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The 1878 History of Benton County, Iowa
pages 384-392
War History

If there is any one thing more than another of which the people of the Northern States have reason to be proud, it is of the record they made during the dark and bloody days when red-handed rebellion raised its hideous head and threatened the life of the nation. When the war was forced upon the country, the people were quietly pursuing the even tenor of their ways, doing whatever their hands found to do — working the mines, making farms or cultivating those already made, erecting homes, founding cities and towns, building shops and manufactories — in short, the country was alive with industry and hopes for the future. The people were just recovering from the depression and losses incident to the financial panic of 1857. The future looked bright and promising, and the industrious and patriotic sons and daughters of the Free States were buoyant with hope, looking forward to the perfecting of new plans for the insurement of comfort and competence in their declining years; they little heeded the mutterings and threatenings of treason's children in the Slave States of the South. True sons and descendants of the heroes of the "times that tried men's souls" — the struggle for American independence — they never dreamed that there was even one so base as to dare attempt the destruction of the Union of their fathers — a government baptized with the best blood the world ever knew. While immediately surrounded with peace and tranquillity, they paid but little attention to the rumored plots and plans of those who lived and grew rich from the sweat and toil, blood and flesh, of others — aye, even trafficked in the offspring of their own loins. Nevertheless, the war came with all its attendant horrors.

April 12, 1861, Fort Sumter, at Charleston, South Carolina, Maj. Andersen, U. S. A., commandant, was fired upon by rebels in arms. Although basest treason, this first act in the bloody reality that followed was looked upon as the mere bravado of a few hot-heads — the act of a few fire-eaters whose sectional bias and freedom and hatred was crazed by the excessive indulgence in intoxicating potations. When, a day later, the news was borne along the telegraph wires that Maj. Andcrson had been forced to surrender to what had first been regarded as a drunken mob, the patriotic people of the North were startled from their dreams of the future, from undertakings half completed, and made to realize that behind that mob there was a dark, deep and well organized purpose to destroy the government, rend the Union in twain, and out of its ruins erect a slave oligarchy, wherein no one would dare question their right to hold in bondage the sons and daughters of men whose skins were black, or who, perchance, through practices of lustful natures, were half or quarter removed from the color that God, for His own purpose, had given them. But they "reckoned without their host." Their dreams of the future, their plans for the establishment of an independent confederacy, were doomed from their inception to sad and bitter disappointment.

Immediately upon the surrender of Fort Sumter, Abraham Lincoln — America's martyr President, who, but a few short weeks before, had taken the oath of office as the nation's chief executive — issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteers for three months. The last word had scarcely been taken from the electric wires before the call was filled. Men and money were counted out by hundreds and thousands. The people who loved their whole government could not give enough. Patriotism thrilled and vibrated and pulsated through every heart. The farm, the workshop, the office, the pulpit, the bar, the bench, the college, the school house — every calling offered its best men, their lives and fortunes in defense of the government's honor and unity. Party lines were for the time ignored. Bitter words, spoken in moments of political heat, were forgotten and forgiven, and joining hands in a common cause, they repeate the oath of America's soldier-statesman: "By the Great Eternal, the Union must and shall be preserved!"

Seventy-five thousand men were not enough to subdue the rebellion. Nor were ten times that number. The war went on, and call followed call, until it began to look as if there would not be men enough in all the Free States to crush out and subdue the monstrous war traitors had inaugurated. But to every call for either men or money there was a willing and ready response. And it is a boast of the people that, had the supply of men fallen short, there were women brave enough, daring enough, patriotic enough, to have offered themselves as sacrifices on their country's altar. Such were the impulses, motives and actions of the patriotic men of the North, among whom the sons of Benton County made a conspicuous and praiseworthy record. Of the offerings made by these people during the great and final struggle between freedom and . slavery it is the purpose now to write.

April 14, A. D. 1861, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, issued the following:


Whereas, The laws of the United States have been and now are violently opposed in several states, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed in the ordinary way; I therefore call for the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of 75,000, to suppress said combinations and to execute the law.  I appeal to all loyal citizens to facilitate and aid in this effort to maintain the laws and integrity of the perpetuity of the popular government, and to redress wrongs long enough endured.  The first service assigned to the forces, probably, will be to repossess the forts, places and property which have been seized from the Union. Let the utmost care be taken, consistent with the object, to avoid destruction, interference with property of peaceful citizens in any part of the country; and I hereby command persons composing the aforesaid combination to disperse within twenty days from date.

