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GDA: Aside from small raids the Confederacy took the war to Union soilon only two occasions, and both times the congregation that would later become one lung of the Church of Green Dome was caught in the cross-fire. It was as though Lee himself had a grudge against them.

GDB: Muskets fell like two waves of dominoes atop stone walls on the Blue and Gray sides of a quiet little creek. The instant the rifled barrels hit the horizontal they fired, burning eyes with the pungent smoke of spent black powder. The walls bent to become a bridge.

GDC: Union and rebel soldiers converged on foot, shooting as they came. As they merged the fighting changed to bayonet thrusts and finally fisticuffs. The Federals had the greater initial momentum and nearly reached across the bridge before the rebels bounced them back.

GDD: The boys in blue trod backwards over a layer of bodies one deep. Some were dead, others writhed with broken bones or lead balls lodged in their innards. A few of the fallen had survived the battle of Shiloh, where the war attained a high but stable plateau of savagery.

GDE: A tube loaded with canister shot was lined up on the long axis of the bridge and mowed down counterattacking rebels like grass to form a second layer of bodies. Some of the fallen boys in gray had survived the artillery hell at Malvern Hill during the Seven Days.

GDF: Two guns were set up on the Confederate side of the creek upstream. One fired bursting shells that maimed the Union gunners and another fired sev eral rounds of solid shot. The ones that didn't hit the cannon bounced upslope into the walls of a little white church.

GDG: After the giant shotgun became a pile of splinters and dented steel another Rebel attack gained most of the bridge, which had become an abattoir. A colonel on the Union side was shot, but to the wonderment of his men he stood up with a Minie ball in his Bible.

GDH: With his new divine sanction, the colonel led a series of new attacks but the only effect was to make the hill of twisting bodies on the bridge higher. Men standing on the pile swapped empty muskets for freshly-loaded ones handed up to them like in a bucket brigade.

GDI: The Confederates were running low on powder and this fact was brought to the attention of the lieutenant commander leading them. He saw the bridge was lost so he shifted to saving his two pieces of artillery. He ordered a pullback with fresh troops in rearguard.

GDJ: "Tell the commanding general we won a bridgehead here," the federal general told a lieutenant when he saw the retreating gray backs. The junior officer saluted but he saw the bridge was stacked with bodies and refused to desecrate them by walking over the pile.

GDK: Instead the messenger dropped into the creek bed and splashed across on foot, by passing all the carnage on the bridge. After all, the water there was only ankle deep.

GDL: Through binoculars General Robert Lee watched the Federal lines from the saddle of his horse, dreading the inevitable butcher's bill. His face was flushed with a combination of frustration and suppressed rage after he realized his invasion of the North had failed.

GDM: Lee knew McClellan was over-cautious but there had already been a bad misstep when a copy of his battle plans fell into the enemy's hands. The battle had burned itself out like a fire. There had never been such a bloodletting in America, not even at Shiloh.

GDN: But Lee knew a greater disaster was waiting in the wings. His army was surrounded on three sides by a bend of the Potomac River, and on the fourth by the Army of the Potomac.

GDO: Lee's "old warhorse" General Longstreet came in to headquarters after early morning consultations with his five division commanders. First Corps was spread out from Sharpsburg to points south. He told Lee the Union had made no surprise moves forward overnight.

GDP: "Thank you General Longstreet," said Lee, but it only confirmed what he had already observed himself, so he issued the same orders he gave to Jackson commanding II Corps on his left. "An informal truce for the purpose of exchanging our wounded has held since sundown.

GDQ: You will begin moving First Corps back over the river at once, whether this truce holds or not. But Pete, your retreat must be in good order. I do not wish to let those people over there watch the Army of Northern Virginia quitting the field in an undignified rout."

GDR: General James "Pete" Longstreet snapped off a perfect salute and rode away to issue his own orders. Soon all over the battlefield men broke down their tents. The Confederates began to cross pontoon bridges stretching from the little slice of Maryland they still held.

GDS: And all that day Little Mac watched what Lee was doing from the long slope up from the Potomac and refused to advance, even with a two-to-one numerical advantage. Were the forces ten-to-one in his favor he would yet wire Washington to say he didn't have enough men.

GDT: The church near the bridge had become a hospital for the Union army. Dried blood stained the interior walls, only to be overlaid with sprays of new blood. One doctor used ether to sedate men while another doctor sawed off their limbs and threw them into a pile.

GDU: A messenger arrived at the church by horse and addressed the doctors. "Get your wounded on hoof or wheels, we're pulling them back to Boonsboro." The pile of amputated limbs was set ablaze. Horse-drawn ambulances began carrying the wounded north and east.

GDV: Every bump in the road elicited screams from the men inside. No one who witnessed the convoy of suffering and the carnage that was left behind would again say they craved the glories of war, if before the battle they once did.

GDW: Many of the local farmers found it prudent to move their work horses to a place far away from men of either army who would "borrow" them, permanently. Upon their leftover mules the parishioners of the little church rode out, when it seemed safe, to help bury the dead.

GDX: A hundred bodies lay near the church, but most bitter of all was seeing their beloved church riddled with holes revealing glimpses of the interior and how it had become a slaughterhouse. When they tried to enter the struc ture collapsed in ruin. Perhaps this was a mercy.

GDY: Pastor Karl Keller said, "Do not grieve overmuch, my friends. We will build a more beautiful church to stand in its place."

"But what will keep a new one from suffering the same fate, brother Keller?" objected Deacon Mark Lange.

"What do you mean, brother Lange?"

