Betting Gaming Recruitment

Flag Plant Rookies

Preface: I'm not including the consensus top guys like CEH, JT, Jeudy, or Lamb because while I love those players, I'm not necessarily higher on them than others. CEH and JT and my #1 and #2 players in the draft overall and Jeudy & Lamb are my WR1 and WR2 but everyone else has them in those same spots. I may actually be a little lower on Jeudy & Lamb than most as I prefer the top 5 RBs and don't see a huge gap between Jeudy/Lamb and the other Round 1 & Round 2 WRs. The only consensus "top guy" I have on my list is Burrow.
Joe Burrow, 6'2/221, CIN (1.01)
Burrow is a legit blue chip QB prospect worthy of the #1 overall pick and my favorite QB prospect since Andrew Luck. While he lacks elite arm talent, he has incredibly accuracy, poise, and mobility to manipulate the pocket. While Tua has a longer track record of success, he's never come close to having a season like Burrow's 2019. Really reminds me of Tony Romo or a less athletic Russell Wilson. I don't love CIN as an organization but Burrow projects as a potential transcendent player and has a decent amount of weapons around him in AJG, Boyd, Higgins, Ross, and Mixon.
Jordan Love, 6'3/224, GB (1.26)
Probably my favorite value in SF drafts this year. Love easily has the best arm talent in the entire draft class, routinely making jaw dropping throws. He's not a Josh Allen type either with scattershot accuracy and only capable of throwing the fastball. His accuracy is precise at all levels and he can manipulate his velocity and throw with touch. Furthermore, Love is a very mobile QB with the ability to evade pressure, escape the pocket, and keep his eyes downfield. Some of his throws on the run are reminiscent of Patrick Mahommes or Carson Wentz. The issue with Love is simply decision making - locking into his first read or trusting his arm too much. However, you look at his 2018 season and the volume of those bad decisions is not there. In 2019, Love lost not only his coaching staff but his main offensive weapons as well. Considering his elite traits, I'll gladly bet that Love can return to his 2018 form.
I don't hate the situation either as sitting behind Rodgers for 1 or 2 years should be helpful and GB has proven itself over the last two decades to be a very stable organization that develops QBs. The upside is huge here and he's routinely available in the mid 2nd round. (throw vs LSU) (rollout) (tight window) (touch)
D'Andre Swift, 5'8/212, DET (2.03)
My pre-draft RB1 and the #2 RB drafted, Swift is a huge value right now in all the rookie drafts I've done. It's pretty unbelievable that a player of his caliber and with his draft capital is available in the mid 1st. Even when on the field with Chubb and Michel as a freshman, Swift stood out as the best RB of the three. Ridiculous lateral agility to make defenders miss, great burst, fantastic receiver, and solid contact balance. The DET landing spot doesn't worry me as much as it seems to worry others. It's clearly below KC and IND (otherwise he'd be in tier 1) but he's tied to a very good, reasonably young QB and I like the offense as a whole with Golladay, Hockenson, MJ, and a solid OL. Kerryon does worry me, however, and there is some risk that Swift never take over as a bellcow.
In sum, Swift is a slam dunk can't miss RB talent that's worthy of being the #1 overall pick in most years but is being faded due to short term landing spot.
Watch his Auburn & Kentucky games from 2018 to get excited.
Cam Akers, 5'10/217, LAR (2.20)
A former top recruit, Akers chose to go to Florida St at the wrong time. Akers demonstrates every trait I look for in a RB at a high level - burst, toughness/violence, contact balance, lateral agility, and receiving ability. He didn't have the stage of Swift, Dobbins, CEH, or Taylor and didn't have the same type of huge games given the awfulness of Florida St. However, he's the most well rounded of the top RBs this year and has the highest upside. The one issue I have with Akers is questionable vision at times but it's hard to know whether to attribute that to him or the OL.
I love the landing spot with the Rams. Just last year, people were touting the Rams as the best RB situation in the league after we saw CJ Anderson seamlessly fill in for Todd Gurley and put up huge production. I have a hard time believing that the Rams went from the most exciting young offense in the league 1 year ago to suddenly a bad landing spot. Yes, the OL is worse but we're also really bad at predicting OL play year to year. Akers landed in a young exciting offense with a history of utilizing a bellcow RB and has little competition.
AJ Dillon, 6/247, GB (2.30)
Dillon is not a player I loved pre-draft but he's proven to be an amazing value in drafts this year given the depth and quality of the class. In any other year, a 2nd round RB with his size, athleticism, and production would be a top 5 pick but you can get him in the mid/late 2nd consistently. I didn't love the player coming out, but I recognized that he has the ability to be a big time producer if put in the right type of offense and that's exactly what happened in GB. I think his production this year has been undersold and with Aaron Jones' contract expiring next year, he'll likely take over as the RB1 in 2021.
Antonio Gibson, 6/228, WSH (3.02)
Big upside low floor pick. Gibson is one of the most exciting players to watch in this class with his big play ability, size, and explosion. At Memphis he played mostly slot WR but he was a pretty shitty WR and his upside lies at RB. He has a lot of work to do as he doesn't know what he's doing yet as a RB but the traits are really exciting - contact balance + burst. Could be David Johnson if things hit right. Don't love the landing spot as I'm still very high on Guice plus there is still a question mark regarding how Washington plans to use him. If he's used as a Wgadget guy then I don't have much interest in him. His game vs SMU is probably the most fun game I've watched this year.
JaMycal Hasty, 5'8/205, SF (UDFA)
My favorite 4th round dart throw, Hasty was my favorite satellite back in this year's class. Hasty is tiny but lightening quick and twitched up with a 90% SPARQ score and awesome burst. Great lateral cuts, big play ability, and can be a weapon in the receiving game. He landed in the perfect possible landing spot as an UDFA with Kyle Shannahan as we've seen that system make starts out of the likes of Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, etc and there is an opening at RB.
Mike Warren, 5'9/226, PHI (UDFA)
Another one of my favorite 4th round dart throws, Warren is a really fun watch. He's a big, tough, powerful back with a surprising amount of wiggle and pass catching ability. My comp is a 95% version of Zack Moss. I like the landing spot as we don't know whether Doug Pederson wants a bruiser to complement Miles Sanders and Warren would be a good fit in that role.
Jalen Reagor, 5'11/206, PHI (1.21)
Loved Reagor pre-draft and he received premium draft capital in my favorite landing spot. Reagor immediately stands out when watching him as he looks like he's moving at a different speed than everyone else on the field. He's exceptionally twitched up and explosive and is among the easiest separators in the entire class. His game just looks effortless. Not only does he offer separation, YAC, and deep speed but he also shows the ability to make contested, difficult catches and displays excellent body control. He's a lot more well rounded to me than someone like Henry Ruggs or KJ Hamler. My biggest issue with Reagor is that he struggles to extend beyond his frame and thus doesn't give his QBs a huge target. PHI was my favorite WR landing spot in the class as I'm a big fan of that offense and Wentz and they have a huge hole at WR. Reminds me of a tougher but a little slower version of Brandin Cooks.
Brandon Aiyuk, 5'11/205, SF (1.25)
Pre-draft I had Aiyuk as my WR3 and ranked in my top 20 overall. Aiyuk can create easy separation all over the field in a variety of ways: deep with straight line speed, with physicality, or with quickness and burst out of breaks. While he's not necessary a burner, Aiyuk is one of the most twitched up and dynamic WRs in this draft. He has the rare ability to cut without losing much speed and maintaining that speed after the catch. He's not necessarily a jump ball catcher but he has flashed the ability to make contested catches. Even in games where his production wasn't there, he's consistently open play after play. He's sometimes portrayed as just a deep ball and YAC guy but he has the ability to be so much more than.
I also like the landing spot in SF. While SF will likely remain pretty run heavy, last year is likely somewhat of an outlier as the defense put them in so many great game scripts and defenses regress year to year. Seems like a good chance that the defense falls back a little this year. Also, I'm pretty happy with a player landing with a great young offensive coach who I know will put them in the best position to succeed and likely has a specific role in mind. Biggest issue with the landing spot to me is the presence of Kittle and Deebo but I'm willing to bet on the talent long term. Plus the foot injury to Deebo should leave Aiyuk as the alpha WR at least throughout training camp and likely early in the season, allowing him to potentially establish himself. His value is incredible right now as he routinely drops into the mid/late 2nd round.
Laviska Shenault, 6'1/227, JAX (2.10)
Predraft, Shenault was my WR 5 and in my top 25/30 overall. Shenault has largely been forgotten about given the combination of WR depth this year and his injuries. He really shouldn't be as he is such a dynamic and exciting WR with huge upside. My comp for him is Sammy Watkins and AJ Brown. He has RB size with awesome physicality and YAC ability. He's a little raw in his routes and Colorado didn't do him a lot of favors as they just wanted to get the ball in his hands as much as possible and the easiest way to do so was on wildcat plays, reverses, and screens. Nonetheless, Shenault expresses excellent route running traits and creates easy separation with his burst and physicality. While I don't think he's a burner, he has sufficient speed to threaten and win deep. Combined with his contested catch ability and skills with the ball in his hands, Shenault is an incredibly exciting WR prospect.
Biggest issues for me is the injuries but that's well baked into his price as a late 2nd round rookie pick - even though he was a top 50 NFL draft pick. For a mid/late 2nd round pick I'm more than happy to take a shot on an elite talent with injury risk.
I'm fine with the landing spot in JAX as well as he can absolutely usurp DJ Chark and even if he doesn't, there's no clear #2 option in that offense.
Bryan Edwards, 6'3/212, LVR (3.17)
Like Shenault and Aiyuk, Edwards is another big, dynamic, explosive WR with phenomenal YAC ability, toughness, and physicality. Furthermore, Edwards has been incredibly productive at South Carolina starting with his true freshman season at only 17 years old. Edwards can line up all over the formation and turns into a RB with the ball in his hands. Not just a YAC guy, Edwards flashes fantastic hands and the ability to make incredible circus catches. While he doesn't create consistent separation, his quickness and burst is more than sufficient.
I really like the landing spot with the Raiders as well. While I don't think he'll do much his rookie year with Tyrell Williams playing the X, Ruggs at the Z, and Renfrow in the slot, he should take over for Tyrell as the X starting in 2021. Thus he's probably a great buy low during the year or even next offseason.
