Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 5

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 5:  Tidewater Time

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men.  From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River.  The Berrien Minute Men arrived in early October and were stationed on Sapelo Island along with the Thomas County Guards, Thomas County Volunteers and Ochlocknee Light Infantry.  Regimental officers were elected by the first of November. Through the fall, the men bided their time, fighting boredom and disease…

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service

The soldiers of the 29th Georgia Regiment lamented their defensive position so far from the action of the war.   William J. Lamb and Thomas L. Lamb left the Berrien Minute Men in October to join Company E, 54th GA Regiment. Moses Giddens and John F. Parrish  left camp by the end of October. Parrish was a miller and took an exemption from military duty for service essential to the war effort; he later served as a judge in Berrien County. William Anderson, Enos J. Connell and Newton A. Carter left sick, but later returned to the regiment on Sapelo.

While languishing on the tidewater, the closest the 29th Regiment came to an enemy engagement was listening to the sounds of the Battle of Port Royal on November 7, 1861. Some 60 miles from the men on Sapelo Island, cannonade sounds from Port Royal may have carried over the distance due to an acoustic refraction caused by atmospheric conditions.  In the right combination, wind direction, wind shear, and temperature inversions in the atmosphere may cause sound waves to refract upwards then be bent back towards the ground many miles away. Numerous cases of acoustic refraction and acoustic shadows in Civil War battles have been documented.

Sounds of the Battle of Port Royal were heard sixty miles away by the Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island, GA.

Sounds of the Battle of Port Royal were heard sixty miles away by the Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island, GA.

The Battle of Port Royal was one of the earliest amphibious operations of the Civil War, in which a US Navy fleet under Commodore Samuel Francis Dupont and US Army expeditionary force of 15,000 troops under General Thomas West Sherman captured Port Royal and Beaufort,  South Carolina. The Confederate forces  defending the harbor at Fort Walker on Hilton Head and Fort Beauregard in Bay Point were completely routed  after a four hour naval bombardment.

Sergeant Robert Goodwin “Bobbie” Mitchell, of the Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Company E, 29th Georgia Infantry wrote  to his sweetheart, Amaretta “Nettie” Fondren in a letter home dated November 11, 1861, “How bad did it make me feel to remain here and listen to the booming of the cannon and not knowing but what every shot was sending death to some noble Georgian’s heart…How my blood boiled to be there.”

Sergeant Mitchell’s letter also reported that Colonel Spalding had gotten “shamefully drunk.” That fact was known to Spalding’s fellow plantation owners as well.  Charles C. Jones, who was Mayor of Savannah until August, 1861, wrote  in a letter to his father on November 9, 1861, that Colonel Spalding was supposed to have taken the regiment to South Carolina to participate in the defense of Port Royal, but it was rumored he was too drunk to do so.

The Battle of Port Royal dramatically exposed the vulnerability of the Confederate coast, ultimately leading to the abandonment of the Georgia sea islands.

 “The attack on Port Royal had a major impact on General Robert E. Lee, who took command of the Confederate Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida on November 8, 1861. As a result of his observations of the potential of the Union naval forces, Lee determined that the dispersed garrisons and forts that protected the widely scattered inlets and rivers could not be strengthened enough to defeat Union naval forces. Accordingly, he concentrated the South’s coastal guns at Charleston and Savannah. Making use of the Confederacy’s interior lines of communication, Lee developed quick-reaction forces that could move along the coastal railroads to prevent a Union breakthrough.” – HistoryNet

For a while after the fall of Port Royal, time continued to drag for the Berrien soldiers on the Georgia tidewater. The sick roll continued to grow. Isaac Baldree, John M. Bonds, John W. Beaty, James Crawford, William W. Foster, John P. Griffin, John L. Hall, George H. Harrell, Burrell H. Howell, Bedford Mitchell James, James S. Lewis, Thomas J. Lindsey, Edward Maloy, Newton McCutcheon, Samuel Palin,Thomas Palin, A.D. Patterson, John W. Powell, William J. Powell, James S. Roberts, Jason Sapp, Sidney M. Sykes, Levi T. Smith, Charles N. Talley, James B. White  and Thomas W. Beaty of Captain Wyllys’ company of Berrien Minute Men were absent on sick leave. Hyram F. Harrell, of Captain Lamb’s Company, left sick; he died on February 4, 1862.  On November 27, Hansell H. Seward and James A. Slater of the Ochlocknee Light Infantry were discharged from service at Darien, GA.

