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Best U.S. Civil War books - FReeper opinions sought
Imagination ^ | 7 Oct 2001 | just me

Posted on 10/07/2001 9:23:37 AM PDT by fnord

Hi there. I am going to buy a few Civil War books to get me through the winter. Given the wealth of knowledge here on FR, I am sure some FReepers can give me their recommendations.

I already have Killer Angels and Stillness at Appomatox. Looking for general overall history books and also ones of more specific scope (campaigns, individuals, etc).

Any suggestion would be most appreciated :-)


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Yes this is a vanity, but I think others could use the info. I did a search and found nothing. If there is a good thread for this already, please give me the link.

I'm sure there is a circle of Civil War buffs here who know each other. Pings to those people would be appreciated greatly.

we now return you to your regularly scheduled FR

1 posted on 10/07/2001 9:23:37 AM PDT by fnord (dontwrite@myhouse.com)
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To: fnord
"The Battles and Leaders of the Civil War" three vol set are excellent reference material. Anything by Shellby Foote is also easy to read. One of his that I like the best is "Stars in their Courses". Also his historical fiction will give you a real flavor of the time.
2 posted on 10/07/2001 9:32:50 AM PDT by Rob45and2
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To: fnord
In the course of human events, by Charles Adams; non-fiction, supportive of the southern side.
3 posted on 10/07/2001 9:33:06 AM PDT by Aurelius
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To: fnord
Shelby Foote's trilogy, "The Civil War: A narrative".
4 posted on 10/07/2001 9:35:43 AM PDT by 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
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To: fnord
Freeman's "Lee's Lieutenants" is both a good read, good history, and for those who care about such things, a major change in how historians related history. Truly a classic.

I have had a set since I was a teenager. I find I reread them every 5 or 10 years. Only other books I have like that are Tollkien, the Earthsea Trilogy, Thucydides, and Churchill's WWII set.

5 posted on 10/07/2001 9:36:55 AM PDT by Wisconsin
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To: Rob45and2; Aurelius; 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten; Wisconsin
thanks for the suggestions

picked a bad time to post this, lol, lot's more interesting stuff going on ... thanks again

6 posted on 10/07/2001 9:49:02 AM PDT by fnord
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To: fnord
Anything by Bruce Catton. Killer Angels is a must. Winston Churchill wrote a concise and accurate account.
7 posted on 10/07/2001 9:52:29 AM PDT by johnny7
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To: fnord
"Lee & Grant" by Gene Smith. A wonderful dual biography of two amazing gentlemen. And don't laugh: "Gone with the Wind." Still the most accurate portrayal of the home front at the time of the Civil War. The author grew up among veterans and members of the "old guard" who taught her everything she wrote!
8 posted on 10/07/2001 9:56:21 AM PDT by miss marmelstein
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To: fnord
"Battle Cry of Freedom" by James MacPherson.

An outstanding book that I am re-reading for the 5th time right now, as a matter of fact.

9 posted on 10/07/2001 9:59:23 AM PDT by LincolnLover
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To: fnord
I have over 200 books on the civil war and related subjects. Here are some I recommend:

Antebellum, "roots of the conflict" books:

Cavalier and Yankee by William Taylor

The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire 1854-1861by Robert May

Antebellum ed. Harvey Wish. Contains "Cannibals All!" and "Sociology for the South" by George Fitzhugh, and "Impending Crisis" by Hinton Helper

Southern Honor by Bertram Wyatt-Brown

The Cotton Kingdom by Frederick Olmsted .

Life and Labor in the Old South by Ulrich B Phillips

The House divides byPaul Wellman.