GDZ: "I mean Virginia lies just over yonder river and last month there was a second battle of Manassas. This is a good place for an army to ford the river. What's to stop a second of Sharpsburg? No, I say we should build our church at my uncle's farm in Pennsylvania."

GEA: "And leave our own farms?" "Our horses have already been moved there so as to guard against thieves." "It wonders me why you are in such a hurry, brother Lange. For a decision of this import we must let the Lord make his will known. Let us pray on it, each one of us."

GEB: There is no prayer better than work, but there is no work worse than burying soldiers where they fell. And when they were finished the flock was split in half. Fourteen families joined Mark Lange in seeking a quiet new life far from the threat of war, in Gettysburg.

GEC: When the horses of the parishioners were first evacuated to Pennsylvania it was five of Lange's male cousins on his father's side who took them north, but when the horses were returned it was his cousin Joanna who brought them back, all by her lonesome.

GED: Joanna's own horse was groomed better than she was, yet Mark fell stone in love at first sight. But he persistently had four- legged competition. On the way back to Gettysburg when the weather turned bad Joanna let her horse have the tent while she slept outside.

GEE: Joanna spent more time cleaning her horse than helping her mother clean the house. Mark thought the house was a sty, but the barn was neat as a pin. Joanna's mother said she needed a male companion to quiet some of the rumors going around, so Joanna got a stallion.

GEF: Joanna's father looked askance when Mark began courting her but Joanna's mother was overjoyed at her new interest in something other than equines. One time a jealous Mark found a strange hair on her coat but Joanna got out of hot water when she produced the horse to match.

GEG: At her bridal shower Joanna received a large number of gifts. Mostly they were actual bridles. When the happy day finally arrived and it was time to show up for her wedding Joanna came in late because she took too long cleaning the stalls. Mark Lange married her anyway.

GEH: Three centuries prior to all this King Henry VIII grew tired of his wife so he asked Rome to release him from the marriage. The Pope refused so the king retaliated by taking all England out of the Roman Catholic Church altogether. He started his own national church.

GEI: After that it was like a dam had burst. John Knox founded the Presbyterian Church after a disagreement with Lutherans over the shared meal and church government. John Smyth founded the Baptist churches over the issue of infant baptism and church-state separation.

GEJ: English translations of the Bible appeared, and the Church of England, controlled by Parliament, rejected for use in the liturgy certain books of the Old Testament that had been authored in Greek and had been accepted by Rome and the Eastern Church for centuries.

GEK: After the Western Church divided, it began to sub-divide again and again over the smallest issues, such as whether women could wear slacks, or whether playing cards was a sin, or what color the hymnal had to be. Every new sect had their own doctrinal hobby horse to ride.

GEL: God never had a problem with cousins getting hitched. Milcah was married to her cousin, Nahor. They had a granddaughter named Rebecca who later married Isaac, her first cousin once removed. Isaac ordered Jacob to marry a daughter of Rebecca's brother. Jacob took two.

GEM: God himself commanded Zelophehad's five daughters to marry their cousins so their inheritance would remain in the family. The hoarding of great wealth by families threatened the temporal power of the papacy. Pope Gregory I forbade Catholics from marrying their cousins.

GEN: Before the Civil War no American state banned cousin marriage. In the years following the war thirteen states did make it illegal. The United States is the only western country with cousin marriage restrictions. A fifth of all couples worldwide are first cousins.

GEO: Many animals including humans have evolved an aversion to mating very close within the bloodlines such as between a brother and a sister, or a son and his mother. First cousins mating represents an optimum point between genetic diversity and sexual availability.

GEP: All these scriptural, historical, and anthropological arguments were preached by Pastor Mark Lange of Five Corners Free Congregation, who was deeply in love with his cousin Joanna. And all of this should have been a mere footnote in the annals of American Protestantism.

GER: But Lange made it a doctrine of his church that a man could marry his cousin and no other. It was the mirror-image of Pope Gregory's prohibition, but even in the minds of many who despised "Romanism" this made Lang's church a cult, in the vein of the polygamous Mormons.

GES: In 1863 General Lee rolled the dice and moved North once again, bringing on the biggest battle of the war. On the third day Pastor Mark Lange walked to his church and found all the pews scattered outside. Union officers were sitting on his pews idly smoking cigars.

GET: Inside the church the Army of the Potomac's commander of the week poured over maps laid on the very altar and concluded that Lee's next hammer blow would land on the center. He turned to go outside and bumped into Lange, which prompted him to bark, "Who the hell are you?"

GEU: "I'm the pastor of this church. This is my church!"

"The hell you say, sir! This is the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac!" Outside officers were seen idly playing tic tac toe on a pew with knives.

"Will you tell your men to lay a lighter hand on church property?"

GEV: "Get out of my sight, parson, or I'll put a musket in your hand and stand you up on yonder stone-"

General Meade was interrupted by a crash as the church filled with flying wood splinters. One hundred forty guns of the Confederate artillery have opened a furious barrage.

GEW: Meade ran out of the church picking splinters out of his skin and barking orders. His officers on the pews began to scatter as shells burst nearby. Union artillery was brought up to answer Colonel Alexander's guns but Mark Lange remained inside his church.

GEX: Lange had a delusion that his presence would save the building, but solid shot made gaping holes in the walls, an eerie repeat of Sharpsburg. Lange clasped his hands in prayer. "Lord, forgive your stiff-necked servant. Your will was that we move west, not north!"

GEY: It was 1:13 PM on July 3, 1863. Two shells from the main battery of the Army of Northern Virginia fell nearly simultaneously and burst within the church, completely demolishing it with Pastor Mark Lange still huddling inside with his eyes closed, immersed in prayer.

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