I hereby convene both Houses of Congress for the 4th day of July next, to determine upon measures for public safety which the interest of the subject demands.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United Slates.

Wm. H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

The gauntlet thrown down by the traitors of the South was accepted — not, however, in the spirit with which insolence meets insolence — but with a firm, determined spirit of patriotism and love of country. The duty of the President was plain, under the Constitution and the laws, and above and beyond all, the people from whom political power is derived, demanded the suppression of the rebellion, and stood ready to sustain the authority of their representatives and executive officers.

It is impossible for any historian to do full justice to the spirit and patriotism of this people in the early days of this gigantic and bloody struggle waged by the American people against rebellion, and their liberal and continuous contributions to maintain the integrity of this glorious Union. It is, indeed, a proud record; for from among them went out brave soldiers and efficient leaders to aid in the grand struggle for the maintenance and perpetuity of the Union.

A union of lakes, A union of lands,
A union that none can sever;
A union of hearts, a union of hands —
The American Union forever.

Never before in the world's history was witnessed such an uprising of the masses, such unanimity of sentiment, such willingness to sacrifice life and money on the altar of patriotism.

When, the first companies were being raised, measures were inaugurated and carried out to raise money by subscription for the support of the families of the volunteers. But there were so many calls for men, and the number and needs of these families whose providers had gone to defend the life of the nation, that it became an impossibility for private purses, however willing their holders, to supply all the demand, and the county authorities made frequent and liberal appropriations from the public treasury for that purpose. Private liberality still continued. This money was raised in the midst of the excitement of war, when the exigencies of the times demanded it, and the generous people never thought to inquire how much was given. Aside from the sums appropriated by county authority, no account was ever kept. Had there been, the sum would now seem almost fabulous.


The first grand rally of the people of Benton County after the fall of Fort Sumter, was a large and enthusiastic meeting at the Court House on Friday, April 19, 1801. John Shane, Esq., was called to the chair, and W. W. Hanford appointed Secretary. A committee was appointed to draft resolutions, consisting of Messrs. S. P. Vanatta, J. S. Hunt and J. Wetz. While the committee were attending to their duty, stirring speeches were made by the Chairman, Russell Jones, Col. G. W. Sells, W. F. Pickerell and J. S. Hunt. The committee on resolutions reported the following:

Whereas, A portion of the people living under the Government of the United States, has seen fit to set at naught the authority of the National Government, to take possession of the public and other property not rightly in their possession, and has opposed by arms the legally constituted authority, and has by unmistakable acts declared an aggressive war against our beloved institutions, therefore,

Resolved, That the people of Vinton, as good citizens of the United States, should and do regret with sincere feelings the rashness which has driven the Southern people into arms against the Government, and the terrible necessity of civil war which has thus been forced upon us.

Resolved, That as good citizens, it is our solemn and unavoidable duty to sustain and uphold the Government and the execution of its laws and the vindication of its authority.

Resolved, That we will give our devoted attachment, our unwavering confidence and our unconditional support to the Government of the United Slates.

Resolved, That our hearts are still loyal to the great principle of constitutional liberty and free government, upon which the wisdom of our forefathers erected the temple of the constitution, under the shade of which we have enjoyed so great and so many blessings, and that the ruthless hand and traitorous heart that would destroy this beautiful temple, merits from us the severest reprobation and the most undaunted opposition.

Resolved, That if we can not have union, we will preserve liberty and the Constitution.

Resolved, That as citizens of Vinton, we hereby pledge ourselves to defray the expenses necessary in procuring uniforms and an outfit for a volunteer company to be raised in Benton County, to protect the Government of the United States, the Constitution and enforce the laws.

After patriotic speeches by S. P. Vanatta, John. McCartney and the declaration by W. C. Connell that he would head the list for a company in Benton County, the resolutions were unanimously adopted.