The Freedom-of_Thought struggle in the Old South by Clement Eaton

The war itself (sets) :

Anything by Allan Nevins (8 volume Ordeal of the Union set, which covers 1847-1865)

Anything by Bruce Catton (Centennial history of the civil war trilogy, 2 volume bio of US Grant, Army of the Potomac trilogy)

One volume histories I like include:

Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson

The Land They Fought for and Experiment in rebellion, both by Clifford Dowdey

The Confederate Nation 1861-1865 </U. Emory Thomas (pro south)

"A People's Contest" : Union and the Civil war 1861-1865Phillip Paudan (pro north)

Civil War on the Western Border 1854-1865 by Jay Monaghan

And :

The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government by Jefferson Davis

Anything by Bell Wiley (he did works on soldiers of both sides, women , poor whites, and southern "Negroes" (his term, and that's part of the title), and how they lived 1861-1865)

The diaries of Sarah Morgan and Mary Chestnut (especially the first book)

I don't know what stance you take on the civil war, but if you're pro north , you'll love :

When the Guns Roared : World Aspects of the Civil War by Philip Van Doren Stern.

If you're pro south, watch your blood pressure. This book was so blatantly biased , I don't believe it's been reprinted once. That, even though there's always a market for civil war books.

A similar but much better book is :

The North, The South, and the Powers 1861-1865 by DP Crook.

Post civil war books :

The Mind of the South by W J Cash

I'll Take My Stand by Twelve Southerners

Baptized in Blood : The Religion of the Lost Cause Charles Wilson

The Lost Cause : The Confederate Exodus to Mexico by Andrew Rolle

Reconstruction Eric Foner

Masters Without Slaves by James Roark

And the Entire 10 volume History of the South Series, especially:

The Growth of Southern Nationalism By Avery Craven (vol 6)

The Origins of the New South 1877-1913 by C Vann Woodward (vol 9)

I think there's now a volume 11 bringing the history up to the 1970s.

There's some other good ones out there, but for a variety of reasons, these are the ones I most reread.

10 posted on 10/07/2001 10:03:19 AM PDT by kaylar
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To: kaylar
One I forgot

Southern History of the War By Edward Pollard.

Written as it happened, constantly reprinted .

11 posted on 10/07/2001 10:07:53 AM PDT by kaylar
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To: fnord
"Chancellorsville" by Sears and "To The Gates of Richmond" by Sears.

Sears does a remarkable job clearly and concisely explaining complex battles and keeping the reading interesting at the same time.
12 posted on 10/07/2001 10:07:56 AM PDT by Arkinsaw
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: Arkinsaw
"Company Aytch: Or, a Side Show of the Big Show and Other Sketches" by Sam Watkins. It's the autobiography of a Confederate Soldier in Braggs army. It provides a very good view of the common soldier's life, and why he was fighting.
14 posted on 10/07/2001 10:13:07 AM PDT by aomagrat
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To: fnord
Some of my favorite memoirs are

Company Aytch by Sam Watkins
Hardtack and Coffee by Josh Billings
Fighting for the Confederacy by E.P. Alexander
Campaigning with Grant by Horace Porter

If you have the chance to visit some battlefields, try and read the Army War College Guides first (published for Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and maybe others....)

15 posted on 10/07/2001 10:18:04 AM PDT by Uncle Fud
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To: fnord
"Anything by Shellby Foote "

amen...

16 posted on 10/07/2001 10:18:29 AM PDT by hoot2
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Bump for a (comparatively)peaceful topic, in case more would be interested in seeing and commenting on this.
17 posted on 10/07/2001 2:38:36 PM PDT by kaylar
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To: fnord
Civil War? There was nothing "Civil" about it!

Anyway:

Most recently read:
Not War But Murder (subtitled "Cold Harbor 1864"), Ernest B. Furgurson.

Others:

They Called Him Stonewall (subtitled "A Life of Lieutenant General T.J. Jackson, C.S.A."), by Burke Davis.
When in the Course of Human Events, by Charles Adams.
The South Was Right! by James Ronald Kennedy and Walter Donald Kennedy.
Was Jefferson Davis Right?, also by the Kennedy brothers.

Right now I have just begun reading a new book:
An Honorable Defeat (subtitled "The Last Days of the Confederate Government), by William C. Davis.
I haven't gotten far enough into it to recommend it, though it's well written so far.

FRegards,
CD

18 posted on 10/07/2001 2:56:25 PM PDT by Constitution Day
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To: kaylar
You are doing yourself a great disservice if you do not read any of Steven Woodworth's books. He is one of the more prominent Civil War historian of our generation and a conservative and a Christain to boot. Check out his bio and the links to his worldview posted on his homepage.