On Sunday, December 1, 1861,  Pvt. William Washington Knight wrote his wife that the weather was unseasonably warm.  William and his brother John were recuperating from severe colds.  Several of the men in camp on Sapelo Island were sick, and measles was spreading among the men.   William and his father, Major Levi J. Knight, were  up the river at Darien, GA, where they attended church together.  The town was later described by Union officer Luis F. Emilio, “Darien, the New Inverness of early days, was a most beautiful town…A broad street extended along the river, with others running into it, all shaded with mulberry and oak trees of great size and beauty. Storehouses and mills along the river-bank held quantities of rice and resin. There might have been from seventy-five to one hundred residences in the place. There were three churches, a market-house, jail, clerk’s office, court-house, and an academy.”   Wharves and docks were along the river.

Hugh E. Benton of the Thomas County Volunteers deserted the regiment on December 4, 1861. By this time, Sergeant Mitchell was frustrated and disgusted with the long inactivity of the 29th GA Regiment on Sapelo Island.  In his letter of December 9, 1861, from Sapelo, Mitchell complained of boredom in the camp.  Historian Lesley J. Gordan summarized Mitchell’s  despondence:

Far from the front, he found himself doing “nothing exciting or encouraging.”  The army seemed “cruel and despotic in its nature,” and he grew annoyed with the antics of his fellow soldiers, whom he deemed “rough and unrefined.”  

By mid-December, Berrien Minute Men Company D were on station at Camp Security.  Little is known about this camp except that it was “near Darien, GA” which would seem to place it on the mainland, rather than on the islands. Another soldier’s letter written from Camp Security and postmarked at Darien describes Camp Security as “one of the most abominable places on earth.”

Measles were soon rampant among the men. On December 18, Pvt. William Washington Knight wrote  from Camp Security, “Nearly all of our company have the measles.     Capt [John C.] Lamb has it.   We have eighteen privates fit for duty.    Reddin B. Parrish of our company son of Ezekiel Parrish died yesterday evening at sundown.     He was one of the best steadyest young men in our company.   Capt Lamb sent him home last night to be buried.”  The body of Redding Byrd Parrish was returned to Berrien County, GA.  The internment was at Pleasant Cemetery near Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.

Grave of Redding Byrd Parrish, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Parrish died of measles December 17, 1861 while serving with the Berrien Minute Men at Camp Security, McIntosh County, GA. Image source: Terrell Anderson.

Grave of Redding Byrd Parrish, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Parrish died of measles December 17, 1861, while serving with the Berrien Minute Men at Camp Security, McIntosh County, GA. Image source: Terrell Anderson.

There were some sixty men of the regiment sick with measles including John Knight, Ed Lamb, J.S. Roberts, Jasper M. Roberts, John Clemants, and John W. McClellan among others.

On December 14, 1861, Colonel Randolph Spaulding resigned his position for unknown reasons. In a new election, Captain William H Echols, was elected Colonel of the regiment. But the Confederate War Department declined to permit Echols to accept the position, and he remained in his position with the Confederate Corps of Engineers.  Another election was then ordered and William J. Young was elected and commissioned as Colonel of the Regiment.