KJ Hamler, 5'9/178, DEN (2.12)
Hamler is a crazy value right now as he's routinely available in the early 3rd round. Most years I think Hamler is an early 2nd round pick or even late 1st round pick as a top 50 drafted player with electric ability. I really don't see a huge difference between Hamler and Hollywood Brown just as pure prospects. Hamler immediately stands out when watching him with his twitchiness and speed and defenders simply cannot hang with him. He effortlessly separates with his quickness and long speed. While he has some bad drops, I've also seen him make some high level catches as well - plus he doesn't need to be a great contested catcher as he separates from defenders so easily. If Hamler wasn't hurt at the combine I think he would be getting a lot more buzz. I don't love the landing spot in DEN but a player with his talent + draft capital is a slam dunk pick in the late 2nd round or even 3rd round.
Joe Reed, 6/224, LAC (5.05)
My favorite dart throw 4th round WR, Reed is a WR in the mold of Deebo, AJ Brown, and Shenault as a rocked up, explosive YAC monster. Huge WR that looks like a RB at 6/224 and a 89th percentile SPARQ score, Reed was used all over the field by Virginia on reverses, screens, and even as a RB. He's pretty unrefined as a receiver and needs work but he flashes some contested catch ability.
Devin Asiasi, 6'3/257, NE (3.27)
As a preface, I don't love any of the TEs in this class and I'd rather send a 3rd for one of the guys from last year (Warring, Knox, Oliver, Sternberger) than spend a 2nd or 3rd on someone from this year. That said, Asiasi is my favorite TE value this year.
A former top 50 recruit, Asiasi had a rocky road early in his college career. Initially enrolling in Michigan, Asiasi decided to move back home to CA and attend UCLA and as a result had to sit out the 2017 season. Asiasi projects as a Delanie Walker type of TE. While he lacks the size and physicality of some of the other top TEs, he's incredibly smooth and fluid out of his breaks and stems his routes very well to create easy separation. Pretty good YAC ability and is a solid blocker as well. Really like the landing spot in NE and Keene isn't a huge concern as NE has the ability to utilize 2 TEs if necessary and Keene was more of an H-Back at Virginia Tech.
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Rookie (SF) Rankings With Explanations

Tier 1
1 Joe Burrow, QB, 6'2/221, CIN (1.01)
Depending on roster need and team makeup, I would be fine taking one of the other tier 1 players above Burrow but Burrow is absolutely worth the #1 overall pick in any year. While he lacks elite arm talent, Burrow has incredible accuracy, poise, and mobility to manipulate the pocket. As a prospect, I prefer him to Kyler Murray from last year by a decent amount. CIN isn't the greatest situation from an organizational standpoint but they've assembled a decent amount of talent around him in AJG, Boyd, Higgins, Ross, and Mixon.
2 Clyde Edwards Helaire, RB, 5'7/207, KC (1.32)
Small, bowling-ball shaped runner with incredible contact balance, lateral agility, and pass catching ability. Has decent burst but lacks prototypical long speed and size. Pre-draft, CEH was my RB5 but he moves up here with the landing spot and draft capital. Even as my RB5, I was still a big fan of CEH and in KC he doesn't need to have bellcow type size in order to produce at a high level. His game vs Alabama my be the best game from any RB prospect this year.
3 Jonathan Taylor, RB, 5'10/226, IND (2.09)
My RB2 pre-draft, Taylor is right there with CEH in the top tier. Taylor is a huge RB that excels in a power rushing attack where he can use his combo of size and burst to explode into the second level. That's exactly what he gets in IND, the perfect landing spot for his skillset. Potential issues with pass catching usage may limit his ceiling a little but the floor is incredibly high.
Tier 2
4 D'Andre Swift, RB, 5'8/212, DET (2.03)
My pre-draft RB1 and the #2 RB drafted, Swift is a huge value right now in all the rookie drafts I've done. Even when on the field with Chubb and Michel as a freshman, Swift stood out as the best RB of the three. Ridiculous lateral agility to make defenders miss, great burst, fantastic receiver, and solid contact balance. The DET landing spot doesn't worry me as much as it seems to worry others. It's clearly below KC and IND (otherwise he'd be in tier 1) but he's tied to a very good, reasonably young QB and I like the offense as a whole with Golladay, Hockenson, MJ, and a solid OL. Kerryon does worry me, however, and there is some risk that Swift never take over as a bellcow.
5 Cam Akers, RB, 5'10/217, LAR (2.20)
My Predraft RB3 in the same tier as Swift and Taylor, Akers has all the tools you look for in a stud RB - size, violence, burst, contact balance, lateral agility, and pass catching. Moreover, he landed in a great landing spot in LA and received very good draft capital. This time last year people were describing the Rams as the best system for RBs in the NFL. Huge upside here for Akers' usage as a bellcow and he has the best opportunity of any of the RBs this year except for CEH.
6 JK Dobbins, RB, 5'9/209, BAL (2.23)
I really liked Dobbins coming out but had him a tier below Swift, Taylor, and Akers. Very solid runner in all areas but lacks an elite, defining trait. I really like the landing spot in BAL long term but there is concern about this year with Ingram plus I don't see the potential for much receiving usage with LJax. Really like the player and I'd be ecstatic to have him but I don't see him as the consensus RB3 as recent trends suggest.
7 Tua Tagliovola, QB, 6/217, MIA (1.05)
If you really need a QB I'm fine moving Tua to the top of this tier. Like Burrow, Tua lacks ideal arm talent but wins with his mobility and accuracy. While Tua has a longer track record than Burrow, he never put up a season like Burrow did last year. The injuries scare me and there are some question marks about how well Tua can go through his progressions - at Alabama there were a lot of first read throws. The situation in Miami is ok, I like the OL picks that MIA made but this is still a rebuilding team with a ton of holes.
Tier 3
8 Jerry Jeudy, WR, 6'1/193, DEN (1.15)
The best separator in the class, Jeudy reminds me of Stefon Diggs. Very pro ready WR with advanced releases off the line and route running. Phenomenal YAC ability with the ball in his hands. Knows how to manipulate his speed to set up defenders. Not a very physical WR and you won't see him making many contested catches. Situation isn't great with Sutton next to him but Lamb is in a similar touch squeeze so I'll take my preferred talent.
9 CeeDee Lamb, WR, 6'1/198, DAL (1.17)
The best playmaker in the class. Much better ball skills than Jeudy but lacks the quick twitch and ability to separate. Plus he faced easier competition and didn't have to deal with a lot of press coverage. While he's competing with a locked in WR1 in DAL, Lamb landed in an explosive offense with a young QB. Think he can be very productive as Dak's #2 target.
10 Jalen Reagor, WR, 5'11/206, PHI (1.21)
Loved Reagor pre-draft and he received premium draft capital in my favorite landing spot. Reagor immediately stands out when watching him. Extremely twitched up and explosive, Reagor separates as well as defenders struggle keeping up. Provides a deep threat but has also flashed the ability to make tough contested catches and good sideline footwork. PHI was my favorite WR landing spot in the class as I'm a big fan of that offense and Wentz and they have a huge hole at WR.
11 Justin Herbert, QB, 6'6/235, LAC (1.06)
I don't like Herbert as a player but this is the value play in superflex. Herbert has great arm talent and mobility but he had lots of easy reads at Oregon and consistently disappointed. Struggles out of rhythm and a little robotic as a player. Still, the Chargers situation is great and the top 10 draft capital should guarantee him a starting role for a while. Great value in drafts if you can get him at the end of the 1st.
Tier 4
12 Brandon Aiyuk, 5'11/205, WR, SF (1.25)
One of my favorite players pre-draft. Can win all over the field in a variety of ways - explosion out of breaks, YAC ability, deep speed, or physicality. Has the rare ability to come out of his breaks without losing any explosion. Love the draft capital and the landing spot is ok. I trust Shanahan and that should be a productive offense for a long time. Issues arise given the run first nature of the offense and competition with another great young WR in Deebo. Watch the Oregon game if you want to get excited.
13 Justin Jefferson, WR, 6'1/202 MIN (1.22)
The safest WR after Jeudy and Lamb, Jefferson should be able to step into the slot immediately and produce. If you want to lower your risk then pick Jefferson. He's very quick out of his breaks, creates consistent separation from the slot, very good YAC ability, and flashes contested catch ability. I don't see him playing outside and he's not as dynamic as other WRs in this class. Very good landing spot in MIN with Diggs' departure. Watch the Oklahoma game if you want to get excited.
14 Henry Ruggs, WR, 5'11/188, LVR (1.12)
The first WR drafted, Ruggs could be a great value where I have him ranked. Still, I love the WRs above him and I wasn't a big Ruggs fan coming out. Incredible speed and flashes some toughness and decent route running as well. Think he struggles with physicality and didn't separate as much as he should because he's a long strider rather than a compact, twitched up player. I think Gruden is going to feed him a ton of targets and thus could be very productive early on.
15 Laviska Shenault, WR, 6'1/227, JAX (2.10)
Absolutely love Shenault. Comp is Sammy Watkins. Great combo of size, physicality, explosivenes and YAC. Needs refinement but it'll be hard to keep his playmaking off the field. Biggest concern is injuries. His 2018 games vs Nebraska and game vs USC this year are great.
16 Tee Higgins, WR, 6'4/216, CIN (2.01)
Big WR with huge frame to extend himself for difficult balls. Timed speed was disappointing but had the ability to threaten deep at Clemson. Fantastic hands and advanced footwork. Risky as he struggles with physicality (he'll see a LOT more of that in the NFL) and not a great separator. Love the situation with Burrow and the draft capital.
17 Michael Pittman, WR, 6'4/223, IND (2.02)
Decent speed and explosion for his size, some YAC ability, fantastic jump ball catcher, huge frame which he uses to shield defenders. Landing spot in IND is good for the next few years with Rivers but some worries once Rivers leaves. Has a clearly defined role as the X WR and complements Hilton and Campbell very well.
18 Jordan Love, QB, 6'3/224, GB (1.26)
Probably the best value in SF leagues of all the rookies. I'm a big Jordan Love fan (especially at his price). Has jaw dropping arm talent and extremely mobile. Unlike Herbert, Love was asked to make extremely difficult plays and delivered. His issues aren't with accuracy but moreso decision making. He'll lock onto his first read at times and make incredibly stupid throws. I'm ok with the landing spot as I trust GB as an organization, however, he'll probably sit for a few years. Huge upside here.
19 AJ Dillon, RB, 6/247, GB (2.30)
Like Love, he's another amazing value in drafts this year given the depth and quality of the class. In any other year, a 2nd round RB with his size, athleticism, and production would be a top 5 pick but you can get him in the mid/late 2nd consistently. I didn't love the player coming out, but I recognized that he has the ability to be a big time producer if put in the right type of offense and that's exactly what happened in GB. I think his production this year has been undersold and with Aaron Jones' contract expiring next year, he'll likely take over as the RB1 in 2021.
