khbynum
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Could the South have won the Civil War?

Fri Feb 28, 2014 11:49 pm

I've been told to take my conjectures out of the main (game) forum and bring them here, so I will. The title says it. We all know this was not a civil war in the historical sense. The CSA had no desire to take over the government of the USA, but rather to establish their own, independent country. Could they have succeeded? How?

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GraniteStater
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:22 pm

Maybe, maybe, maybe...a very, very long shot.

I think Foote is right - a major victory, wherein a Union army was well nigh destroyed, like 30 June 1862, might have convinced the North to quit - before Emancipation.

After the EP, the UK was not going to aid the South in any substantive, meaningful way. There is no way an Empire, whose Royal Navy had been chasing down vessels flying the US flag for slaving (and in that one case, I'm with the Royal Navy) and who had abolished slavery thirty years before was going to risk an openly hostile stance towards a nation who had declared they were going to end slavery.

The South had a very, very narrow window. As I have said before, I think Lincoln was a bit overly pessimistic in the summer of 1864. The man was melancholic, remember. He won a clear and pronounced victory at the polls that fall.

I believe Shelby Foote is essentially correct. More Southern victories, a lot more, would've engendered the North to exercise all its might.
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khbynum
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 9:26 pm

To reiterate previous threads, I think the strategic defense/operational offense could have done it for them. Part of the problem was Davis' insistence on independent departments, each with its own troops and not subject to any higher command (other than his). What the war needed from the start was a supreme military commander, separate from but obviously subordinate to civilian authority. The Confederacy didn't get that (Lee) until it was too late to make a difference. I wouldn't pick Lee for that role, in fact Davis might have been a good choice if he hadn't been President.

Do not invade the North (this isn't really a civil war). Always fight on the defensive if you can. Give ground if you must, but keep a maneuver force to counterattack when the Union starts to stretch its supply lines. Don't build all those ironclads (Did you know that only three functioning CSA ironclads were actually destroyed or captured in action? The remaining 20-odd were sunk by the owners.) except a few on the Mississippi; fortified artillery works better and you can use that precious iron to maintain and improve your railroads. Make them pay in lives and eventually they'll get tired of it. They actually almost did in 1864. I don't think the South had a "very, very narrow window". What it had to do was prepare for a very, very long war. Neither side realized that at the start. Well, Lee did, but he was still a Colonel in the US Army.

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Citizen X
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 9:44 pm

No.
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khbynum
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Sat Mar 01, 2014 11:58 pm

A thoughtful and considered contribution, for which I thank you.

Why do you play the game?

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fred zeppelin
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Sun Mar 02, 2014 12:44 am

GraniteStater wrote:Maybe, maybe, maybe...a very, very long shot.
I think Foote is right - a major victory, wherein a Union army was well nigh destroyed, like 30 June 1862, might have convinced the North to quit - before Emancipation.

After the EP, the UK was not going to aid the South in any substantive, meaningful way. There is no way an Empire, whose Royal Navy had been chasing down vessels flying the US flag for slaving (and in that one case, I'm with the Royal Navy) and who had abolished slavery thirty years before was going to risk an openly hostile stance towards a nation who had declared they were going to end slavery.

The South had a very, very narrow window. As I have said before, I think Lincoln was a bit overly pessimistic in the summer of 1864. The man was melancholic, remember. He won a clear and pronounced victory at the polls that fall.

I believe Shelby Foote is essentially correct. More Southern victories, a lot more, would've engendered the North to exercise all its might.


For the reasons you state, I don't the South ever had much of a chance to win a pure military victory - so long as the North had the will to fight, it had virtually endless resources to counter any victory the South won in the field.

And I really don't think the South could have ended the war with some epic early victory - capturing Washington after Bull Run, for example. So long as Lincoln was in charge, I'm convinced that he would have kept the North in the war almost no matter what happened on the battlefields. In many ways, he was the North's will to fight. Barring impeachment or assassination, I don't think he ever would have quit.

And I also don't think foreign intervention was either very likely or very likely to be effective. The most either England or France ever even considered was trying to mediate a peace. But Lincoln would never have agreed to sever the Union. And I doubt, in the end, that England would have put boots on the ground.

In the end, I think the South's only real hope of winning was to outlast Lincoln - in other words, a much longer war than either side expected. Had the South been able to survive to 1864 in better shape - having fought a defensive war of attrition - then maybe (still a big maybe) Lincoln might have lost to the peace faction. Still a long shot.