Most of the men recovered from the measles. Some didn’t. Nathan B. Stephens of the Thomasville Guards died of measles on December 11, 1861, at Darien. Henry C. McCrary died of measles on Christmas Day.  On New Year’s Eve, John C. Clements was put on sick leave.  Sergeant Lewis E. Cumby of the Thomas County Volunteers was sent home with measles and pneumonia and died on New Year’s Day, 1862.  Elbert J. Chapman, known to the Berrien Minute Men as “Old Yaller,” was furloughed. Chapman later deserted the Berrien Minute Men, joined another unit, was court martialed and executed for the desertion. John A. Parrish and John M. Griffin were absent on sick leave; Griffin never returned. E. Q. Bryant of the Thomas County Volunteers was at home sick.   Harrison Jones of the Berrien Minute Men was discharged with a disability January 12, 1862. Stephen N. Roberts and James S. Roberts, kinsmen of John W. Hagan, went home sick.  James returned to the regiment by February, 1862, but Stephen never recovered; he finally succumbed to pneumonia in Lowndes County, on January 6, 1863.

On January 1, and again on January 4, 1862,  Sergeant Mitchell wrote that there was drinking and fighting among the men.   The conditions of camp life had taken their toll on the morale of the men, but soon the 29th Georgia Regiment would be reported ready for action.

About Robert Goodwin Mitchell:

Robert Goodwin Mitchell was born on a plantation in Thomas county, Georgia, July 15, 1843, a son of Richard Mitchell and Sophronia Dickey. His father had served as a state representative from Pulaski County, before settling in Thomas. After some preliminary work in the neighborhood schools, Robert Goodwin Mitchell attended Fletcher Institute, at Thomasville, and later he was a student in the preparatory department of Mercer University for one term. When but eighteen years old, he volunteered for the Confederate service at Thomasville, and was mustered in Savannah in July, 1861, as color bearer, in Company E of the 29th Regiment. Mitchell had the natural countenance of a leader; He stood 6′ 2″, with blonde hair, grey eyes and a dark complexion. He was soon  appointed sergeant and at the re-organization in 1862, was made second lieutenant. When Gen. C. C. Wilson, of the 21st Regiment, was put in command of the brigade, including the 29th Georgia Infantry, Mitchell was appointed to the General’s staff as aide-de-camp. He married Amaretta Fondren on January 21, 1864. Mitchell was serving in the trenches under fire in the battle at Atlanta on July 22, 1864, and was severely wounded on the line southwest of the city, August 9, 1864. It was while Robert G. Mitchell was disabled from the wound he received in the war that he began the study of law. In 1865, he established a home south of Thomasville which grew to be a 2000 acre plantation. He went into a law partnership with his brother for a while before being appointed Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit. He was elected a state representative, then a state senator.   After serving his term as senator, Mitchell resumed his law practice until 1903, when he was elected judge of the superior court of the southern circuit of Georgia, to succeed Judge Augustin HansellThe letters of Robert Goodwin Mitchell are part of the Robert Goodwin Mitchell Papers, Hargrett Rare Books & Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, GA.

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Campfires of the Berrien Minute Men

Berrien Minute Men

Berrien County, Georgia sent forth in the Civil War two companies of men known as the Berrien Minute Men.

The first company, organized  in the summer of 1861 by Captain Levi J. Knight , was designated at various times as Captain Knight’s Company, Captain Wylly’s Company, Company A Berrien Minute Men,  (old) Company C 29th GA Regiment, (new) Company G 29th GA Regiment.

The second company, organized in the fall of 1861 was successively known as Company B Berrien Minute Men, Captain Lamb’s Company, Company D, and Company K 29th GA Regiment.

For the most part, both companies of Berrien Minute Men traveled with the 29th Georgia Regiment and kept the same campfires, although occasionally they had different stations.