Bio of Dr. Steven Woodworth

His Worldview

19 posted on 10/07/2001 3:02:02 PM PDT by flying Elvis
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To: flying Elvis
Never heard of him...I'll check him out.
20 posted on 10/07/2001 5:10:06 PM PDT by kaylar
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To: Constitution Day
If you like the Kennedy brothers, what do you think of Michael Andrew Grissom?
21 posted on 10/07/2001 5:11:30 PM PDT by kaylar
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To: LincolnLover
Battle Cry of Freedom" by James MacPherson. An outstanding book that I am re-reading for the 5th time right now, as a matter of fact.

An outstanding book that I am reading for the 1st time right now, as a matter of fact.

22 posted on 10/07/2001 5:14:41 PM PDT by Labyrinthos
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To: fnord
Douglas Southall Freeman's Lee's Lieutenants 3 vol. Also while not directly devoted to the Civil War the biography of Robert E. Lee three volumes by the same author. As some have said Battles and Leaders is a primary source. Articles by men who actually participated.
23 posted on 10/07/2001 5:16:12 PM PDT by HENRYADAMS
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To: johnny7
Anything by Bruce Catton. Killer Angels is a must.

Excellent choices, although Catton can drag if you're not into the details. (I am, so not a problem.) And when you tire of reading, rent Gettysburg, which is based upon Killer Angels. The funny part is that the book takes less time to read than the time to watch the movie.

24 posted on 10/07/2001 5:19:47 PM PDT by Labyrinthos
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To: fnord
Read as much of Shelby Foote's Narrative as you can. It's a literary as well as historical classic.

Avoid MacPherson's books; they're propaganda.

25 posted on 10/07/2001 5:21:31 PM PDT by tsomer
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To: Rob45and2
DITTO re Shelby Foote! Definitely one of the best and most able writers on the Civil War era. No library on the Civil War would be complete without some of Foote's work!!
26 posted on 10/07/2001 5:25:12 PM PDT by Beep
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To: tsomer
Read as much of Shelby Foote's Narrative as you can. It's a literary as well as historical classic. Avoid MacPherson's books; they're propaganda.

I second both opinions. Catton's trilogy on the Army of the Potomoc is excellent; Freeman's Lee's Lieutenants is an excellent foil to Catton. Unfortunately, there's no comparable work on the Western campaigns, but there are many excellent books on individual campaings and battles, including Wiley Sword's books on Shiloh, Chattanooga, and Nashville; Cozzens' books on Stones River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Iuka/Corinth; and Bearss' work on Vicksburg.

27 posted on 10/07/2001 5:28:23 PM PDT by financeprof
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To: kaylar
I have seen Grissom's Southern By The Grace Of God, but have not yet read it.
Sorry.

What do you think of him?

28 posted on 10/07/2001 5:32:03 PM PDT by Constitution Day
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To: kaylar
I have seen Grissom's Southern By The Grace Of God, but have not yet read it.
Sorry.

What do you think of him?