Of course, had Johnston been a day earlier or Buell a day later, the North's two best generals might have spent the war chasing Indians in the West. That would have helped the South a bit.

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Sun Mar 02, 2014 1:21 am

khbynum wrote:A thoughtful and considered contribution, for which I thank you.

Why do you play the game?


I play the game because it is not history. Would it reflect history 1:1 there would be no game at all.

The question here has been asked and answered so many times that it seems kinda futile. Because the answer stays the same simple answer. No. It couldn't have won the war. In no situation under no condition. They may have gotten away with swindeling their way out of the Union, in which case they would have gone the fate of all agrarian countries in the industrial age.
But the war was lost by starting it.
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Sun Mar 02, 2014 1:51 am

I believe that the south could have gotten a draw. That is the best they could hope for. By draw I mean, outlast the union and wear them out. The war ends the way the Revolutionary war ends (with the south winning independence).

They could have aided their cause in several ways, for example Johnston being earlier at Shiloh, or not moving the capital to Richmond, or Lee not losing his orders in 1862.
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khbynum
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Sun Mar 02, 2014 2:37 am

You suggest some interesting possibilities I had not thought of before. Johnston earlier at Shiloh? Yes, the advance from Corinth was a clusterf...er, badly managed. If they had hit Grant before Buell was able to reinforce him, they could have achieved what never happened in the war, the annihilation of an army. Grant's army really was out on a limb. fred zeppelin made the same point. I never thought of Shiloh as a pivotal battle, but it could have been.

I've always thought it was a mistake to move the capital to Richmond, but I think it was done in part to get Virginia to secede. That tied down the bulk of Confederate troops defending a really vulnerable strategic objective. I wish the game gave us the option to leave it at Montgomery. It would make Southern strategy very different. To me, Nashville would have been just as valuable in the long run as Richmond. With the new NM rules, maybe I'll try a campaign in which I don't try to defend Richmond at the expense of the West. I play the game as a sandbox and don't care about NM, but if it goes too low your soldiers don't fight very well. Of course, giving up Richmond would likely mean more battles in our state (I live in Apex)!

Lee didn't have a choice about losing his orders! Do you think that already worn-out army could have made a stab at Washington? One more victory, foreign recognition, who knows.

Thank you both for your thoughts.

By the way, Sir fred, do you frequent the WW1 flight simulator forums? Your avatar looks really familiar.

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Sun Mar 02, 2014 2:58 pm

It's wasn't Lee's choice, but someone lost the orders. They weren't as careful as they needed to be, and that was the choice that was made.
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pgr
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Mon Mar 03, 2014 9:25 am

The only way the South could win the war would have been to compel the Lincoln administration to recognize its independence. How to do it?

1: Militarily: With out foreign support, I don't think it was possible. The South would have had to have pulled off a Sedan like victory, except unlike the Prussians, from a position of military inferiority. So not just one Sedan, but many. Civil War battles were never this decisive.

2: Politically: Replace Lincoln with a pro-peace President? If Lincoln had lost the elections of 1864 there might have been a government willing to negotiate peace. In this case all those bloody inconclusive battles could induce war fatigue. Unfortunately for the South, the Union was winning. Even McClellan, Lincoln's opponent, repudiated the negotiated peace platform of his own party.

So short of foreign intervention to impose peace that recognized the Confederacy, I don't see the South winning the war.

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Pat "Stonewall" Cleburne
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Mon Mar 03, 2014 6:27 pm

It takes many what-ifs, but sure they could've won. War fatigue in 1864 had victory within view anyway. Imagine a few more victories, or less Vicksburgs. The strategic situation could've given them the depth/time needed for a diplomatic victory.

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Mon Mar 03, 2014 10:07 pm

I agree with you. I have always thought the Atlanta campaign decided the war, but that's hardly an original idea. With a better strategic approach, it need not have come down to that.

For the record, I think the nation and the world would have far worse off if the South had won, but that's not why we play games like this.

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Tue Mar 04, 2014 1:48 am

khbynum wrote:I agree with you. I have always thought the Atlanta campaign decided the war, but that's hardly an original idea. With a better strategic approach, it need not have come down to that.