Tier 5
20 Antonio Gibson, RB, 6/228, WSH (3.02)
Big upside low floor pick. Gibson is one of the most exciting players to watch in this class with his big play ability, size, and explosion. At Memphis he played mostly slot WR but he was a pretty shitty WR and his upside lies at RB. He has a lot of work to do as he doesn't know what he's doing yet as a RB but the traits are really exciting - contact balance + burst. Could be David Johnson if things hit right. Don't love the landing spot as I'm still very high on Guice plus there is still a question mark regarding how Washington plans to use him. If he's used as a Wgadget guy then I don't have much interest in him.
21 Denzel Mims, WR, 6'3/206, NYJ (2.27)
I was never as high as others on Mims and didn't get the round 1 hype. However, his combination of athleticism and ball skills are very exciting and worth betting on here. He's a very boom/bust type of prospect. Landed in a very good spot with a young, good QB in Darnold lacking a #1 WR.
22 Bryan Edwards, WR, 6'3/212, LVR (3.17)
Absolutely loved Edwards pre-draft and had him in my top 50 overall players. He's big, physical, explosive, versatile, and has fantastic ball skills. Landing spot is ok - the Raiders have a long term need at X WR but the team drafted Ruggs first so I think Gruden is going to prioritize Ruggs. Could be a few years before Edwards pays off.
23 Zack Moss, RB, 5'9/223, BUF (3.22)
Very similar player as David Montgomery. Excellent contact balance, toughness, pass catching ability, plus some wiggle but lacks juice. If there is a crease it takes him too long to hit it. Still, pretty good value to get a David Montgomery level player at 2.12. Landing spot is ok and your feeling about it is dependent on how you feel about Singletary. I love Singletary so I'm not high on the landing spot but its very possible that BUF doesnt see Singletary as a lead back.
24 Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, 5'10/214, TB (3.12)
Didn't like Vaughn pre-draft and I was very surprised when he went this early. Vaughn is a solid all around RB that should be able to produce if given volume but I don't see any dynamic traits. Very much a replacement level RB. Still, TB has a potential opening at RB and the team spent good draft capital on him.
Tier 6
25 KJ Hamler, WR, 5'9/178, DEN (2.12)
Could easily have Hamler at the end of tier 5. Immediately stands out on film with his twitchiness and speed, defenders simply cannot hang with him. Don't see a huge difference between him and Hollywood Brown purely as prospects coming out. Effortless separation with his quickness and speed. Could be more valuable in real football than the NFL. Don't like the landing spot for fantasy as he's stuck behind two great, young WRs.
26 Chase Claypool, WR, 6'4/238, PIT (2.17)
Freaky player with his combo of size and athleticism. Great draft capital to a team that has consistently developed WRs. Massive player with explosiveness to put CBs on their heels quick. Biggest asset right now is his YAC - should immediately be a weapon on screens and crossers. Flashes ability to box out defenders but is not natural attacking the ball and lacks overall smoothness to his game. Landing spot is odd with JuJu and Diontae already in place, however, if JuJu leaves a lot of opportunity opens up. Watch the Iowa St game to get excited.
27 Van Jefferson, WR, 6'1/200, LAR (2.25)
I had a 3rd round grade on Jefferson pre-draft so I like the player. Projects as an NFL-ready slot WR with quickness and route running nuance. Got the best of LSU star freshman CB Stingley this past year. Odd landing spot as the Rams already have Kupp in the slot and I can't see either moving outside.
Tier 7
28 Darrynton Evans, RB, 5'10/203, TEN (3.29)
One of the most explosive players in this class, Evans is a threat to break off a big run at any time. With his lack of physicality and size, I don't see him projecting as a starting RB even if Henry leaves next year. Likely a career committee back.
29 Anthony McFarland, RB, 5'8/208, PIT (4.18)
Really fun, explosive player that should get on the field immediately. Like Darrynton Evans, I struggle seeing him taking over a feature back but should have a long term role given his explosivness.
30 Cole Kmet, TE, 6'6/262, CHI (2.11)
Not a very flashy or exciting player but projects as a solid starting NFL TE. The draft capital really helps and has a decent floor given his ability as a blocker. Think Kyle Rudolph type of career if he hits.
31 Adam Trautman, TE, 6'5/255, NO (3.41)
Big, physical TE that dominated small school competition and can win in traffic and over the middle of the field. Isn't especially fluid out of his breaks and doesn't project as a potential top tier TE. Really like that NO traded so much for him and I trust Sean Payton.
32 Devin Asiasi, TE, 6'3/257, NE (3.27)
If any TE in this class develops into a top tier fantasy TE, I wouldn't be surprised if it was Asiasi. Former high recruit that transferred to UCLA and didn't produce until his last season. He's smaller than Kmet and Trautman but he's just as good of a blocker and he's way more fluid than both. Really like the landing spot and draft capital as well.
33 Joshua Kelley, RB, 5'11/212, LAC (4.06)
This could be too low as the situation is phenomenal and draft capital is decent but I'm not high on the player. He's solid and can produce if given volume in a good situation (both very possible in LAC) but doesn't have any standout trait and looks like a replacement level player to me.
34 Lamical Perine, RB, 5'11/216, NYJ (4.14)
A better version of Joshua Kelley to me but in a worse situation. Very solid all round back that is a very good receiver. Lacks juice or standout qualities but solid overall. If Bell declines, leaves, or gets injured I think Perine could step in and surprise. Some worry about the Frank Gore signing.
35 Devin Duvernay, WR, 5/10/200, BAL (3.28)
Slot WR with strong hands and great ability with the ball in his hands but struggles to create separation out of his breaks. Should be great on screens and special teams.
36 Gabe Davis, WR, 6'2/216, BUF (4.22)
Big body WR with great physicality and decent speed/explosion for his size. Project player with some upside.
37 Joe Reed, WR, 6/224, LAC (5.05)
Really love the player, Reed is a twitched up YAC guy with RB type of size and ability with the ball in his hands.
38 JaMycal Hasty, RB, 5'8/208, SF (UDFA)
My favorite 3rd down/satellite back in this entire class, Hasty is lighting quick and explosive with great pass catching ability. If any team can turn a UDFA into a star it's Kyle Shannahan and there is a ton of opportunity in SF.
39 Darnell Mooney, WR, 5'10/176, CHI (5.28)
Deep ball threat with good production and CHI has a clear need for that type of deep threat.
40 Mike Warren, RB, PHI, 5'9/226, PHI (UDFA)
Not sure that I would actually draft him here but I wanted to get his name on the list. Really fun player to watch, he's like a 95% version of Zack Moss. Great size, awesome power, surprising wiggle and pass catching ability but lacks the requisite explosive qualities. I actually really like the landing spot in PHI as they do not have a bigger back to complement Sanders.
NOTICE THAT JALEN HURTS IS NOT ON THIS LIST. He'd probably be around #35 but I have him low enough to where I probably won't every draft him so I didn't include him on the list.
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Welcome to Gettysburg (Day One)

Day Two Here
Day Three Here
Gettysburg is by far my favorite battle of all time.
First, it is an all-American battle in an all-American war, and myself being an old school nationalist it carries significance that other battles simply don’t; I may find Austerlitz or Stalingrad nifty, but nobody there was my people.
More, it was an extraordinarily clean fight. At any point, a soldier on either side could hurl down their rifle and grab some sky and be reasonably assured of having their surrender accepted without reservation, and for that matter their captor could rely on their new POWs to trudge back to the rear under light guard in good faith. Even though much of the fighting took place in an urban environment with embedded civilians, only one civilian died in the fighting. Let me tell you, the more military history you read up on, the clearer it is that massacring civilians before, during, and after a rough fight is par for the course. One might even say that butchering unarmed men, women and children of the enemy tribe is the de facto military objective more than half the time; it might be some weird, half instinctual, proto-game theory going on: “We told them to surrender or else. They didn’t surrender, we won anyway, and now there’s gotta be an ‘or else’ to persuade the next batch of holdouts that we mean business.” In the long run, butchering the first village usually made it morelikely the next three villages would get the message and surrender without a fight, saving the invaders men, materiel, and time. Or perhaps it’s that killing civilians has always been pure bloody-mindedness. But not at Gettysburg. Gettysburg is where the American platonic ideal of soldiers fighting soldiers and leaving the civilians be actually happened.
Another aspect to the battle that fascinates me is how utterly unplanned it was. Neither army had intended to fight there, and between the scale of the brawl, the rapidity of developments, the intransigence of their subordinates, and the communications lag, neither the Confederate general Lee nor the Union general Meade had a grip on the situation at all until the second day of the battle, and neither could enact their ideal plans until the third day. It was something of a clusterfuck for both sides, and the course of the battle depended on the initiative and guts of small unit commanders with little idea of what the big picture was.
Gettysburg tends to be remembered as the turning point in the war, when it stopped being a gallant passage at arms between roughly equal powers and started being a slow, painful inevitable grind towards Union victory. This is not exactly accurate; only with years of hindsight could anybody construct a narrative that framed this fight as the turning point, for at the time Gettysburg was seen as just another grisly slaughter yard in a long series of them. Still, between this fight and the conquest of Vicksburg out west, this does appear in hindsight to be the high watermark in terms of Confederate progress towards successful seccession. Certainly it was the last time any Confederate army went on the strategic offensive. For diehard secessionists (both during the war and in the years after), this was the last hurrah before the war started being truly hopeless.
It is also, I should mention, a place of spiritual significance for me. Myself being secular humanist with a vaccination against Protestantism from my younger days, I don’t have much in the way of codified religion. But when I was a youngin’ visiting relatives out east, I got to visit the battlefield. I found myself standing in front of a monument on the field on the north end of Herbst Wood (where the right flank of Iron Brigade stood and charged on the first day of the battle). It described how a Michigan regiment of about a thousand men stood on that spot and suffered two thirds casualties over the course of the day. I read the details on the monument, and stared up at the mustachioed rifleman staring defiantly to the west.
Looking left and right, I saw more monuments every fifty yards or so in a straightish line, spreading out to mark where a human line had once stood and bled. And I turned my back on the monuments to face away, and behold, I saw an opposing line of Confederate monuments stretched out horizon to horizon about a hundred yards away. Two lines, violently opposed but unmoving; courage and horror frozen into place forever. And the world there seemed very big, and very grand, and I felt very small and unworthy. The air was at once colder and hotter than any air I’d ever felt. The wind cut through my clothing and reminded me that flesh was mortal but spirit was eternal. This was holy ground, soil consecrated by blood. Shi’ite Muslims have Karbala. Catholics have the Road to Calvary. Australian aboriginals have Uluru. I have Gettysburg.