29 posted on 10/07/2001 5:32:06 PM PDT by Constitution Day
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To: All
Oops - my apologies for the double post.
30 posted on 10/07/2001 5:32:53 PM PDT by Constitution Day
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To: fnord
There is a ten volume set called 'The Photographic History of the Civil War'. It contains thousands of pictures. The set was published in 1911 and I have no idea if it was ever republished. I have a set that belonged to my grandfather. Try the used book sellers should you wish. A library may also be able to access a loan for you.
31 posted on 10/07/2001 5:33:48 PM PDT by holly
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To: Constitution Day
When he's being nostalgic for the Old South of , say, his parent's days, he's not too bad. Folkways, folklore, food, that sort of thing. But when he trots out the ol', "the slaves were happy and loyal" crapola, when contemporay sources (eg, Mary Chestnut's diary) say otherwise, he's pretty dismal. And when he made the claim that Union soldiers only joined up for the bounty, he loses all credibility, at least as a civil war historian : Bell I. Wiley was as staunch a Southerner as you can imagine, and he concluded quite otherwise, as he details in his book, The Life of Billy Yank, and he came to his conclusions after reading the letters and diaries of thousands of Union soldiers . It's one thing to praise Johnny Reb ; it's another to tell lies about Billy Yank, and I think Grissom knew he was lying. The Union soldiers' performance at too many battlefields (eg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, not to mention at Andersonville) was not that of conscripts just in it for the bounty ( and simple logic dictates that if they were, wouldn't they all have deserted?). But when he sticks with "Foxfire" territory, and discusses the folklore and folkways of the rural south in the early and middle decades of the 20th century, he's quite readable. On a scale of 1-10, I give him overall a 4...worth buying used or paperback.
32 posted on 10/07/2001 5:45:05 PM PDT by kaylar
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To: fnord
Another one : There was a magazine called Confederate Veteran, which was published c1890-1933. It has been republished in hardbound volumes. If you can find those, they are definitely worth a look.
33 posted on 10/07/2001 5:47:00 PM PDT by kaylar
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To: miss marmelstein
Okay, if you're going to recommend Gone with the Wind, I have to go to the videos. If you have not already, watch all of the PBS series by Ken Burns and then watch the movie Gettysburg. That should take several long afternoons.
34 posted on 10/07/2001 5:50:23 PM PDT by Mercat
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
Shelby Foote's trilogy, "The Civil War: A narrative".

Bump that.

35 posted on 10/07/2001 5:53:06 PM PDT by Scott from the Left Coast
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To: fnord
"Jefferson Davis: The Man and his Hour" by William C. Davis.
Anything by Stephen Sears
Emory Thomas's biography of Lee.
Robertson's biography of Jackson
Sherman's memoirs
36 posted on 10/07/2001 5:53:18 PM PDT by nonliberal
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To: fnord
Forgot to add:

"I Rode With Stonewall" by Henry Douglass

37 posted on 10/07/2001 5:56:42 PM PDT by nonliberal
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To: ALL
many thanks to all ... looks like I will need several winters to catch up on the reading :-)
38 posted on 10/07/2001 6:10:39 PM PDT by fnord
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To: fnord
"Confederate Raider in the North Pacific: The Saga of the C CSS Shenandoah. 1864-65" by Murray Morgan. One of the most interesting and unknown stories about the Civil War.
39 posted on 10/07/2001 6:12:22 PM PDT by stormer
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To: Mercat
I've seen the PBS series twice, but I need to get the tapes/DVD so I can go at my own pace.

When that first came out, I was camping in the Michigan woods. Missed the first episode, but sitting around the fire late that night, heard it mentioned on Johnny Carson. Every night after that me and my group would finish fishing and eating every night in time to sit and watch it non-stop on a little 8-inch B&W in the Michigan woods. Still the best TV has ever produced, imho

40 posted on 10/07/2001 6:14:41 PM PDT by fnord
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To: kaylar
Thanks for the info! I will have to check it out.
I think my local library actually has a copy, believe it or not!

I have never read Mary Boykin Chesnut's diary; just never got around to it.
I do think that *some* slaves were "happy and loyal" but that they were a definite minority.
I understand Chesnut's plantation "Mulberry" is still standing and is an interesting tourist destination, as is the Museum of the Confederacy.
Since they are both within close driving distance for me (Camden SC and Richmond, respectively), I plan to visit them next summer.

There are so many other books on the War Between the States I need to check out, but haven't had as much time since my daughter was born.
I am just getting back into it in the last couple of months.

If you are interested in other books on American history, an excellent non-War related book I just finished was
Roanoke: Solving The Mystery of the Lost Colony, by Lee Miller.
I live in NC and vacation near Roanoke Island every year.
I've read many books on the "Lost Colony" story, and Miller has come closer than anyone in determining what happened to them.
Probably closer than anyone ever will, unless their remains are ever found, which is doubtful.

Thanks again for sharing that with me!