A committee of three was appointed, consisting of J. S. Hunt, W. C. Connell and W. A. Walker to recruit a company, and the meeting adjourned to next Tuesday, 23d. On Saturday, 20th, a recruiting office was opened at Connell & Vanatta's law office, and a number enlisted.

On Tuesday evening the Court House was crowded to overflowing, W. C. Connell in the chair, and J. W. Traer, Secretary. The most intense enthusiasm prevailed. Earnest and thrilling speeches wore made by S. P. Vanatta, C. H. Conklin, W. C. Gaston, S. Douglass, Rev. J. M. Rankin, W. C. Smith, and the unanimous sentiment was a determination to stand shoulder to shoulder in support of the administration and in crushing the rebellion.

The following resolution proposed by Mr. Vanatta was unanimously adopted:

Resolved, That we as citizens of Benton County, Iowa, hereby agree and pledge ourselves to support and maintain in a decent and respectable manner — such as is suitable to their condition — the families of all those who may volunteer their services as soldiers in the present war, to assist to subdue and put down all traitors and rebels to our Government, and that the families of none such shall want for any of the necessities of life so long as we are able to support them therewith.

After the passage of this resolution, several more volunteers enlisted, and the company adjourned until Saturday.

The first man to enlist in the first company of volunteers raised in Benton County was W. C. Connell, Esq., followed by J. S. Hunt, W. F. Pickerell, M. Thompson, W. A. Walker, John Dempsey and Edwin Jenks.

Earlier in the week several young men went to Cedar Rapids to enlist, and two — P. Murdick and George Reifenstahl — did enlist in the First Iowa.

April 25, 1861, the first action taken by the Board of Supervisors in regard to the war was a resolution presented by John Slatery at the special session of the Board, which read as follows:

Whereas, The President of the United States has called upon the several States of the Union for volunteers to sustain the honor and integrity of the Government against the assaults of rebels and traitors who have seized the public property, stolen its money, stormed its forts and otherwise insulted the flag of the United States; therefore, be it

Resolved, By and with the advice and consent of the Board of Supervisors of Benton County, that, in case a company of volunteers is raised within said county, the sum of five hundred dollars ($500) is hereby appropriated to aid in the equipment of said volunteers; and upon due proof furnished to the Clerk of the Board that said company of volunteers has been collected, that he is authorized to issue a warrant or warrants to the amount of five hundred dollars for the purpose specified.

This resolution was carried by the following vote: Yeas — Springer, Slattery, Christie, Stocher, Palmer, Treanor, Kirkpatrick, Dwigans, Robinson, Livermore and McQuin — 11.  Nays — Rice, Miskimin, Forsyth, Mickey, Gwin, Smith, Austin, Lamosee and Inman — 9.

It is proper to add that those who voted in the negative believed that no business could be legally transacted at a special session, other than that for which the session was called. Hence they voted "No."

Another public meeting was held in the Court House on the 28th, at which speeches were made by Mr. Geddes, John Slattery, Joseph Dysart, J. S. Hunt and W. C. Gaston.

On Tuesday, April 30, a large and enthusiastic meeting was held in Big Grove Township. John Ruffcorn presided and J. C. Rhodabeck was Secretary.  The meeting was addressed by Jacob Wetz, W. C. Smith, Dennis Kennedy, J. Ruffcorn, J. S. Hunt, H. S. Bailey, S. Mahin, J. C. Rhodabeck and Peter Shultz.

The ladies of Vinton held a meeting on Tuesday, the 30th, for the purpose of preparing lint and bandages for the use of volunteers.

The first company raised in Benton County met in the Court House Saturday afternoon, May 4, took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and to obey the call of the Governor, and elected officers as follows: Jacob S. Hunt (who had served in the Mexican war), Captain; William C. Connell, First Lieutenant; William F. Pickerell, Second Lieutenant; William A. Walker, Third Lieutenant; Jacob Wetz, Ensign. The non-commissioned officers afterward appointed were: J. A. McClure, Orderly Sergeant; Nathan Rice, Second Sergeant; David Barnett, Third Sergeant; John K. Raser, First Corporal; R. H. Kirkpatrick, G. B. Mills, Samuel Oberlander, Corporals; A rite Jenks, Fifer; J. R. Boyd, Drummer; James E. White, Bass Drummer. Saturday night, at a meeting in the Court House, the company was reported full.