I have a hard time discerning much of a "strategic" approach in how the South fought the war. Who was responsible for overall strategy? Davis? Certainly, their best general - Lee - wasn't. He thought only in terms of the East (i.e, Virginia). Davis did some troop shuffling from East to West in the mid to late war, but more to plug gaps than to execute some overarching strategy. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it's always seemed to me that the South relied more on the individual initiative of its very fine generals than it did on some grand plan.

The Union, of course, had the Anaconda plan. And Halleck, fussy and goggle-eyed as he was, actually developed a coherent overarching strategy. (I've reluctantly come the conclusion that he played a bigger role in the Union victory than the history books generally credit.) And Grant and Sherman acted in superb concert to end the war.

For the record, I think the nation and the world would have far worse off if the South had won, but that's not why we play games like this.


Agreed. A Southern victory would have proved nothing and lasted only as long as it took the new Confederacy to disintegrate according to the very States Rights principles that created it. The absence of the political glue of Union, coupled with the inevitable (and likely very quick) collapse of the slavery-based economy, would have left the South ripe for piecemeal reabsorption into the US. Even apart from the immoral underpinnings of its slavery-based society, the South was essentially caught in an eddy in the flow of history - resisting change at almost every level and clinging to a past that was already beginning to crumble around them even as the war began.

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Tue Mar 04, 2014 2:20 pm

fred zeppelin wrote:
Agreed. A Southern victory would have proved nothing and lasted only as long as it took the new Confederacy to disintegrate according to the very States Rights principles that created it. The absence of the political glue of Union, coupled with the inevitable (and likely very quick) collapse of the slavery-based economy, would have left the South ripe for piecemeal reabsorption into the US. Even apart from the immoral underpinnings of its slavery-based society, the South was essentially caught in an eddy in the flow of history - resisting change at almost every level and clinging to a past that was already beginning to crumble around them even as the war began.


This is exactly how AGEOD handled a Confederate victory in PoN. The Confederacy was later reabsorbed into the union,
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Tue Mar 04, 2014 3:09 pm

The Whig party in the 1850's proposed to pay each slave owner a given amount for every slave in the U.S. The money could then be used to mechanize farm production in the South so that the muscle of slavery would be replaced with the might of machines. The former slaves would be transported to Liberia in West Africa, supposedly for the safety of the former slave owners who would not want to live in "mixed" communities. The cost would have been staggering. One estimate puts the value of the slaves in the U.S. as exceeding the value of everything else combined. However, this route did not involve over half a million new graves.

If Jeff Davis had immediately freed all the slaves in 1861 and sent them north, then the Union war machine would have choked on the need to feed, clothe and house several million refugees for many years to come. The Confederate ambassadors to Europe would not have had the onus of representing a slave holder nation. The Abolitionists would have had no reason to fight. The South did free the slaves, but far too late for this to have made any difference. The Confederate Sates had this right, but didn't use it effectively to achieve self-determination.

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Tue Mar 04, 2014 3:42 pm

GraniteStater wrote:Maybe, maybe, maybe...a very, very long shot.

I think Foote is right - a major victory, wherein a Union army was well nigh destroyed, like 30 June 1862, might have convinced the North to quit - before Emancipation.



Agreed. For me after Antietam, the war is lost. The only way the South could have won would have been via a schocking military victory stunning the north into acceptance, or rather a series of schocking victories.. Bloody unlikely but technically possible I suppose : Say the seven day battle ends up with 40 000 captured union soldiers + most of their high command and you get Lee turning his troop towards washington and investing the city (not taking it)... Say that at the battle of Shiloh AS Johnston decisevly defeated Grant, virtually disintegrating His army and forcing its remnants + Buell to run back north of the Cumberland river.. You would have had in July 62, more than one year after the beginning of the war, the capital city besieged, the Union decisevely defeated in the 2 biggest battles of the war in a few months, the borders back to their lines of the very start... Maybe, maybe, some would have told Lincoln to just cut his losses, maybe some states would have said they don't want to continue, they want to become neutral etc... an attempt at relieving Washington is defeated, Baltimore declares itself "open city". War is over in early mid september 62.

Not likely at all, but to me the only way.

After Shiloh/Antietam, the war is lost, it could have lasted longer, but it is lost.

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Tue Mar 04, 2014 8:33 pm

That's a informed speculation and actually the best one I have ever read anywhere.
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Tue Mar 04, 2014 11:21 pm

GraniteStater wrote:That's a informed speculation and actually the best one I have ever read anywhere.