A brief note- I will be including maps periodically to show the progression of the fighting. These maps must be taken with a grain or three of salt. They are intended to show relations between the armies and the terrain, not to mark the exact positions or dispositions of the units, nor to show an exact proportion of numbers involved. This is because I am not an expert mapmaker, and I thank you in advance for your understanding. First, a map of the northern part of the battlefield. Note how many roads lead there, and note the high ground of Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill to the south of the town.
The Battle of Gettysburg happened because Lee needed to go on the offensive, and Lee needed to go on the offensive because of the big picture. I shall cover the broad outline just so the significance doesn’t pass anybody by.
The Confederacy in the Spring of 1863 was in a terrible dilemma. The leadership had two urgent problems, either one of which could (if unaddressed) destroy their enterprise, and to make things worse they didn’t have the resources to solve either of them alone without a miracle.
One, the Union was fixing to shove yet another army down Richmond’s throat. Two years of failed invasions into Virginia had been brutal to both sides, but the North had immense reserves of cash, food, industrial output, and manpower with which to replenish themselves, and the South simply didn’t. The Army of Northern Virginia on which every invasion thus far had broken was underarmed, underfed, and undermanned, and if these issues were not fixed then they’d be seeing Union soldiers in the Confederate capitol before Autumn. There had already been a push that year, which Lee had staved off at Chancellorsville. There was plenty of time left before winter for a second attack.
And two, Vicksburg, the railway hub that sat on the Mississippi River, was under dire threat. The Union had already grabbed New Orleans at the south end and pushed north up the river, and had been pushing south down the river since day one of the war, but Vicksburg prevented the whole river from falling in to Union hands. Vicksburg alone let the South shift resources and information from its Western half to its Eastern half. Losing it could be a death blow. The garrison of Vicksburg was also underarmed, underfed, and undermanned.
The fresh crops taken off the farm and the fresh host of new recruits also taken off the farm were middling at best. Even throwing all the resources they had at either problem and letting the other develop as it would might mean losing on both fronts. Splitting the resources in half to prop up both didn’t seem promising either. Lee, being something of a strategist, developed a third option. There was no point (he reasoned) in trying to prop up Vicksburg at this point- it would take weeks to shift reinforcements that far west, and by then it would be midsummer. If the siege lasted that long, either the garrison would fold or disease would rip through the Yankee army and drive it back home, as it had the last two years running. In either scenario, further support would affect nothing. Therefore, he proposed a bold plan- don’t sit around waiting to get hit in the face. Invade north. Take the fight onto their turf.
The more the Confederate leadership considered it, the better it sounded. Northern land hadn’t been ravaged like Virginia had- it would be easy to live off of the enemy’s food for once, thus lessening the headache of their constant supply problems. It was also an election year, and the anti-war Democrats were raging at the ocean of blood and gold being wasted on bringing States back into the fold who very clearly wanted to go their own way. One good, solid victory on Northern soil could tip the balance, drive home the point that that war was unwinnable. Get the Black Republican warmonger Lincoln kicked out of the White House, get a reasonable Democrat in, and next year they just might get a negotiated peace that would lead in time to true and recognized independence.
To which end-
Lee snaked his newly reinforced army of about 75,000 men up through the Shenandoah Valley, using the mountain range to mask his movements instead of using to well-worn direct route that the Union was camped on. He would end up north of the bulk of the Army of the Potomac, simultaneously threatening Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, which for a guy trying to score a symbolic victory to discourage the enemy voters put him in a pretty nice spot.
Lincoln freaked out, told Hooker and his Army of the Potomac to go out and beat Lee, to utterly destroy his army, and also not leave any weak point undefended, which are just the kind of orders one enjoys receiving. Hooker, having a bit of an ego and a poor history of getting his ass kicked by Lee, got into a feud with Lincoln’s advisors and impulsively offered his resignation as Commander of the Army of the Potomac following some stupid spat with the bean counters back in Washington. Lincoln called his bluff and fired him three days before the battle, putting General Meade in charge of the whole damn army with almost no prep time.
I should cut the narrative here to cast moral aspersions right quick. The Union were the good guys, and the Confederates were the villains. That said, the North made for really terrible heroes, and the South had more than its fair share of virtues. This was not a grand crusade of freedom-loving Yankees tearing down the moral abomination of human bondage. This was a brutal, no holds barred death struggle between the efficient new urban Industrial Revolution and the rural Cavalier latifundias. Only a smallish segment of New England Puritans and bleeding heart Quakers hated slavery on moral grounds- the rest of the North either hated it on financial grounds, didn’t give a fuck one way or another, or were actively supporting racial slavery. And on the flip side, most Southerners who fought in the war perceived quite accurately that outsiders were coming into their world to demand submission, and had decided to give these invaders the William Wallace treatment. This is a normal and admirable response that every healthy society should have in its toolbox, and in my not-even-slightly humble opinion it is a damn shame that so many people endured so much agony in support of so un-American a cause.
For you see, when Lee’s army reached Pennsylvania, they kidnapped every black person they could find, free or not, and sent them all south in chains. There was no attempt to ascertain their status by some legal due process, no splitting of hairs. The bare skeleton of Confederate ideology, the great Truth that would have snuffed out by continued political loyalty to the Union, had been that all men were not created equal. To be more precise, men had white skin, and anyone with black skin was not a man and did not have the rights of man. As such, anyone with black skin was to be sold into slavery and threatened with torture and death if they refused to labor in the cotton fields. The army that invaded the North was, in practice, the biggest slave-hunting gang that had ever set foot on American soil.
The side wearing grey were staunch defenders of a country based on the Ideal of Ethnic Supremacy, and the side wearing blue were fighting for a country based on the Ideal of Equality. There were a million nagging features of material reality in the South and the North that challenged both of these Ideals, but there were no Ideals to challenge these Ideals, save only for each other. We know that this is true, because as the war shifted away from a Federal attempt to rein in wayward states to an all out assault on the institution of slavery, more and more Northerners balked at the idea of dying to set niggers free; men who had fought for years to bring the rebels into the fold again threw down their rifles and went home in disgust after they heard of the Emancipation Proclamation. And as it became clearer that poor whites who never owned slaves were expected to die for plantation owners’ right to stay rich, fewer and fewer Southerners were willing to jump into the meat grinder feet first; many of them deserted to go home and form Unionist bushwhacker gangs instead. Speaking of the draft, a higher percentage of southerners dodged the Confederate draft than in Vietnam, yet Vietnam is remembered as a deeply unpopular war while the Lost Cause has painted the South as a unified bloc striving as one against the Yankee oppressor.
Also, the Confederacy had a draft imposed upon the states by its federal government. So, yeah, State's Rights. Tell me how that worked out.
To reiterate. Both sides are not the same. We are rooting for the Union. Slavery. Etc.
Pushing on-
The two armies surged northward, on parallel tracks with Lee on the west side of the Appalachians and Meade on the east side. Being critically low on recon drones and spy satellites, the only ways to find the enemy army was to send guys out on horseback to physically look at them before riding back, and to talk to locals whether they’d seen anyone wearing the other team’s uniform recently. Clouds of skirmishers, cavalrymen, and small detachments of infantrymen from either side scattered themselves in all directions, straining to catch a glimpse of the other army. The first side to locate the enemy, amass sufficient force, and maneuver against them would probably win, without regard for right or wrong.
JULY 1st, 1863
Early Morning
General John Buford had a 2,500 strong brigade of cavalrymen patrolling southern Pennsylvania, being one of dozens of detachments sent out to find the enemy army. Using human intelligence from locals in Gettysburg, he learned that there was a column of rebel infantry marching down the Chambersburg Pike.
And indeed there was. Advance scouts from Buford’s brigade made visual contact with a column marching south towards Gettysburg. The ball was now rolling.
The story goes that the Confederates were looking for new shoes and heard that there was a stockpile in Gettysburg. As far as I can tell, this is a baseless legend- inspired by the true fact that the rebel army didn’t have enough shoes, but baseless nonetheless. The three Confederate commanders marching towards Gettysburg (Archer and Davis with a brigade apiece and Heth as division commander coordinating them), were simply doing what their counterpart was doing- reconnaissance in force, hoping to develop a lead for the rest of the army to follow. 7,000 infantry under Archer and Davis were about to pick a fight with 2,500 cavalrymen under Buford. The currents of this morning fight would provide the grooves for the next three days to follow.
Buford’s men fought as dragoons; the horse let you scoot around to where you need to go, but you got off it and fought on foot. They Union cavalry broke into tiny little four man teams to bloody the approaching Confederates’ noses. The terrain was a bushwhacker’s paradise- plenty of rocks and trees to hide behind, and plenty of low, rolling hills to speed off behind to break line of sight. One man would hold the horses while the other three crouch-ran forward under cover to pop off rounds into the enemy column from the sides of the road. When the enemy infantry redeployed from a fast moving but harmless column formation into a slow moving but dangerous line, the three shooters would run back to their buddy to mount up and retreat to a new position.
The cavalrymen were outnumbered nearly three to one, and their carbines had less range and power than the rebel rifles; then again, the terrain was working for them and their breechloading carbines could shoot much faster than the enemy’s muzzleloading long rifles. It was very close to being an fair fight, as long as the cavalry could stay mobile and keep their distance. Buford and Heth both had unclear, contradictory orders- “Push forward aggressively to locate the enemy, but do not enter into a general engagement until we know what we’re up against.” It was an order that must have made sense in the tent when Lee and Meade sent their own versions off. You wouldn’t want to force a battle until you knew the enemy’s location and disposition and the terrain you were going to be standing on, any more than you’d want bet it all on a poker hand before looking at your cards. But to the guys on the front line, it meant “charge forward, but do not charge forward. Attack, but do not engage. Show some initiative, but don’t pick a real fight.” Heth decided they were up against a skeleton crew of skirmishers, and he had orders to check out Gettysburg. He send riders back with a quick report and a request for reinforcements. Buford decided that if the whole damn rebel army was heading his way, he needed to delay their advance for as many hours as he could to give the rest of the Union army time to get to Gettysburg- the high ground south of the town looked like ideal terrain to fight from and he wanted his buddies to get there before the rebels. He too sent riders back with calls for help.
And meanwhile, the murderous, hazardous stalking of the rebel column continued as it trudged towards Gettysburg.