On Wednesday evening, May 1, 1861, a grand Union rally was held at the Court House. Dr. W. S. Boyd was President; Fletcher Drummond, Secretary, and J. C. Traer, W. C. Gaston, Samuel Douglass, John Pyne and John Shane, Committee on Resolutions. The resolutions were as follows:

Whereas, The news has just been received that a second call for volunteers has been made, to the number of eighty-five thousand, by the President of the United Stales, and

Whereas, There is a company forming in this place from our own citizens, therefore,

Resolved, That it is the duty of every loyal citizen of this county to aid said organization by every means in their power, either by enlisting or by furnishing the means to enable those who are willing to enlist to enable them to leave their families in comfortable circumstances

Resolved, That the present threatening aspect of national affairs imperatively calls for some immediate steps to be taken by our State authorities to place this State on a war footing.

Resolved, That we are in favor of an appropriation, of $500,000, or a sum sufficient, to purchase the necessary arms, and the passage of a military law which will require every man in the State between 18 and 45, who is not disabled by disease, to enroll himself and perform military duly.

Resolved, That in the present great and trying time of our country's peril, we believe it to be the duly of all good citizens, without distinction of party, sect or creed, to lay aside all differences of opinion, and act as one man for the defense and sustenance of the present Administration in its noble efforts to suppress insurrections and to put down traitors and rebels.

The following donations were made : By John Shane, a gold watch, valued at $75; by Judge Douglass, $100; by Dr. Traer, $50; by Joseph Dysart, $25 and flour enough to keep two families one year; by Dr. Boyd, his professional services, gratis, to the families of all volunteers during their absence.

The following resolutions were adopted on motion of John Shane:

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to draft, a memorial to the Legislature of Iowa, and to procure signers' names to the same, requesting that body to enact a law authorizing and empowering counties and incorporated towns to make appropriations for the support of the families of such as may volunteer in the defense of the Government.

Resolved, That the Legislature of Iowa be requested to enact a law making it unlawful for any execution to issue against any person who volunteers, while he remains in active service.

Resolved, That a committee of ten be appointed to raise means for the purpose of providing for the temporary wants of those who have volunteered.

The committees ordered by these resolutions were appointed by the chair, as follows:

To draft memorial — W. C. Gaston, S. P. Vanatta and Joseph Dysart. To provide for families of volunteers — E. Ervin, J. E. Palmer, John Slattery, J. M. Inman, Rufus Berry, John Parker, S. H. Watson, M. P. Adams, J. M. Rankin and John S. Forsyth.


a meeting was held on the same evening as the above, for the purpose of waking up enthusiasm, and the formation of a company of Home Guards.    C. P. Neal was Chairman, and J. L. Budd, Secretary. A Committee on Resolutions was appointed, who reported, the following:

Whereas, A portion of these United States have seceded from the Union, and have further engaged in open rebellion against our Government, and are in actual hostilities against our common country, by robbing our mints and attacking our forts and arsenals;

And Whereas, The Capitol of our nation and other portions of our country are in imminent danger, and many points in our own Stale are measurably defenseless from an attack of our enemies; therefore,

Resolved, That we hold it to be the sacred duty of every citizen to defend his country from the aggressions of the foe, and assist our Government in the maintenance of her laws, and especially to defend his home and his family from the assaults of invaders;

Resolved, That we, citizens of Benton County, do form ourselves into a military company, for the purpose of assisting in the protection of the Government; and do agree to devote a portion of our time to military discipline, and to hold ourselves prepared for any emergency that may arise.

Col. Sells, Mr. Vanatta, Rev. R. King and others addressed the meeting, and "enthusiasm was waked" indeed.


May 5th, a national flag, prepared by the ladies, was raised, amid the enthusiastic cheers of an assembled multitude. A poetic address to the flag, written by Isaiah Morris, was read, after which, the people gathered at the school house, where I. G. Burnett was called to the chair, George Black appointed Secretary, and Amos Dean, Caleb Carter and Isaiah Morris, Committee on Resolutions. The committee reported as follows:

Deeply regretting the necessity which now compels our Government to assume a defensive attitude, but fully convinced that such is the fact, be it

Resolved, That we will sustain the Government at all hazards.