Date…………………….. Event
1860 November 28 Muster Roll of Levi J. Knight’s Company, the Berrien Minute Men
1860 December 10 Organization of the Berrien Minute Men, Nashville, GA
1861 January 19 Georgia Ordinance of Secession passed ~ John C. Lamb, a signer
1861 May Grand Rally at Milltown for the Berrien Minute Men
1861 May 23 Berrien Minute Men in camp and drilling at Nashville, GA
1861 July Berrien Minute Men encamped with other companies at Brunswick, GA
1861 Summer Berrien Minute Men muster in at Savannah, GA
1861 July 19 at Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA
1861 July 30 Berrien Minute Men and other companies of the 13th Regiment arrive at Savannah, GA via the Albany & Gulf Railroad; Company C issued equipment
1861 August 1 Levi J. Knight elected Captain of Company C
1861 August 20 Berrien Minute Men transported via Brunswick & Florida Railroad (South Georgia & Florida R.R.)  from station No. 9 at Tebeauville (now Waycross), GA some 60 miles to Brunswick, GA
1861 August 28, or abt Berrien Minute Men & 13th Regiment encamped “in the neighborhood of Brunswick”
1861 August Berrien Minute Men, Company C, 29th GA Regt at Savannah, GA
1861 Fall A second company of Berrien Minute Men was organized as Company D, 29th GA Regiment. This company was later known as Company K.
1861 October 2 Levi J. Knight elected Major of the 29th GA Regiment
1861 October 5 Berrien Minute Men Company D arrived Savannah, GA
1861 October 6 Berrien Minute Men Companies C & D (G & K) embarked late evening aboard steamer at Savannah
1861 October 7 Both companies landed at Sapelo Island, GA
1861 October 11 Berrien Minute Men, Company C, 29th GA Regt at Sapelo Battery, GA
1861 October 12 At Camp Spaulding, Sapelo Island, GA
1861 October 14 John C. Lamb elected captain of Berrien Minute Men “Company B” (Company D, later Company K)
1861 October 16 At post of Sapelo Island Battery, GA
1861 October 22 At Camp Spaulding, Sapelo Island, GA
1861 Winter Captain Knight’s Berrien Minute Men company at battery on southern end of Blackbeard Island, GA
1861 December 1 Near Darien, GA
1861 December 18 At Camp Security, GA
1862 January Darien, GA; Company G officer’s purchase of “subsistence stores…for their own use and the use of their families”
1862 January 22 At Masonboro Sound, six miles east of Wilmington, NC
1862 February 20 Camp Wilson, GA; Company C & Company D, receipt of firewood
1862 March 7 Berrien Minute Men at Camp Tatnall, near Savannah, GA while “the old Berrien Company” is on Smith’s Island
1862 March Berrien Minute Men at Camp Tatnall, GA
1862 March 13 Camp Tatnall, GA; receipt of firewood
1862 March 15 Camp Tatnall, GA; receipt of coffin
1862 March 18 Camp Tatnall, GA
1862 March 20 Camp Tatnall, GA
1862 March 24 Camp Tatnall, GA; receipt of lumber and shoes
1862 March 26 Camp Tatnall, GA; receipt of coffin
1862 April 1 At Camp Tatnall, GA; receipt of coffin; firewood; forage
1862 April 17 At Camp Tatnall, GA
1862 April 18 At Causton’s Bluff, GA
1862 April 23 At Causton’s Bluff, GA; receipt of supplies
1862 May Berrien Minute Men at Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA
1862 May 1 At Causton’s Bluff, GA; receipt of coffin; firewood; forage
1862 May 10 At Camp Debtford Major Levi J. Knight resigns; John C. Lamb elected major of the Regiment;
1862 May At Camp Debtford Thomas S. Wylly elected captain of the Berrien Minute Men
1862 May Levi J. Knight, Jr elected Captain of Company D?
1862 May 22 at Causton’s Bluff; Wiley E. Baxter elected 2nd Lieut. Co. K
1862 June Captain Levi J. Knight in command of Lawton Battery
1862 June 2 Company D (later K) at Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA (at this time Causton’s Bluff is an open battery)
1862 June Berrien Minute Men at Camp Mackey, near Savannah, GA