Meanwhile, in the Rear with the Gear
Imagine running a marathon- 26 miles and a bit from start to finish. That’s how spread out a Civil War army is, from vanguard to rear guard. You can’t really concentrate 75,000-100,000 people together that closely. Disease starts killing people off really fast, feeding everyone is a headache, and if you have to march out, the lead element will march all day before stopping for the night, while the rear element hasn’t even left camp yet. It’s unwieldy. So they all spread out to grab some real estate and forage easier and not choke on each others’ dust and crap.
The riders from the Chambersburg Pike were spreading the word through the marathon length of the armies. Units were halting, turning around. Captains and colonels and generals were consulting maps to figure out what roads to take to get south or north to Gettysburg from where they were now. Regiments were putting their heads to together to figure out whose company oughtta go in what order.
The movements were slow and and ungainly and awkward, but they were starting up.
Mid Morning to Noon
The rolling hills on either side of the Chambersburg Pike stopped at McPherson’s Ridge, a grand place to make a stand- plenty of cover, steep incline. In any case, there wasn’t much further to retreat to. Archer and David pushed the cavalrymen, Archer on the south side of the road and Davis on the north. Thoroughly annoyed infantrymen backed up on the Pike behind them, eager to get at the enemy but without frontage to occupy.
Buford dug in on McPherson’s Ridge, and the full force of Heth’s division slammed into him. Denied their mobility by the necessity of holding territory, the fair fight turned into a meat grinder for the dismounted cavalrymen. When Confederate artillery set up on Herr’s Ridge, it turned into a bloodbath.
Buford, at last, got in contact with somebody who outranked him. General John Reynolds, second in command of the whole Union army, rode ahead of his division to get eyes on the situation.
The two struck a deal in the middle of a firefight. Buford promised to hold to the last man, and Reynolds promised to reinforce him. It was an exercise in trust; if Buford’s men held firm and Reynolds let them down, they’d be swamped and slaughtered to a man, and if Buford’s detachment broke and scattered, Reynolds’ reinforcements would march directly into a line of hills held by an entrenched enemy force of equal size. Failure on either side would be fatal. Reynolds rode south again, leaving Buford and his dwindling cavalrymen to fend off 10% of the Confederate army all alone.
Meanwhile, Buford’s thin line was cracking. Outnumbered, outgunned, and unable to advance or retreat... That which was inevitable to start with was happening now. Davis’ brigade was pressing against Oak Ridge on the Union right, and Archer's was taking Herbst Woods tree by tree. Buford’s men were giving ground they couldn’t afford to lose. Confederate artillery was blasting giant holes in the ranks of the defenders.
That’s when the relief came- two fresh brigades of infantry coming up the Emmitsburg road, under generals Cutler and Meredith. Cutler got there first, taking up positions on Oak Ridge and straddling either side of the Pike with cannons. Their massive volleys disrupted Confederate momentum and silenced some of the rebels’ big guns as everyone scrambled for cover. Grateful and exhausted cavalrymen sidled off to the flanks to safety. Meredith’s brigade is still lagging behind- that’s the problem with columns, only the guys in front can do anything.
If Buford and Reynolds expected everything to be right in the world once reinforcements arrived, they were very much mistaken. Those men out there attacking up Oak Ridge were some of the finest infantrymen in the world- dedicated, disciplined, contemptuous of death. They did not stop being efficient killers just because they now fought peers instead of the hornet-like cavalry skirmishers. Cutler’s brigade was facing a small tidal wave of battle-maddened Southern veterans, and had no time to dig in and situate themselves before the moment of impact. Davis’ men ripped into them like a pack of starving wolves. Cutler’s men fell back to safety on the top of Oak Ridge. In pieces.
Meanwhile, Meredith’s brigade was finally in position to retake Herbst Woods on the south side of the road.
Now, Meredith’s brigade were the absolute elite of the Union army. They were the grizzled veterans, the old crew, the best drilled, the most experienced, the hardest of the hard. They were nicknamed the Iron Brigade, and the Black Hat Brigade, because they were authorized to wear dashing black foraging caps to signify their status as the best of the best. With their comrades north of the road falling back, it was imperative that the Black Hat Brigade protect their left flank. To which end, Reynolds frantically snapped orders for them to line up and charge Archer’s men who were occupying Herbst Wood.
Their charge was met by a storm of musket fire that churned the Iron ranks into blood and guts. But this was the Black Hat Brigade. For them, taking ten percent casualties in a single minute was just another Tuesday. They got in close to the rebel line to return the volleys with a vengeance, and then charged with the bayonet. Archer’s men saw the distinctive black hats come for them through the musket-smoke. For the first time, they realized that these were no mere cavalry skirmishers, no half-assed militia company facing them. The best of the best of the Army of the Potomac was coming at them at terrifyingly close range. Archer’s men cracked and scattered. The ones who stood firm, died. The ones who threw down their rifles and grabbed sky were allowed to live as prisoners. The ones who ran, lived, but found the Iron Brigade hot on their heels. Meredith’s elites carved through Archer’s brigade like it wasn’t even there.
Reynolds was a good leader. A great one, in fact. He was decisive, experienced, competent. Many thought he should have gotten command instead of Meade. As his men retook Herbst Wood, he turned behind him to check on how close reinforcements were, some rebel rifleman did his cause a world of good, and shot Reynolds in the back of the head.
Now the situation got pretty weird- Davis’ brigade had kicked the shit out of Cutler’s brigade and was pursuing them on the north side of the road, and the Iron Brigade had kicked the shit out of Archer’s brigade and was pursuing them on the south side of the road. Neither victor was aware of what had happened across from them, and soon enough they would pass each other by almost touching the edges of their lines. The first one to figure out what was happening would get to win.
As it so happened, General Doubleday (in command now that Reynolds was dead) saw the danger and the opportunity first. He broke off an Iron regiment from his reserve to swoop in and protect the flank just in time, setting them up in a defensive stance facing the road. That regiment was joined by another broken off from the Iron assault, and yet another from Cutler’s brigade, who had seen the maneuvering and joined in on its own initiative. It was like a ballet, all three regiments coalescing into a single front facing north across the road, as though they’d spent the last week rehearsing. Under their protection, the rest of the Black Hats gave chase to their prey.
When Davis finally turned and attacked, they were chopped down by a mass of highly accurate fire from the newly entrenched men. Confederates died by the dozens and were maimed by the score. As they reloaded, the Black Hats were astonished to find that the whole Confederate brigade vanish into thin air, like magic. The firing stopped; no more targets. It was bizarre.
The three regiments advanced cautiously. And were gutted by a close range surprise volley by the hidden Confederates as they tried to scale the fences on either side of the Pike.
It turns out that there was a cut in the side of road, deep enough for a man to jump down into with only his head able to peek out. Davis’ men had leapt into it as a source cover when the firefight started and found it was a grand place to shoot out of. But it was also a death trap. Once the Union regiments figured it out, they got in close enough to fire blindly down at point blank range into the milling mass of men.
Davis’ men surrendered, thousands of them all at once. Unable to move, unable shoot back, it was really the only choice. And with that, the first round of Gettysburg was over. Oak Ridge and Herbst Wood had held, and about 150,000 odd soldiers were converging on Gettysburg to shift the tide of war this way and that.
The rest of the first day was not free of drama, and heroics, and mass suffering. But it was free of surprises. The iron laws of physics had decreed that more Confederate units would be on hand for the fighting in the afternoon, and so it was. Fresh rebel troops swept down from the north and from the west, relieving their exhausted comrades and preparing themselves to assault Oak Ridge and Herbst Woods. Fresh Union troops arrived from the south to reinforce what they had and to extend their line out east, protecting their right flank and screening off the town itself.
Hours passed without a shot being fired. Everybody was reorganizing themselves, resupplying, carting the wounded to the rear to let the surgeons saw their shattered limbs off. Two small things happened that delivered a Confederate victory on day one, and a Union victory on day three. Union General Barlow pushed his brigade out to occupy Blocher's hill, and Union General Steinwehr plopped two of his brigades on top of Cemetery Hill. The first created a huge gap in the Union right, and the second secured the invaluable high ground for the rest of the battle.
Meanwhile, three Confederate divisions set themselves up for a concerted attack- Heth would press into Herbst Wood on the Union left, Rodes would assault Oak Ridge at the center, and Early would swoop down the Harrisburg road to threaten the Union right. When the big push came at around 2 p.m., it was badly organized and mismanaged. Southern commanders couldn't get it together and attack at the same time. Individual units charged at Oak Ridge alone, like a mob of Hollywood henchmen attacking the hero only to be smacked around one by one. Cutler's men didn't just fight them off; it was closer to mass murder. General O'Neal's brigade swooped down off of Oak Hill only to be cut down by musketry and cannon fire, and they did it without O'Neal, because O'Neal stayed in the rear while his men died. When O'Neal's brigade fell back having suffered heavy losses, Cutler shifted his men to greet the new threat from Iverson's brigade, who also charged without their commander. Iverson's men marched in parade perfect order across open ground, without so much as a molehill for cover. The story goes that during the assault, Iverson looked out from safety and saw half his men lying down on the ground. Iverson was pissed off because he thought his men were surrendering. In fact, he was watching his brigade die in droves.
The issue wasn't morale. The Confederate troops were eager to get at the enemy. The problem was purely organizational in nature. The men in charge of telling people what to do were simply too confused and disoriented to work out the solution in real time. While O’Neal and Iverson were getting bloodied, Barlow’s men on Blocher Hill were getting slaughtered. Barlow’s desire to hold the high ground on the defense was understandable- high ground being a grand place to fight from- but he was about one mile ahead of any friendly units. This meant that it was trivially easy to flank and destroy his brigades.
Georgia men under generals Early and Rodes linked up to flank and destroy Barlow’s isolated brigades. A thick stream of filthy, bloody, and terrified Union men flowed back to the town of Gettysburg, leaving a gaping hole in the Union line and spreading their panic like the plague. Victorious Confederates whooped and hollered. As the men to the north of town trade massacres- the failed assault on Oak Ridge being roughly balanced by the disastrous dissolution of Barlow’s brigades- Heth finally attacked the Iron Brigade still occupying Herbst Wood in the west. He’d been delaying it all afternoon, stymied by the contradictory orders from Lee. Lee, who was several miles away and not at all in touch with the situation, still wanted to avoid a general engagement. But now, Heth has been let off the chain to avenge Archer’s brigade.