Resolved, That as we have heretofore, in all our political contests, professed great devotion to our Constitution and Flag, now is the time to prove who were sincere at heart in their professions and who were not.

Resolved, That we consider old party ties among the things that have been, and that there are but two parties now in our country, viz.: the Union and Order Party, and the Disunion and Anarchy Party.

Resolved, That we pledge to our country out best efforts to sustain the flag, and to each other mutual defense and protection.

Resolved, That whoever is the friend of the Stars and Stripes, is our friend; and whoever insults our brave old flag, insults us.

The resolutions were unanimously adopted. Patriotic and thrilling speeches were made by A. G. Hanna, S. S. Parks, I. G. Burnett, William Evans, Caleb Carter, L. M, Holt and Amos Dean, and a military company of twenty-eight men was formed.

Other patriotic meetings were held in different parts of the county; but those given above are sufficient to show the spirit that animated the people in that hour of the nation's peril.

May 16th, the cloth for the uniforms of the "Benton County Volunteers" having arrived, Mary H. Taggart and Margaret E. Shields called upon the patriotic ladies of Vinton to meet at Rev. N. C. Robinson's church, on Saturday afternoon, 18th, to see how many would engage in the work of making the uniforms.

May llth, the citizens of Harrison formed a military company of riflemen, called the "Harrison Rangers," for the purpose of acting as a reserve, ready at the call of the State authorities to assist in the enforcement of the laws, in repelling invasion and supporting the Federal Government; and on the 18th of May, James L. Geddes was elected Captain. A company was organized in Eden, also.

At the June session the Board of Supervisors, took cognizance of the appropriation of $500; and on the 6th of June, John Slattery, Stoughton Lamoree and Jacob Austin were appointed a special committee to investigate the matter of the application of the $500 to the use of the volunteer company, and to report the same to the Board October 14, 1861.

John Slattery, W. F. Kirkpatrick and M. C. Smith were appointed a committee to inquire into, and report to this Board at its then present session, "by whom, how and for what purposes the money was applied that was voted by this Board at its May session for the equipment of the 'Benton County Volunteers.'"


The time came at last when the Benton County Volunteers were called upon to join the armed hosts that were pouring down from the North to battle for the Union on the sunny plains of the South.

On Monday evening, July 8th, the people gathered at the Presbyterian Church for the purpose of bidding farewell to the company. John Shane was Chairman, and S. H. Watson, Secretary. Speeches were made by Messrs. Shane, Shutts, Robinson, Wright, Gaston and others, and a Testament was presented to each one of the volunteers.

On Tuesday morning, the 9th of July, the people of town and county again assembled to take a last look at and to give the parting grasp to some cherished husband, father, brother, son or lover. It was truly touching to witness the demonstrations of affection and of friendship; to behold the streaming eyes and quivering lips of some wife, mother, daughter or sister, who, clinging to the object of her love, seemed bent on improving with her affectionate counsels and other manifestations of love, each precious moment previous to the company's departure.

At about 11 o'clock, the volunteers were drawn up in front of the Shields House, and Mr. B. R. Sherman, who had been designated therefor by the lady donors of the flag, appeared, flag in hand, and addressed the company in the presence of the vast crowd in the most happy and felicitous manner, and was highly appreciated by all present. Lieut. Pickerell eloquently responded to the presentation speech in behalf of the company.

Revolvers were also presented to Capt. Hunt and Lieuts. Pickerell and Oberlander, accompanied by excellent speeches from Messrs. Douglass and Sells. Judge Douglass donated sixty-four pairs of shoes, following which the Captain called the roll, and several persons named thereon failing to respond, having squarely "backed out," were justly stigmatized as "traitors" and "cowards" by the company. The ceremonies concluded, the company, escorted by the Vinton Brass Band, took up their line of march amid the outbursts of tears and sobs of the welling hearts to be left behind, for the opposite side of the river, where wagons were in waiting to convey them to Independence, from whence they were to go by cars to Dubuque, and from thence to Burlington by boat, and become Company G, Fifth Iowa Volunteers.

It is but just to add that Mr. Connell, who had been elected First Lieutenant of the company, was prevented from going by the illness of his wife.

