next, and so on in rotation. In this way the volley firing was made nearly continuous, and the file firing very destructive. The enemy were repulsed at all points.
"The last charge was made after sundown - in fact, it was already dark in the valley. A Federal officer who was in that assault told me that the first discharge at them was a volley, and the bullets went over their heads "in sheets," and that his command was ordered to lie down, and did lie down for a full half-hour and then retired, leaving a large number of killed and wounded. The firing ceased as darkness increased, and about 7 pm the pickets of the opposing forces were posted within a short distance of each other, my pickets reporting noises as of movements of large bodies of troops in the city.
"Thus ended the battle. The enemy remained in possession of the city until the night of the 15th, and then retired across the Rappahannock, resuming their former positions, and Kershaw's brigade of my division re-occupied the city. My loss in killed, wounded, and missing was 853; of which number 67 were missing, 62 being from Barksdale's brigade, 100 of the 853 being killed. Over 200 of the number were killed or disabled in Kershaw's command while taking positions to defend my left flank."52
Stone's River or Murfreesboro - December 31, 1862 to January 2, 1863
Major-General William S. Rosecrans commanding about 47,000 troops at Nashville, Tennessee was under a great deal of pressure from Washington to launch an offensive. On the day after Christmas the Union army started to move southward. Richard Clark Vanderford (4031), who had previously been wounded in the shoulder at Shiloh, was in Company C, 30th Indiana Infantry. His regiment was part of McCook's Corps, Johnson's 2nd Division and Kirk's 2nd (late the 5th) Brigade. On December 29th they marched by the Nolensville Pike to Triune, bivouacking at Overall's Creek. They lay on wet ground without fires, under a drenching rain.
The Confederates had slightly less than 35,000 men under Major-General Braxton Bragg, who had come under severe criticism for his handling of the Perryville Campaign. Bragg chose to make his stand just north of Murfreesboro in relatively open country dotted with patches of red cedar and divided by the meandering, easily fordable, Stone's River. There were no particular geographic advantages to this position, but Bragg did not intend to remain on the defensive.
At 3 in the morning of the 30th, McCook's Corps moved into position on the Wilkinson Turnpike with Johnson's Division held in reserve.
"General Rosecrans objected to the direction of McCook's line, and said it should face strongly south, and that Johnson's Division, in column of regiments at half distance, should be held in reserve in rear of Davis's right at close musketrange; but he left the arrangement of his right wing with the corps commander who had been over the ground. The right wing generally occupying a wooded ridge with open ground in front, was further protected from surprise by an outlook over a narrow cultivated valley, widening from left to right from 200 to 500 yards, beyond which, in a dense cedar thicket, the enemy's lines were dimly visible. During the afternoon, General McCook being informed that his line was greatly overlapped by the enemy, Johnson's Division was moved up on Davis's right. Kirk's Brigade on the left was formed on the right of Post, but was advanced slightly to obtain position in the front edge of woodland, commanding the ground in front. Willich's line was to the right and rear of Kirk's, and Baldwin was in reserve. Confidence in the strength and staying qualities of his troops, and reluctance to yield a favorable position without a struggle, together with the fact that the retirement of his line must be executed in the night, induced General McCook to make the fatal mistake of leaving his position unchanged."53
On the night of the 30th both commanders planned their attacks. Both planned to attack the right side of the other's line. If they had attacked simultaneously it would have resulted in a revolving door motion. That was not to be the case, however, since Rosecrans directed his attack to begin at 7 am and Bragg directed his to begin at first light.
"The Confederate movement began at daybreak. General Hardee moved his two divisions with the precision that characterized that able commander. McCown, deflecting to the west, as he advanced to the attack, left an opening between his right and Wither's left, into which Cleburne's Division fell, and together the two divisions charged upon R. W. Johnson and Davis, while yet the men of those divisions were preparing breakfast. There was no surprise. The first movement in their front was observed by the Union skirmish line, but that first movement was a rush as of a tornado. The skirmishers fell back steadily, fighting, upon the main line, but the main line was overborne by the fury of the assault. Far to the right, overlapping R. W. Johnson, the Confederate line came sweeping on like the resistless tide, driving artillerists from their guns and infantry from their encampments. Slowly the extreme right fell back, at first contesting every inch of ground. In Kirk's Brigade 500 men were killed or wounded in a few minutes, Willich lost nearly as many."54
It was during this early fighting that Richard received a gunshot wound to the left knee. By 10 am the Union army's right wing had folded back on itself; but continued to hold against a series of costly Confederate attacks. When night fell, it was plain that Bragg had won a victory but that it was incomplete. After some more action on January 2nd, Bragg, still badly outnumbered and seriously weakened by the fighting, determined that nothing more could be gained on that battlefield. On the next night the Confederates retreated southward.