Thanks Granite. speculation is all there is left anyway isn't it ?

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Wed Mar 05, 2014 11:09 am

Gray Fox wrote:The Whig party in the 1850's proposed to pay each slave owner a given amount for every slave in the U.S. The money could then be used to mechanize farm production in the South so that the muscle of slavery would be replaced with the might of machines. The former slaves would be transported to Liberia in West Africa, supposedly for the safety of the former slave owners who would not want to live in "mixed" communities. The cost would have been staggering. One estimate puts the value of the slaves in the U.S. as exceeding the value of everything else combined. However, this route did not involve over half a million new graves.

If Jeff Davis had immediately freed all the slaves in 1861 and sent them north, then the Union war machine would have choked on the need to feed, clothe and house several million refugees for many years to come. The Confederate ambassadors to Europe would not have had the onus of representing a slave holder nation. The Abolitionists would have had no reason to fight. [B]The South did free the slaves[/B], but far too late for this to have made any difference. The Confederate Sates had this right, but didn't use it effectively to achieve self-determination.


The Confederacy never freed the slaves.
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Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:59 pm

Well, technically, by surrendering the South freed its slaves, as they were only then subject to the Union Proclomation. It was proposed to free slaves to fight in the army in 1864, but this was not accomplished.

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Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:23 pm

veji1 wrote:Agreed. For me after Antietam, the war is lost. The only way the South could have won would have been via a schocking military victory stunning the north into acceptance, or rather a series of schocking victories.. Bloody unlikely but technically possible I suppose : Say the seven day battle ends up with 40 000 captured union soldiers + most of their high command and you get Lee turning his troop towards washington and investing the city (not taking it)... Say that at the battle of Shiloh AS Johnston decisevly defeated Grant, virtually disintegrating His army and forcing its remnants + Buell to run back north of the Cumberland river.. You would have had in July 62, more than one year after the beginning of the war, the capital city besieged, the Union decisevely defeated in the 2 biggest battles of the war in a few months, the borders back to their lines of the very start... Maybe, maybe, some would have told Lincoln to just cut his losses, maybe some states would have said they don't want to continue, they want to become neutral etc... an attempt at relieving Washington is defeated, Baltimore declares itself "open city". War is over in early mid september 62.

Not likely at all, but to me the only way.

After Shiloh/Antietam, the war is lost, it could have lasted longer, but it is lost.


I suppose you could argue Bragg had the best chance, following Chickamauga, to capture a Federal army. But even then, it would have required several victories of the same style to move northern public opinion sufficiently.

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Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:40 pm

Well, technically, by surrendering the South freed its slaves, as they were only then subject to the Union Proclomation.

You haven't read the Emancipation Proclamation, then, or don't understand it. Lincoln, on his authority as Commander-in-Chief of the forces of the United States, declared that all persons held in servitude in places and jurisdictions then in a state of rebellion against the Federal government were, from 1 January 1863, henceforth and forever free.

The dozen slaves or so in Delaware were not freed, although Delaware was pretty moot & the State could well have freed any and all by 1862. No slaves were emancipated in Maryland, nor in Kentucky or Missouri, at least in places where Federal authority has been established firmly since the early war.

The 13th Amendment abolished slavery throughout the land. Your assertion of a technicality is technically and substantively incorrect.
[color="#AFEEEE"]"Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"[/color]

-Daniel Webster



[color="#FFA07A"]"C'mon, boys, we got the damn Yankees on the run!"[/color]

-General Joseph Wheeler, US Army, serving at Santiago in 1898



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Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:49 am

veji1 wrote:After Shiloh/Antietam, the war is lost, it could have lasted longer, but it is lost.


Unless somehow, someway the South could have switched to a defensive war of attrition sufficient to destroy Northern morale and defeat Lincoln at the polls in 1864. I don't think the South ever had a realistic chance to win a purely military victory so long as Lincoln remained in charge.

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Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:06 am

fred zeppelin wrote:Unless somehow, someway the South could have switched to a defensive war of attrition sufficient to destroy Northern morale and defeat Lincoln at the polls in 1864. I don't think the South ever had a realistic chance to win a purely military victory so long as Lincoln remained in charge.