After the disastrous battle of Bull Run, recruiting was vigorously prosecuted in Benton County. August 3d, the Harrison Rangers, Capt. Geddes, paraded in the streets of Vinton and were ordered to rendezvous at Davenport as soon as the ranks were full.  This company became Company D, Eighth Iowa Volunteers.

Early in September, a cavalry company was organized by choice of John Shane, Captain ; James H. Shutts, First Lieutenant; and William A. Walker, Second Lieutenant.

While as a rule the people of Benton County were generous in the contribution for the support of the families of the volunteers, there were a few, as is to be inferred from the following extract from an article headed "To Whom It May Concern," in the Vinton Eagle of October 3, 1861, who did not come to time. The Eagle said:

But of all the accursed meanness extant, that of advising the poor, sickly wife of one of the volunteers to take in washing for the support of herself and children, while her husband; her only support in this life, is off like a true man, exposing his life for, the general cause, caps the climax. The next meanest act is that of doling out a few pounds of flour to a half-starved woman with a large family, and at the same lime, warning her to be as saving of it as possible. Bah ! it makes us fairly sick to have to write about such littleness of soul. Of what avail is it to observe a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer to the end that the Almighty will shower down plentiful blessings upon us as a community, unless a slop is put to the daily fasting that is going on in our midst? It will not require a great deal of searching to find volunteers' families who are destitute of almost everything but flour, and who have but precious little of that. We do not purpose, to specify families. It is for such men as we have last designated to look them up and relieve their wants.

October 15, 1861, the Benton Guards, Captain Shane, left Vinton for camp McClellan, at Davenport, and was made Company G, Thirteenth Iowa.

In November, the Ladies' Aid Society was organized in Vinton.

August 6, 1862, a special meeting of the Board of Supervisors was called, and a bounty of $15 voted to be paid to each private and non-commissioned officer of two volunteer companies of 101 men each, but the raising of the money therefor was postponed until the next meeting.

January 5, 1863, on motion of J. Rice, it was voted to extend aid to all families who need the same, whether wives or mothers (who are dependent on their sons for support) of soldiers.

June 8, 1864, the Board appropriated $50 to aid the Soldiers' Home, at Clinton.

October 20, 1864, the Board adopted the following resolution :

Resolved, That a county order for $25 be presented to each man a resident of Benton County, Iowa, who volunteers in Benton County Company before the 1st day of January, 1864, to serve three years or during the war; said order to be presented to the volunteer, or their order, when they are accepted and mustered into the United States service. Provided, Not over 100 man enlist, and that the Clerk of the Board is hereby authorized and directed to issue said orders in accordance with this resolution.

January 1, 1864, a bounty of $100 was voted to each volunteer or drafted man in lieu of previous bounties offered by the Board.

But a single volume would not give sufficient space in which to detail all the events pertaining to this part of our work, Suffice it to say that, as long as the war continued, money was ready — men were ready. Men of wealth furnished the former, and the less affluent filled the ranks — furnished the brawn, the muscle, the bravery, the sinews of war. Oftentimes, the former furnished not only their share of money, but shouldered their muskets and followed the starry flag, as well.

Having noticed the financial sacrifices and the readiness of the wealthier part of the people to contribute liberally and continuously of their means, we come now to the volunteer soldiery. And of these, what can we say? What vivid words can the pen employ that will do justice to their heroic valor, to their unequaled and unparalleled bravery and endurance? Home and home comforts, wives and little ones, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, were all given up for life and anger on the fields of battle — for exposure, fatigue, disease and death at the point of the bayonet or at the cannon's mouth. But little they recked of all these, but boldly and bravely went out with their lives in their hands to meet and to conquer the foes of the Union, maintain its supremacy and vindicate its honor and integrity. No more fitting tribute to their patriotic valor can be offered than a full and complete record, so far as it is possible to make it, embracing the names, the terms of enlistment, the battles in which they were engaged, and all the minutiae of their military lives. It will be a wreath of glory encircling every brow — a precious memento which each and every one of them earned in defense of their and our common country.


Bat.............Battle or Battalion
I.V.I...........Iowa Volunteer Infantry
m.o.............mustered out
V.R.C...........Veteran Reserve Corps
hon.disd........honorably discharged

Transcribed, 2006, by John Shuck.

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