The South suffered 12,000 casualties and the north 13,000. Richard was sent to the Main Street U.S.A. General Hospital in Covington, Kentucky which is probably where they removed the bullet in his left knee. Later he convalesced at the Soldiers Home in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was discharged at the end of September 1864, nearly two years after the battle of Stone's River, on a surgeon's certificate of disability, having sustained two serious wounds. Richard was still not ready to quit, however, and in February 1865 he enlisted under his middle name "Clark" as a Sergeant in Company F, 152nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry, in which he was again injured while under a forced march in the Shenandoah Valley very late in the war.
Gettysburg - July 1-3, 1863
At Gettysburg there were Vanderfords present on both sides of the battle. Alexander Vanderford (3010) was in the 73rd Ohio Infantry, which was part of Smith's 2nd Brigade, Steinwehr's 2nd Division, of Howard's 11th Army Corps. On July 1st, 1863, Smith's brigade was kept in reserve on Cemetery Hill, and did not take part in the fighting and retreat through the town of Gettysburg. The next day, they were deployed on the northwestern edge of Cemetery Hill. During one of the skirmishes, Alexander was wounded in both legs by a single bullet.
On the confederate side there were many instances of brothers fighting in the same company. William M. (3054) and Wade Hampton (3055) were with the 15th South Carolina Infantry, Kershaw's Brigade, under McLaws and Longstreet. Hampton died of his wounds received on July 2nd, during the famous battles for the Peach Orchard and Wheatfield below Cemetery Ridge. On the 1st of July, about sunset, they encamped about two miles from Gettysburg on top of a range of hills from which they could see and hear the smoke and din of the battle. They were ready to move at 4 am on the 2nd and after a variety of delays, much marching and changes in orders they arrived back at the place where they had rested during the morning. From there they took a country road to Willoughby Run and down that to the school-house beyond Pitzer's. They turned left and moved directly toward Little Round Top. It was here that General Longstreet ordered them to attack the enemy at the Peach Orchard, which was to their left six hundred yards away. Kershaw, the Brigade Commander, picks up the description:
"I now ascertained that Barksdale had advanced upon the Peach Orchard after I had become engaged; that he had cleared that position with the assistance of my 8th South Carolina regiment, driving all before him, and, having advanced far beyond that point, until enveloped by superior forces, had fallen mortally wounded, and been left in the Federal's hands. He had passed too far to my left to afford me any relief except in silencing the batteries that had so cruelly punished my left. When Barksdale passed to the left, the regiments of my left wing moved up into the wood on the left of the stony hill, and maintained that position against heavy odds, until the advance of Wofford's brigade.
"When the enemy fell back from the stony hill on General Wofford's advance, the 15th South Carolina and a portion of Semmes's brigade followed them and joined Wofford in his attack upon the retreating column. I rallied the remainder of my brigade and Semmes's at Rose's, with the assistance of Colonel Sorrel of Longstreet's staff, and advanced with them to the support of Wofford, taking position at the stone wall overlooking the forest to the right of Rose's house, some two hundred yards in front. Finding that Wofford's men were coming out, I retained them at that point to check any attempt of the enemy to follow, It was now near nightfall, and the operations of the day were over. That night we occupied the ground over which we had fought, with my left at the Peach Orchard, on the hill, and gathered the dead and wounded - a long list of brave and efficient officers and men. Captain Cunningham's company of the 2d regiment was reported to have gone into action with forty men, of whom but four remained unhurt to bury their fallen comrades. My losses exceeded 600 men killed and wounded, - about one-half the force engaged."55
Richard A. Vanderford (4090) was in Company C, Third Battalion, Georgia Sharpshooters, in Wofford's Brigade, under McLaws and Longstreet. On the 2nd, they joined in the attack on the Peach Orchard, attacking directly from the west, while the two South Carolina Vanderfords in Kershaw's Brigade were attacking from the south.
"Kershaw's advance, though delayed by numerous fences, the buildings of Rose's farm, swampy ground near it, and the raking fire of Union batteries, reached the ridge overlooking the Wheatfield and brought relief to Anderson's Brigade before he himself encountered the enemy's infantry. The respite was only temporary, however, for Kershaw could see two battle lines moving rapidly across the Wheatfield in the direction of his right flank. These troops were men of Caldwell's Second and Third Brigades, tough veterans who hit Kershaw with sledgehammer blows, overlapped his right wing, and began pressing it back. His left regiments were having better luck, and one of them charged a battery just east of the Peach Orchard to silence it. But Kershaw desperately needed help on his right. He hurried back to fetch up Semmes's Brigade, over which he had temporary command by virtue of his seniority in rank and perhaps the exigencies of combat. Though Semmes fell mortally wounded just as the brigade started forward, it continued to advance in support of Kershaw's right until Caldwell's men stopped it."56
"Shortly thereafter Brigadier General William Barksdale's Mississippians of McLaws' Division, who had been impatiently awaiting the command to start from a position on Warfield Ridge just north of the Fairfield crossroad, at last sprang forward and crushed all opposition in their irresistible sweep. Over 100 feet to the rear Wofford's men had lain in wait, and as soon as Barksdale got in motion they came rushing forward to back him up. Once across the Emmitsburg road immediately to the north of the Peach Orchard, all of Barksdale's Brigade except the 21st Mississippi under Colonel B. G. Humphreys angled to the left in conformity to Lee's original plan to hit Cemetery Ridge obliquely. The 21st Mississippi and Wofford's men pushed straight ahead and became one jaw of a pincers, while the left regiments of Kershaw's brigade became the other; together they soon squeezed the Union troops out of the salient of the Peach Orchard. Kershaw's men then wheeled to the right and in line with Humphreys' Mississippians and Wofford's Brigade used the Fairfield crossroad as a guide to the northern edge of the Wheatfield and from there on toward Little Round Top. As the Confederates overran the Peach Orchard they captured over 250 prisoners including General Graham."57
John J. (4096) and K. Y. (4097) Vanderford were both in the 12th Mississippi Infantry, in Posey's Brigade under Anderson and A. P. Hill. On the 2nd they were located near the north end of Cemetery Ridge, not far from Alexander Vanderford's (3010) position. They should have joined their fellow Vanderfords from Mississippi in the attack on the northern end of Cemetery Ridge, but there was a breakdown in Anderson's command.