1862 June 12 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 June 19 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 June 26 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 June 27 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 July 5 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 July Major Lamb on temporary detached duty,
1862 July 27 Picket duty on White Marsh and at Capers Battery
1862 July 30 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 August 27 At Causton’s Bluff, near Savannah, GA
1862 September 2 At a camp two miles from Savannah, GA on Thunderbolt shell road.
1862 September 11 At a camp near Savannah, GA
1862 September 13 At Camp Troupe
1862 October 4 In route by train from Savannah to Grooverville, Brooks County; marched to Monticello, FL
1862 October 5 In route by train from Monticello to Lake City, FL
1862 October 6 In route by train from Lake City to Camp near Baldwin, FL
1862 October 7 Picket duty near Baldwin, FL
1862 October 21 Return from Jacksonville, FL
1862 October 25 Berrien Minute Men at “a camp near Savannah, GA”
1862 November Stationed Camp Young three miles from Savannah
1862 November 9 At a camp near Savannah, GA
1862 November 14 Camp Young, Near Savannah, GA
1862 November 21 Camp Young, Near Savannah, GA; receipt of tents
1862 November 25 Near Savannah, GA
1862 November 28 Savannah River Batteries
1862 December 14 Embarked by train to Wilmington, NC
1862 December 16 Company D in Battle of Nashville
1862 December 20 At Kingsville, NC
1862 December ? At Camp Clingman
1862 December 31 Returned by train to Savannah, GA
1862 December 31 Elbert J. Chapman, “Old Yaller” AWOL
1863 January 1 Camp Young, GA; receipt of forage, Company D
1863 January 3 Berrien Minute Men returned to Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 January 7 In route to Wilmington, NC
1863 January 21 On station at Wilmington, NC
1863 February On station at Wilmington, NC
1863 Feb 11 Camp Young, near Savannah, GA; receipt of forage
1863 February 20 At General Review of Infantry and Cavalry at Savannah, GA
1863 Feb 24 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA; receipt of stationary supplies
1863 Feb 25 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 3 At Genesis Point, Near Savannah, GA
1863 March 6 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 12 Reward offered for deserters from Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 13 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 14 Inspection of 29th GA Regiment at Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 17 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 19 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 March 27 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 April 1 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 April 2 At Camp Young, near Savannah, GA
1863 April 9 Berrien Minute Men & brigade dispatched to Charleston
1863 April 19 Returned to Savannah, GA
1863 April 27 Dispatched to Pocotaligo, SC
1863 May 4 Returned to Savannah, GA
1863 May Berrien Minute Men and the 29th GA Regt departed Savannah for Jackson, MS
1863 May 1 At Vaughan Station, MS; receipt of forage, Company D
1863 May 12 At McDowell’s Landing, MS
1863 May 13 Arrived at Meridian, MS
1863 May 14 In route by train toward Jackson, MS
1863 May 15 At Forest City, MS
1863 May 17 “fought all day…the battle was awful
1863 May 28 At Deaconsville, MS about 20 miles east of Yazoo City, “six miles west of Vanus Station”; Deserter Elbert J. Chapman captured
1863 May 29 Departed Camp near Deaconsville, MS;
1863 May 30 On the march
1863 June 3 Camp near Yazoo City, MS
1863 June 4 moved to Camp three miles south of Yazoo City, MS
1863 June 5 Camp near Yazoo City, MS (three miles south)
1863 June 18 At Vernon City, MS
1863 July 2 At a camp in the field, 25 miles from Vicksburg, MS
1863 July 5 At Big Black River, MS
1863 July 6 Withdrawn from Big Black River, MS
1863 July 7 Marching in retreat toward Jackson, MS
1863 July 8 Arrived at Jackson, MS
1863 July 9 A day of rest
1863 July 10 Ordered to the line of battle near Jackson, MS