Heth’s full division attacked Herbst Wood. It was a slow, hot, gory fight. The attacking rebels are aggressive, but also methodical and well-organized. The Black Hats made them pay for every tree they seized. But there’s only one outcome for a fight like this.
The Iron Brigade has the ghastly honor of having the highest casualty ratio of any Civil War brigade, North or South. Out of the 1,885 men in their ranks that morning, 1,153 (61%) were be dead or maimed by nightfall on the first day. The fates of individual units from within the brigade are even more gruesome- in the 2nd Wisconsin regiment, 397 out of 496 (80%) were killed or wounded. But despite the horrific losses, they didn’t break. They gave ground slowly and in good order, but they gave ground nonetheless. Iron does not break, but it does bend.
By late afternoon, the dominoes fell as they were always going to. With the debacle at Blocher’s Knoll, any hope the Union had to hold the right was lost. The Black Hats were being ground into sawdust on the left. And Rodes has finally gotten his brigades to charge at the same time, overwhelming Cutler’s defense.
Every Union man was running now, some in a blind panic, some withdrawing in good order like professionals.
The open field battle turned into urban warfare as the Confederates chased the Union army through the streets of Gettysburg. Companies blocked the streets to hold off the enemy advance long enough for the comrades to scamper. Marksmen played sniper games in the windows, either shooting men in the back as they ran away or ambushing overly aggressive platoons, depending on the color of their uniform.
The Union men were desperate to reach Cemetery Hill, south of the town. High ground and the reinforcements already stationed there promised safety. The Confederates were just as desperate to catch them first and seize that invaluable terrain for themselves.
A great deal of “woulda coulda shoulda” ink has been spilled over the orders that Lee gave to General Ewell, the man in charge of Rodes and Early: “Take Cemetery Hill if practical”. But Ewell saw two brigades with a lot of artillery standing on top of what appeared to be a natural fortress designed by God to repel infantry, and his men were exhausted to boot. Ewell decided it was not practical, and so did not try. Just one of those things, I expect.
In any case, the day was a Confederate victory. Every spot on the map the Confederate troops wanted to go, they had went. They had crushed all resistance, had even gone toe to toe with the cream of the Army of the Potomac and won. Their enemies were in flight before them.
There was, possibly, a certain amount of disquiet because the enemy had merely been driven from one ridge into another ridge, one even steeper and with more cover than the last. And rumor had it the rest of the Army of the Potomac was coming at them.
But that was a problem for the next day.
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Welcome to Gettysburg (Day Three)

Day One Here
Day Two Here
The night fighting on Culp’s Hill was slow and torturous. The Confederate assault from Johnson’s division had to cross rough terrain and a river before it even started going uphill, which at night was an incredibly miserable task even without Union troops firing at them. Union skirmishers played hell with their progress, and after brushing them aside, Johnson bumped into a defensive line that his Union counterpart Geary had spent all day perfecting.
As mentioned yesterday, their only success was to grab tiny footholds on the Union side of Rock Creek, which ran between the two hills.
As the fighting died away and the bone weary soldiers on both sides crashed asleep hard, Lee plotted. He smelled blood; on July 1st, they’d carved up the Union men good and drove them from the field. Yesterday, on the Union left, they’d wrecked a Union corps under Sickles, smashed into the Union center and almost broke it (damn those blue belly reinforcements showing up in the knick of time), and even gained a toehold on the Union right. The men’s morale was high. Lee decided to repeat yesterday’s plan, but better executed. Simultaneous attacks on both flanks should overwhelm them, and J.E.B. Stuart could make it up to all of them by chasing down the shattered Army of the Potomac to scoop up all the heavy guns and supplies and wounded that could not retreat rapidly. To which end, Lee sent Stuart on a super wide flanking attack around the Union right so as to be in position to strike at the right moment. Lee generated the orders in written form and sent them off by messenger to his corps commanders.
Meanwhile, Meade had another war council face to face with his generals. They decided to stand pat, to neither attack the Confederate positions nor retreat back towards Washington. The terrain massively favored them and Lee would (more likely than not) walk into their gunsights again.
A defensive stance, however, doesn’t mean pure passivity. A few hours after the Confederate assault petered out and Lee’s decision was made, the Union started a counterattack on a small scale.
At dawn, the Union right flared up. Fresh troops had marched in overnight and Meade wanted his damn hill back. The extreme end of the Confederate left flank (which is of course opposite the Union right) found itself getting hammered in front of Culp’s Hill by artillery from the Baltimore Pike. Clearly, such a bombardment was meant to be followed up with an assault to retake the bridgehead.
Johnson, having received his orders from Lee and being under the impression that Longstreet was attacking in tandem a mile and a half away on the other side of the hills, attacked Culp’s Hill again before the Union could attack him first. The plan was what the plan was; pressure here, successful or not, was needed for someone to break through somewhere. But Longstreet wasn’t attacking. Later on, Longstreet would claim to have never received the order to advance, but the sources I have assert this is untrue- he received the order, he just didn’t do anything about it. Instead of spending the night getting his troops on line to attack Little Round Top and the southern chunk of Cemetery Ridge, he just sat tight and did nothing. Oceans of ink have been spilled over the years speculating as to why. The Lost Cause narrative asserts that Longstreet was a Yankee-loving turncoat who deliberately sabotaged Lee’s plan and lost the battle on purpose. Others think that Longstreet's conviction that attacking here was insane and that they should fall back and look for battle somewhere else on more favorable terms had been strengthened by the results of July 2nd, and as such was dragging his heels trying to not attack again. Or maybe it was just the general haze of Civil War era incompetence taking its toll again.
As Johnson’s men gamely attacked the untakeable Culp’s Hill and were cut down by accurate rifle fire and close range cannon fire, Lee hunted down Longstreet to demand an explanation for his borderline insubordinate refusal to attack.
Longstreet pitched his idea again. He’d spent all night scouting the Union line. The enemy line was unbreakable. They shouldn’t try to attack them here. They should slip around the Union left, south of Big Round Top, to threaten the Union supply lines. Do that, they would make the Union respond to them, fight them on more equal terms. That’s the plan Longstreet had been preparing for all night, not a suicidal-
Lee cut him off with a raised fist. There would be no tricky maneuver around the flank. They would assault the Union line under the present conditions.
To the north, Johnson was still getting his teeth kicked in. Lee sent orders to call off the assault, but it would take a while for the messenger to get there and for Johnson to get word to his brigades to stand down and fall back. Meanwhile, across the way on Cemetery Ridge, Meade stalked his line, double checking all the positions for any confusions or errors to correct, emitting confidence and good cheer.
Lee scoped out the Union center personally, being in the area anyway. His complex double flanking maneuver wasn't working. A new plan was needed.
Lee figured that Meade had reinforced Little Round Top and the surrounding area yesterday, and that those troops hadn’t gone anywhere since. The Union defense at Culp’s Hill has been similarly fierce that morning, fierce enough to threaten Johnson with an offensive. If both flanks were strong... the center must be weak. Yesterday, a small Confederate brigade had crossed the Emmitsburg road under fire and smashed into the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, just south of Cemetery Hill. They had straight up routed the enemy- had there been more men available to back them up and follow through, that small brigade might have won the battle outright instead of being pushed back as they’d been.
Lee was satisfied. The Union center was brittle, undermanned, and the best point to hit it was at that same place.
Meanwhile, J.E.B. Stuart was stepping off on his flanking ride.
Johnson’s last big push up Culp’s Hill was heroic. By that time, all of them knew how strong the Union position was. They surely walked into this with their eyes open.
A three brigade front set up for a shock attack, backed up by four more to exploit the hoped-for opening. Among them was the famous Stonewall Brigade, Jackson's old unit that he’d raised up and trained personally before being tapped for higher command. The Stonewall Brigade was, arguably, the elite of the Confederate army. The year before, they’d outmaneuvered and outfought a Union stab at Richmond coming through the Shenandoah valley.
The charge was cut down and butchered like all the others, and Johnson fell back.
Williams, whose batteries on the Baltimore Pike had kicked things off that morning, got a little overexcited and counterattacked without orders. His orders to attack the Confederate flank left his subordinates sickened with dread, but were obeyed nonetheless. Once the Union counterattack was butchered in retaliation by the entrenched Confederates, combat on the Union right ceased after six straight hours of gory, hopeless combat.
Meanwhile, Confederate artillery under the command of Colonel Alexander set itself up on a mile wide front, all carefully sited and positioned both for protection and for good lines of sight on the Union center. A brief but fierce artillery duel kicked off as each side tried to knock out the other’s firing points before the big moment, but was soon cut off to preserve ammo.
Lee mustered his available forces, bringing in troops that were only now straggling in and combining them with some units that had fought the day before. It was a haphazard and frankly half-assed piece of staff work- veteran units who hadn’t fought at all in the last two days were left in reserve, while exhausted troops who’d already suffered 50% casualties were included. Many of the brigades who were to charge Cemetery Ridge had green colonels in charge because their generals had been killed or wounded the day before. The gap between the northern half of the assaulting force and the southern half was four football fields long, and nobody seemed to notice or care. The division commander to lead the north side of the assault, General Pettigrew, was selected not for any rational consideration or advantage, but because he happened to be standing nearby when the decision was being made. Longstreet, who by this point wanted nothing to do with any of it, was placed in overall command. It took a few hours to organize this clusterfuck into something resembling a coherent unit- three divisions spread over a mile wide front, with Pickett on the left, Pettigrew on the right, and Trimble behind them to provide some depth to the big push.
There is no particularly good reason why the upcoming Pickett’s Charge is known as “Pickett’s Charge”. Pickett was not actually in charge of it, or even in charge of most of it. He was a division commander who had never seen proper combat before- in every battle since 1861, his unit had been held in reserve or absent. This was to be his first chance to get in this war. I suspect it’s known as Pickett’s Charge because he and his men were Virginians, and it was fellow Virginians who would pour over the battle to find out why the wrong side won. Accordingly, they conceived of it as being a Virginian affair, overshadowing the Tennesseans, Alabamans, North Carolinians, and Mississippians who formed the other two-thirds of the attack.
I was surprised to learn that we have a hard time figuring out how many men were actually involved in Pickett’s Charge (this being a basic narrative history, I am sticking with the common name for it despite the inaccuracy); I attribute this to the confusion involved in organizing it. I’ve heard as low as 12,500 men and as high as 15,000. I’m going with 14,000 men because it’s a nice even number that is approximately midway between the upper and lower limit, so don’t mistake my choice as being accurate or even evidence-based per se. Regardless, the agreed upon number of Union defenders is 6,500. The Confederates would outnumber the Union by about 2-1 or greater at the point of contact.