"As for the other two brigades of Hill's Corps which were supposed to join in the attack, Brigadier General Carnot Posey's Brigade never did join the fray on Wright's left. Though Anderson had instructed him to advance once Wright had started, Posey failed to get his regiments into battle formation, probably because he misunderstood Anderson's orders. He kept his men deployed as skirmishers, and they never did get much beyond the Bliss house and buildings, which were about 1,200 feet west of the Emmitsburg road."58
Some writers have concluded that the three brigades unassisted by the rest of the division came very close to winning the battle, and that with a little extra effort Lee might have won the battle that day, and seen history changed. Others think not. In fact, the battle was lost, leading to Picket's deadly charge the following day.
On July 3rd Joseph J. (5034) and William B. (5035) Vanderford of Company B, 52nd North Carolina Infantry in Pettigrew's (later Marshall's) 1st Brigade, under Heth and A. P. Hill, participated in Pickett's famous charge. The column of attack was composed of the divisions of Pickett and Pettigrew, to be supported by Wilcox and the brigades of Lane and Scales under Trimble. All reports of the advance concur in the statement that the troops moved over the field and into the fire of the enemy's batteries in beautiful order. Coming under the canister fire of the batteries on the crest, the ranks began rapidly to thin and officers to fall, but the advance was steady. General Trimble, riding with his line, then 100 yards in rear of Pettigrew, said:
"Notwithstanding the losses as we advanced, the men marched with the deliberation and accuracy of men on drill. I observed the same in Pettigrew's line."59
On the right, Pickett's Division of Kemper's, Garnett's and Armistead's Brigades, took the advance Federal line concealed in the undergrowth about 140 yards below the crest of Cemetery Hill. However the enemy's batteries opened up from both Cemetery Hill and Little Round Top. "Of the three brigades scarcely a picket line was left to grapple with the battle array of their foe. The remnant gave up the fight and left the field."60
On the left, Pettigrew and Trimble carried their battle to the Emmitsburg road and to the advanced line. Archer's Brigade, on Garnett's immediate left, had 13 color-bearers shot one after another in gallant efforts to plant the colors of his five regiments on the stone wall. The direction of the Federal line was oblique to the general line of advance. Pettigrew's line was exposed longest to the front and flank fire, and at the Emmitsburg road he had suffered more severely than Pickett's Brigades. When Pettigrew was yet 150 yards from the Emmitsburg road, says General Trimble, who was about that distance in his rear, "They seemed to sink into the earth from the tempest of fire poured into them." Although wounded, Pettigrew led his line across the road and against the first line, but his brigades were shattered too badly to make organized assault further.61
Second Lieutenant John H. Robinson of Company B, 52nd North Carolina Infantry who took part in the charge describes it thusly:
"Between 1 and 2 o'clock in the afternoon our guns opened upon the enemy's batteries and elicited a prompt and spirited reply. This artillery duel was continued for the space of about two hours without intermission, and the roar of the guns and bursting of shell were frightful to hear and dreadful to contemplate. A slackening of the enemy's fire was taken advantage of to advance the column of attack. In obedience to orders the line moved gallantly and steadily forward under fire of our guns until it reached a point beyond which it was unsafe to fire over our heads. Steadily the advance was made, and as steadily and cooly met with a murderous fire from the enemy's cannon, charged with grape, shrapnel and canister. Still the line advnaced, and at every step our comrades fell on every side, killed or wounded. Still we advanced under the incessant discharge of the cannon, assisted by the infantry's rifles, and had almost attained success, when by the overpowering force and almost impregnable position of the enemy, our lines were forced back, and then the slaughter was terrific. We fell back to the point from which the attack was made, rallying all whom it was possible to reach, and reforming our shattered lines."62
There they held their lines during the night of July 3rd and the day of July 4th. They strengthened their lines as best they could expecting an attack by the Federal army. "As no advance was made by the enemy, General Lee began to retire in the direction of the Potomac on the night of the 4th."63
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