FRegards,
CD

41 posted on 10/07/2001 6:17:21 PM PDT by Constitution Day
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To: fnord
Try:

1.) "Mathew Brady's Illustrated History of the Civil War", Benson J. Lossing, LLD, Fairfax Press, NY, with 737 Brady Photographs.
Originally published in 1889, reissued ~1987. Extremely useful introduction and epilogue. Enormous amount of detail, fascinating photographs - including a Cherokee Confederate Veteran's Reunion. On the down side, the narrative drifts, lose ends are seldom wrapped up. The weakest part is the hagiography of Lincoln and demonization of the rebels. The tone implies that Lincoln's saintliness and the South's wickedness are presupposed. Reflects the political climate and self-rightness of the triumphant North at that time.

2.) Ambrose Bierce's Civil War (anthology). Dover Books. Priceless. A personal and idiosyncratic view of the war by a Union Officer who later became a famous American wit and newspaper writer. Bierce's disaffection and cynicism were shared by more thoughtful Union veterans than one reading Benson J. Lossing, LLD might be inclined to believe. Mostly biographical, some fiction, the two are never confused. There is more truth in fiction, often, than in history. "The Incident at Owl's Creek" is especially haunting. "What I Saw at Shiloh" tells you what it was like to fight at Shiloh better than Bruce Catton can ever know.

42 posted on 10/07/2001 6:19:35 PM PDT by Lonesome in Massachussets
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To: 2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten
huge ditto to Shelby Foote's trilogy !

it'll take ya awhile, but worth it ...

43 posted on 10/07/2001 6:21:52 PM PDT by tomkat
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To: miss marmelstein
Lee & Grant" by Gene Smith. A wonderful dual biography of two amazing gentlemen

That is a good book, and there's also Grant and Lee By Major General JC Fuller. Differs from the Smith book as being more of a study of the generalship of the two commanders. Fuller tells us how he started the book convinced that Lee was the greatest general of the civil war, and Jackson was a close second. He ended it believing that Grant was not only the greatest general of the civil war...he was one of the greatest US military leaders of all time.

And don't laugh: "Gone with the Wind." Still the most accurate portrayal of the home front at the time of the Civil War.

There's a novel that was written at the time which bears comparision to GWTW : Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty by J W DeForest, a Union veteran. The book deals with a southern belle's conversion, obviously, and the concommitant threeway romance between her and two rival Union officers. DeForest is considered an early "realist" writer, but while a talented writer, his works were not popular with contemporaries. They prefered more sentimental books, and his output was small. Both factors have prevented him from receiving the recognition to which his talent entitles him.

44 posted on 10/07/2001 6:31:57 PM PDT by kaylar
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To: Constitution Day
He also wrote, The South When it Was Southern, and The Last Rebel Yell. I haven't read those two.
45 posted on 10/07/2001 6:34:03 PM PDT by kaylar
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To: Constitution Day
We're hoping (some decade) to be able to take a whole summer and just tour civil war sites. We've seen Pea Ridge, WestPort, Boonville, and a few memorials to dead confederates, but poverty has restricted us to battle grounds in MO and north AR. There's just not a whole lot in MO. The Confederate Old Age home is barely an hour's drive, we've seen that, but that's about it. (Needless to say...it no longer has any residents, being a museum now!)

He wants to see Gettysburg ; I want to see Shiloh and Vicksburg.

46 posted on 10/07/2001 6:38:44 PM PDT by kaylar
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Comment #47 Removed by Moderator

To: fnord
Saw a GREAT interview w/Jay Wisnik on Booknotes. Pick up 'April, 1865.'
48 posted on 10/07/2001 6:41:20 PM PDT by bird humming
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To: fnord
For a highly readible narrative of the entire event, nothing beats, Foote's Trilogy. After that, then pick a battle or person that interested you and examine the better studies that will likely be more detailed. Foote's smaller volumns are segments of the larger narrative for the most part...i.e, the Gettysburg campaign in "Star in their Courses" is just like his account in the larger narrative. Buy the first one in hard back,,,,you'll want to keep them.
49 posted on 10/07/2001 6:52:26 PM PDT by KC Burke
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To: All
And in some shameless self promotion: Here are some books I am credited in. Buy two or three copies. hehe

While God is Marching On

A Scythe of Fire

50 posted on 10/07/2001 10:57:42 PM PDT by flying Elvis
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