1863 July 11 Supporting artillery batteries
1863 July 12 Supporting artillery batteries on the left of Walker’s Division
1863 July 13 Supporting artillery batteries on the left of Walker’s Division
1863 July 13 Major Lamb killed in retreat from Vicksburg, MS;
1863 July 13 Retreated to a position “across railroad bank”; supporting artillery
1863 July 14 Supporting artillery at railroad bank near Jackson, MS
1863 July 15 Supporting artillery at railroad bank near Jackson, MS
1863 July 16 Supporting artillery at railroad bank near Jackson, MS
1863 July 17 Retreating from Jackson, MS
1863 July 19 At a camp in the field; receipt of clothes
1863 July 20 At a camp in the field near Forest City, MS
1863 July 21 Deserter Elbert J. Chapman executed
1863 July 22 At Scott County, MS
1863 July 23 Camp near Forrest City, Scott County MS;
1863 August 10 Camp near Morton, MS
1863 August 23 Embarked train in MS bound for Atlanta
1863 September 5 at camp in the field; receipt of shoes, Company K
1863 September 7 Duty at Battery Cheves
1863 September 15 James Island, SC; Magazine explosion kills Seaborn J. Lastinger
1863 September 19 In battle at Chickamauga
1863 October 18 Camp Near Chattanooga, TN
1863 October 22 Camp Near Chattanooga, TN
1863 October 31 In the field; receipt of clothing “the men being in a destitute condition”
1863 November 24 Near Missionary Ridge
1863 November 25 Near Missionary Ridge
1863 December 6 Dalton, GA; receipt of clothing, on account of “the destitution of the men”
1863 December 31 Dalton, GA
1864 January In winter quarters at camp near Dalton, GA
1864 January 12 Dalton, GA
1864 February 29 near Dalton, GA
1864 March 12 Dalton, GA
1864 March 30 near Dalton, GA
1864 April 30 provost duty inDalton, GA
1864 May Retreating from Dalton, GA
1864, May 11 In battle at Resaca, GA
1864 May 16 Camp near Calhoon, GA
1864, May 17 In battle at Adairsville, GA
1864 May 18 Camp in the field near Cassville, GA
1864 May 21 Camp in the field near Etowah Iron Works.
1864 May 29 Forsyth, GA
1864 June 1 Camp near Dallas, GA
1864 June 5 Camp in the field near Acworth, GA
1864 June 15 In line of battle; near Pine Mountain, GA
1864 June 16 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 June 17 Camp near Marietta, GA
1864 June 19 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 June 20 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 June 21 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 June 21 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864, June 23 Battlefield near Marietta, GA
1864 June 24 Battlefield near Marietta, GA
1864 June 26 Supporting General Hindman’s Division
1864 June 27 At Kennesaw Mountain, GA
1864 June 28 Camp near Marietta, GA
1864 July 2 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 July 3 In line of battle near Marietta, GA
1864 July 4 In line of battle, four miles below Marietta
1864 July 5 Withdrawn to works near Chattahoochee River, GA
1864 July 7 Battlefield near Chattahoochee River, GA
1864 July 9 Fell back to pickets south of Chattahoochee River
1864 July 11 Camp in the field, near Atlanta, GA
1864 July 19 In Line of battle near Chattahoochee River
1864 July 20 In line of battle at Battle of Peachtree Creek
1864 July 21 In line of battle near Atlanta
1864 July 22 At the Battle of Atlanta; near Decatur, GA
1864 July 29 Camp near Atlanta, GA
1864 August 7 Near Atlanta, GA; “fought the Yankees”
1864 August 8 Camp in the field near Atlanta, GA
1864 August 12 Camp in the field near Atlanta, GA
1864 August 26 Camp in the field near Atlanta, GA
1864 August 31 Battle of Jonesboro, GA
1864 September 2 Lovejoy Station, GA
1864 October 19 Skirmish at Little River, AL
1864 November 29 Springhill, TN
1864 November 30 Franklin, TN
1864 December 4 Overall’s Creek, TN
1864 December 7 In battle at Murphreesboro
1864 December 16 In battle at Nashville, TN; 29th regiment surrounded and captured

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