The thing is don't really see hoz they could have done it. basically from late 62 onwards, when the Anaconda plan really starts to be efficiently implemented, the south was going to be suffocated anyway. I don't see a US president making piece in january 65 with a CSA on the verge of defeat. Even had a McClellan won, he would have seen the situation and just "finished it off". This why I think that the last possible turning point was the summer of 62.

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Fri Mar 07, 2014 12:22 am

The new President would take over in March, about a month before Grant ends it at Appomattox. Plus, Mac was pro-war, so the only way for the South to win was to get somebody else nominated way back in August, and then have them win in November, and somehow hang on long enough for the talks that might end the fighting.

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Fri Mar 07, 2014 4:50 pm

veji1 wrote:Agreed. For me after Antietam, the war is lost. The only way the South could have won would have been via a schocking military victory stunning the north into acceptance, or rather a series of schocking victories.. Bloody unlikely but technically possible I suppose : Say the seven day battle ends up with 40 000 captured union soldiers + most of their high command and you get Lee turning his troop towards washington and investing the city (not taking it)... Say that at the battle of Shiloh AS Johnston decisevly defeated Grant, virtually disintegrating His army and forcing its remnants + Buell to run back north of the Cumberland river.. You would have had in July 62, more than one year after the beginning of the war, the capital city besieged, the Union decisevely defeated in the 2 biggest battles of the war in a few months, the borders back to their lines of the very start... Maybe, maybe, some would have told Lincoln to just cut his losses, maybe some states would have said they don't want to continue, they want to become neutral etc... an attempt at relieving Washington is defeated, Baltimore declares itself "open city". War is over in early mid september 62.

Not likely at all, but to me the only way.

After Shiloh/Antietam, the war is lost, it could have lasted longer, but it is lost.



July 63! Vicksburg and Gettysburg and the Russian fleet spiked it. The French and the British were both insisting on a peace settlement.

It was more about the south not losing until then.

How far they would have gone to do that is only guess work of course but after those losses they fairly tossed in the towel. The still wanted to bring them to the table but implied use of force, or recognition of the CSA was gone. It dragged on another 21 months.

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Fri Mar 07, 2014 5:01 pm

Ol' Choctaw wrote:July 63! Vicksburg and Gettysburg and the Russian fleet spiked it. The French and the British were both insisting on a peace settlement.

It was more about the south not losing until then.

How far they would have gone to do that is only guess work of course but after those losses they fairly tossed in the towel. The still wanted to bring them to the table but implied use of force, or recognition of the CSA was gone. It dragged on another 21 months.


I don't buy it personnally. Once a faire amount had been spillt (62 was fairly bloody), the Union was never going to go for a white peace, it would have been impossible. Therefore any form of apparent white peace, which really meant recognition and therefore victory for the south, would have been possible only as a southern victory, and the south just couldn't win once the anaconda really got to work. The summer of 63 was the last desperate attempt agains the odds to do something.. It is (all things being equal, which they arent't of course) as if one said that the Nazis could still win the war in the east at the battle of Kursk.

I don't know, I might be wrong but i never bought the hypothesis of the south being able to win the war by dragging it out. Might be wrong though of course.

khbynum
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Sat Mar 08, 2014 1:49 am

Hi veji1, I hope we may agree to disagree. We've all studied the war and know how impossible it was to achieve a Napoleonic-style , decisive victory in an era of huge armies supplied by railroads and field fortifications backed by highly mobile field artillery and infantry armed with rifle muskets. I still think a strategically defensive, operationally offensive approach could have done it. To extend your analogy, the South needed to avoid Gettyburgs (Kursk) and Vicksburgs (Stalingrad).

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Sat Mar 08, 2014 2:27 am

We've all studied the war and know how impossible it was to achieve a Napoleonic-style , decisive victory in an era of huge armies supplied by railroads and field fortifications backed by highly mobile field artillery and infantry armed with rifle muskets.


Why? Lee had his chances on the Peninsula, 2nd Manassas, and Chancellorsville, and Bragg had a chance at Chickamauga. Grant actually did it at Vicksburg and Appomattox. The Prussians did it to France at Sedan just 5 years later. Even in WW1, Germany destroyed Russian armies at Tannenberg and Masurian Lakes. It was possible to destroy armies in their entirety. This is the reason I don't like the 0% MC retreat rule. I get that maybe the AI can't handle it, but for PBEM against humans, if you let your army get surrounded, you should face the consequences.

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