These days, a lot of people show up at the battlefield and stare out from Cemetery Ridge at Spangler Woods where Pettigrew would have emerged from (or stand in Spangler’s Woods and stare out at Cemetery Ridge, same difference) and wonder what the hell was going through Lee’s head. The ground there is now flat and devoid of cover, the exact kind of terrain that time and time again had proven to be a death sentence for infantry assaults. The answer is that the ground changed between 1863 and today. Just before World War One ended in 1918, the field over which Pickett charged was artificially flattened for tank training. Before that, it was the kind of rolling terrain that Buford’s skirmishers had exploited on day one- an observer from a distance would see the troops disappear and reappear as they went over and down each gentle slope. The 14,000 attackers would have some cover as they advanced- not perfect terrain to keep immune from artillery and bullets, but not explicit suicide either.
By 1 PM, Alexander had his guns set up the way he liked them. What followed at his command was the single largest coordinated artillery mission that the Western Hemisphere had ever seen.
In the south, cannons at the Peach Orchard suppressed the Union firing point on Little Round Top. All along Seminary Ridge from whence the charge would spring, cannons lined up practically wheel to wheel for a mile, aimed at wrecking Cemetery Ridge.
Longstreet was in what you might call a high stress kind of mood. He was having second, third, fourth, and fifth thoughts about attacking, but orders were orders and he was in charge of this damned charge. As the guns began their bombardment, Longstreet did something that frankly goes beyond the pale of any command decision I’ve ever heard of. The film Gettysburg and the novel it’s based on cast Longstreet in a very sympathetic light, as a kind of deliberate pushback against the reductive myth that Longstreet was personally responsible for losing the battle and by extension the war, leaving Lee off the hook to stay firmly in the saintly canon of the Lost Cause. But here, Longstreet indisputably abdicates any pretense of the responsibility of command.
He fired an order off to Colonel Alexander, telling him:
If the artillery fire does not have the effect to drive off the enemy, or greatly demoralize him, so as to make our effort pretty certain, I would prefer that you should not advise General Pickett to make the charge. I shall . . . expect you to let General Pickett know when the moment offers.
Allow me to reiterate in case you were reading this on autopilot. Longstreet, the man in charge of the whole offensive, was telling a lowly artillery colonel that the decision when and if to attack was on him and no one else.
Alexander was a subject matter expert on artillery and not infantry for a reason. This order hit him from out of left field. He wrote back for clarification, and the professional in him mentioned that since the plan is to use every single artillery shell they can spare, if there is any alternative plan to charging Cemetery Hill at the end of the bombardment then they’d better tell him before he runs out of ammo.
And Longstreet reiterated his first order. He told Alexander to advise General Pickett whether or not to attack. And with that on his shoulders, Alexander gave the order to open fire.
All told, somewhere between 150 and 170 guns opened up at the same moment. The 75 Union cannons they had on hand briefly engaged in counter-battery fire, before being ordered to go quiet and save ammunition for the infantry assault to come. For about an hour, the Union troops just had to sit still and take what the Rebel had to give them.
What Lee was doing was classic Napoleonic tactics. Massing artillery against the weakest point on the enemy line was literally by the book soldiering. The problem, as was noted here before, was that technology had changed. Napoleonic could bring his cannon close to the frontline with the reasonable expectation that they wouldn’t be shot, since smoothbore muskets are basically harmless from 200 yards away. But that was no longer the case. The long stand off distance that the enemy rifles dictated meant that the cannonfire was proportionally less accurate and devastating. The smoke covering the field concealed the truth from the Confederates- their artillery fire was off. Most of the shells flew high overhead and exploded behind Cemetery Ridge. Some shells hit the target area- Union men did die screaming by the score. But the positions on Cemetery Hill were only lightly damaged, and the units manning them were intact and cohesive. Most of the damage done was to the rear echelon types- surgeons, supply wagoneers, staff officers, that kind of thing. Such men were massacred as the shells aimed at men a quarter mile away arced over and found marks elsewhere. Meade, of course, was on hand, showing a brave face and cracking some jokes about a similar moment in the Mexican-American War 15 years back.
Throughout the hour, as his line endured the steel hailstorm, Meade’s engineer mind was working. He’d already suspected that Lee was about to hit his center- he’d predicted as much the night before- and now the shot placements confirmed it. He was already ordering troops into position, getting ready to reinforce the line on Cemetery Ridge if needed. He hedged his bets, putting them in a position to relieve Cemetery Hill as well, just in case. Little Round Top became somewhat less defended as men marched out, using the high ground to mask their redeployment.
Irresponsible and insubordinate though Longstreet was at that moment, he was right. Lee’s improvised plan had already failed, though it hadn’t happened yet. Pickett’s Charge wasn’t going to slam into a fragmented and demoralized Union line. It was heading into a mile long, mile wide kill zone backed up by a defence in depth.
Pickett’s Charge
Confederates were getting mangled before the charge even started. Union artillery fire reached out and touched out them in Spangler’s Woods, rolling solid iron shot and explosive shells into their huddled ranks.
Longstreet rode the line, exposing himself to the artillery fire to set an example of courage. The men didn’t need such an example- or rather, they’ve seen such examples in a dozen battles over the last two years and have already learned valor as a second language- but there’s something to be said for showing the groundpounders that their boss is in the wrong end of the shooting gallery the same way that they are.
Just before 2 p.m., Alexander decided if it’s gonna happen, it’d have to be now. He needed at least a small reserve of shells to function after the battle and he’s running out fast. He dashed off a note to Pickett telling him to step off. In keeping with the standard of Confederate comms thus far, Pickett then took Alexander’s note to Longstreet in person for confirmation, because nobody had told him that Longstreet was trying to dodge the responsibility of command.
Longstreet was desperate for an out, and in one crazed leap of illogic he thought he found one. Alexander was low on shells, with only a tiny reserve of ammunition left over for self-defense! Longstreet issued orders to halt in place and delay some more, so that they could replenish their ammo chests from their strategic reserves.
I really feel for Alexander, man. I've had bosses like that too. Alexander had to break the news to Longstreet that there was no strategic reserve, he already told him, they were shooting every round they got. Longstreet was shocked- apparently nobody on Lee's staff had been paying attention to how fast they'd been burning through their artillery rounds. (Meade's staff paid attention to such banal details- that's why they now had tons of ammunition standing by their guns on Cemetery Ridge, patiently waiting for something valuable to shoot at). Even then, Longstreet couldn’t bring himself to actually say the words to order the attack. He just nodded, mute and numb.
At 2 p.m., the attack started. 14,000 men rose up and walked forward, a giant line of infantry one mile across. In lieu of specific instructions about where they were going and how to get there, the order was to aim for a copse of trees on the objective- an easy visual marker that was easy to remember. As long as you kept the trees in sight and kept moving forward, you were right.
(Miles and miles away, J.E.B. Stuart’s flanking maneuver was being countered by an equal force of Union cavalry. Their clash had one of the few cavalry-on-cavalry battles of the Civil War; fun fact, this was one of the fights that put Custer’s career on the map, until getting killed off by the Cheyenne at Little Big Horn 13 years later. The battle was intense, but a draw; Stuart couldn’t break through. Even if Pickett’s Charge worked, there’d have been no way to follow up and finish Meade off for good. Lee’s plan was well and truly fucked.)
Things immediately stopped being clean and neat, as per the usual. The center of Pickett’s Charge sprang up and walked before the flanks did, but the brigades on the south and the north of them set off late, leading to a kind of droopy effect where the center bulged out unsupported.
When the Union soldiers manning Cemetery Ridge saw the Confederate advance begin, they began to chant “Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!” Just a little “fuck you” from one set of veterans to another; at Fredericksburg eight months before, Union General Burnside had ordered several such suicidal attacks on prepared defenses which the Confederates had gleefully blasted into chunky salsa.
70 odd guns opened up on them all. To give a sense of the skill involved, the artilleryman in charge of the Union guns, Colonel Hunt, had written the book on artillery- literally, because his work Instructions for Field Artillery was the go-to manual for the US Army- and at West Point had personally taught most of the Confederate artillery officers across the way everything they knew about the big guns. One must not mistake this as just plopping down the cannons and pointing them in the right direction. Hunt was an artist with his weapon systems, and the pattern of explosions that snaked into the advancing infantry had been painstakingly designed by a master craftsman.
At the distance of a mile, it was iron shot and shell that carved bloody little holes into the line. The Confederates took the beating, closed ranks, and pushed on. On the south, the cannons on Little Round Top delivered particularly hideous effects from the flank, driving their line into disorder; some brigades cut in front of other brigades, and what should have been a line became a muddled column. On the north, a brigade under General Brockenbrough bumped into a small detachment of 160 Union men who were jutting out north of the road. The Union men fired a small but devastating volley that raked them from the side and broke their nerves. Brockenbrough’s men ran- the first to break, but not the last.
Similar small detachments of skirmishers dotted No Man’s Land between the armies. Between their vicious little ambushes and the massive shock of massed artillery, Pickett’s Charge slowed down. Slowing down just left them in the kill zone for that much longer.
When Pickett’s Charge reached the Emmitsburg Road, they were further delayed by the stiff fencing that lined it. As they clambered over it, Union infantry opened fire at long range. The casualties skyrocketed as the Confederate line absorbed the fire. If you want to know what it was like under fire, picture the start of a rainstorm. The water droplets go taptaptap tap taptaptap taptaptaptaptap taptaptaptaptap taptap taptaptaptaptaptap taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap... that's how the survivors described the musketry that pelted the fence they were trying to climb over. One small contingent of Davis’ brigade (you recall how roughly they were manhandled on July the 1st) accidentally got ahead of everybody else and found itself standing right in front of the Union line all alone. The guys closest to the Union defenses surrendered as one; the rest got shot up bad and ran for their lives.
Pickett’s Charge was pure chaos by then- their mile wide front that had surged forth from Spangler’s Wood had shrunk down to about a half mile, partly from taking casualties, partly from brigades running away after the shock of massed fire, and partly from bridges shifting north away from flanking fire from their right side.
From the fence line on the Emmitsburg to the stone wall that protected the Union defense was about two hundred yards. This is a long shot for a rifle, especially under pressure- that’s the whole point to volley fire, so that everybody shooting at once will create a sort of probability cloud of danger even at long range. Some Confederates, desperate to hit back after enduring hell, shot anyway. Their fire was ineffective. It is a very, very short shot for an artillery piece, even under pressure. A battery of cannons placed just behind the Union line switched to canister and blasted massive bloody holes in the bunched up Confederates.
A lot of Confederates huddled up behind the fencing and stayed put. It is marginally safer than moving two feet forward past the wooden railings, and the spirit had been knocked out of them by the mile long charge and the mile long shooting gallery they’d been subjected to. The left side of the attack had been stopped dead and turned back; the right side pushed on, disregarding any thought but closing distance. 1,500 men blitzed those last 200 yards to the stone wall
Scores of them died from rifle fire as the cannons reloaded.
The surviving Confederates, running on pure adrenaline, reached the stone wall at a place called the Bloody Angle. The Union line was disjointed, with the Northern section slightly back from the southern section. The Angle was the little joint that connected the two walls; it was also right by the copse of trees that everybody was racing towards.
A fierce firefight broke out once the Confederates reached the wall. Most of them stayed behind the wall; like their buddies to the west still behind the fence on the Emmitsburg pike, they’d finally found a few square feet that was sorta kinda safe, and every instinct they had in their brains screamed at them to stay there. The Union troops were outnumbered at the point of impact, and backed off in good order.
Reserve regiments were already marching up to plug the gap that didn’t exist yet. Units north and south of the Bloody Angle shifted in place to fire at the beachhead. Behind the Confederates on the Angle, there was a small ocean of blood on the ground and a mile long procession of silent, mangled dead and writhing, screaming wounded... but no follow on reinforcements to help exploit the breakthrough.
General Armistead, the only Confederate General there still on his feet, still believed in all that chivalrous Walter Scott romantic nonsense, still thought that raw valor and heart could somehow beat a superior enemy. He stuck his hat on his sword as a makeshift battle flag and rallied his men to leave the safety of the Bloody Angle and close distance.
Just as the pitifully few Confederates got on the east side of the wall, the cannons shot canister again and puked metal death all over them. After shooting, the artillerymen ran back to safety before the rebels could stagger up to them.
Hundreds of men surged forward by inertia; hundreds out of the 14,000 that they’d started with. They drove off the understrength Union regiments with the bayonet and capture those hated big guns, turning them around to use against the inevitable counterattack. This failed; there was no more ammo left for the guns. Colonel Hunt had measured out the number of rounds needed for the job at hand with the utmost precision.
The counterattack was messy and bloody for everybody involved, for the brawl saw everything available used as a weapon- bullets, bayonets, rifle butts, pistols, knives, rocks, boot heels, bare hands. But the Confederates all just dissolved after a short while. Nobody ordered a retreat; nobody was alive and of sufficient rank to order a retreat. Thousands just plopped down where they stood and waited for Union men to come out and collect them. They were too numb and exhausted to walk anymore. Others streamed back to safety in ones and twos.
For every Confederate who died, four more were maimed and crippled. For every wounded man, another was taken prisoner. It was an unmitigated disaster for the Confederate cause, and correspondingly it was a triumph of humanity as the stalwart defenders of the slave plantations died in droves. Remember, like I said, we’re rooting for the Union.
The battle wasn’t over, not really. Not was the campaign. But it certainly was decided.
Interestingly, at first it was kind of ambiguous who won.
Meade got fired from the job after Lee got the Army of Northern Virginia home intact. Lincoln was seething that Meade hadn’t shown some aggression and had failed to destroy Lee’s army as he had been ordered. Meade, however, didn’t have much of an army at that point, just a diverse collection of units that had suffered 50% casualties and were in no condition to do anything. Moreover, there had been no way to bring the retreating Lee to battle without taking a lot of risks that might see all the good done at Gettysburg undone. Still though. Meade was out, and Grant, riding high after his conquest of Vicksburg, was in. Lee initially claimed victory in the Richmond papers, and it was hard to gainsay him at first. He had indisputably invaded north and thrashed the living shit out of the Army of the Potomac so bad that they could not invade again in 1863, which was indeed partly the point of the strategy.
But soon the facts of life made themselves clear. Lee had holes in his ranks that simply could not be filled anymore. Southerners didn’t want to die in a losing war, and coercing in them into the ranks through State violence only gave him shitty recruits who would desert the second they were put on guard duty. In contrast, tens of thousands of men poured into training depots across the nation, all armed and clothed and fed by the grandest industrial base in the world. Thousands of experienced veterans re-upped their contracts in Gettysberg’s wake to become these new recruits’ NCOs and commanding officers. Lee has gone north to break the will of the Union to continue the fight. Gettysburg had, if anything, demoralized the Confederacy and reinvigorated the Union instead. I do not believe that Gettysburg started this trend, but I do think it sped it up significantly. Patterns that might have taken a year to come to fruition instead took months.
Gettysburg, in my opinion, is significant not because of any great gains or losses on the material level, but because of its effects on the minds of voters and soldiers and politicians in the North and the South. To crib C. S. Lewis really quick, what matters was not whether a given action would take a specific hill, or seize a certain road; what matters is whether a given action pushes people to either dig their heels in and seek victory at any personal cost, or whether it pushes them to back down and seek a safer compromise. Gettysburg pushed all of the American people in the directions they were already heading down, that’s all. Any conclusion beyond that is on shaky ground, I feel.
Having said that, I shall now irrationally contradict myself; Gettysburg can also act as a Rorschach test with symbols and images and stories in lieu of the ink blots. Like I said, it’s a place of religious significance to me to an extent far beyond appreciation for its historic value.
I just don’t think it’s possible for that many people to die in such a short period of time, in so compact an area, and with such blunt contempt for the foreseen probability of violent death, and not leave an indelible and ineffable mark on the land itself. Like, if humanity went extinct and Earth got colonized by Betelgeusians a hundred years after, I am certain that the aliens would somehow feel a chill in their exoskeletons when they walk over the soft leaves and through the bare trees of Herbst Wood, or tromp around the south side of Little Round Top, or poke about on the steep slope of Culp's Hill, or splash across the Plum River in the Valley of Death.
I’m not saying I’m right, of course. But I am saying how I feel.
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Woke up Kidnapped 21 (Intermission)

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Gabriel woke up the following morning, sore and a little stiff. He probably pulled a muscle in the last jump while dodging the riding animal. He sat up and groaned.
"Rough night?" Deana asked, she sat up and stretched her neck.
"You were there, you should know," Gabriel said.
"Not used to battering Kriks into the ground?" She asked.
"Is that what they are called? No, not really. Not that I'm more used to sword fighting." Gabriel said as he tried to get his spine in order. After a couple of satisfying cracks, he felt much better. "So what now? When's the next fight?"
"I don't know, three, four days I suspect." She shrugged and leaned back against the wall, her legs crossed. “But we can always hope for more.”
“Agreed, I’ll keep my fingers crossed,” Gabriel said and walked over to the bathroom to wash his face. Breakfast arrived at the same time, along with a fancy dressed male Roniean Gabriel had not seen before. Gabriel walked out toweling off his face. “What a pleasant surprise, a guest. Are you joining us for breakfast?”
“Not quite, I was just interested in seeing what my money has bought,” he said and raised his crest. Gabriel noted that it was a bright purple color but didn’t understand the significance of the gesture.
“Satisfied?” He asked.
“Maybe, tell me, how did you jump out of the way of the Krisk that fast?” he asked looking nonchalant.
“I have strong legs, good for short bursts,” Gabriel lied.
“I see,” he said. He studied Gabriel for some time before squinting and nodding to himself, “Hmm, I’ll have to try harder next time it seems,” he said and left the cell. Gabriel gave Deana a confused look and got a shrug back.
“Who was that?” Gabriel asked after he heard the door at the end of the corridor lock.
“He owns this arena, I don’t know his name. All the guards just call him boss.” Deana said. “But I’ve only seen him on the stands, preaching to his guests.”
Gabriel frowned, “He didn’t know how strong I was,” he said scratching his head. “Hmm,” Then the realization hit him. “Of course my seller would lie to him,” Gabriel said.
“What do you mean?” Deana asked, Gabriel heard shuffling and saw Sen at the other door.
“He means buying an alien that has taken down ten armed Igris pirates with a metal rod is likely a bad purchase. Too difficult to control.” Sen’Chakar said. “That would be my guess. Most believe the rumors are just a ruse to keep Gabriel away from trouble so confirming that would make sense.”
“Right,” Gabriel said. “Not to toot my own horn or anything but I crushed all the physical tests they had on US 535.”
“I’m assuming toot your own horn means bragging,” Deana said. “And that was a bad attempt. But I see your point, he seemed to think you would be weaker.”
“Yeah, and he accepted that I could only run in short bursts,” Gabriel said.
“...So that was a lie?” Deana asked.
“Yeah, humans are...persistent hunters, I think is called. Or I mean not in modern society.” Gabriel said. “We don’t run around chucking spears at mammoths anymore.”
“Ignoring what a mammoths is, how long can you run?” Deana asked.
“Full speed? not that long, I’ve only run 400 meters in a sprint. Well, it’s called a sprint but I can’t run it maxed out. I guess I’ve only done 200 meters.” He said.
“And how long is a meter?”
“About this,” he held his hands apart in the best approximation of a meter he could.
“That’s...what would you guess the arena is?” she asked.
“I don’t know, long side maybe 100 at most.” Gabriel guessed.
“I see,” Deana nodded, “Yes, that is far, but a fit Roniean can do the same, although just about I would guess.”
“Same with Igris,” Sen’Chakar said.
“And how long can you run, at whatever speed?” Deana asked and seemed to compare Gabriel’s legs to her own.
“Uh, I mean I’ve run marathons, which usually involves some walking but mostly jogging,” he jogged a little in place.
“And how long are those? In arenas?”
“Shit, hold on,” Gabriel said, quickly doing the math. “The OS, that’s Olympic sport is about 42,200 meters so 422,” Gabriel said.
“You can run, I mean jogging 422 lengths of the arena?”
“Yeah, I mean I’m out of practice so maybe not but with some more walking.” He shrugged.
“And all that while weighing more than Sen,” Deana shook her head. “How is that possible?”
“Gravity?” Gabriel ventured. “I mean like I said, my planet had higher gravity. I blame my weight on that. Wait, would that even help? Actually, with the lower gravity, I might do better, but that needs more testing.” Gabriel rambled on.
“Right, back to the previous subject, you believe you were sold with false information right?”
“Yes, the first time I was sold as some monster that they thought would kill and eat Madeline, this time I can only guess but as Sen said, I assume he wanted a strong but not too strong fighter,” Gabriel confirmed.
Deana shook her head, “This is getting too confusing for me, I need some sustenance,” she said as she grabbed a plate of breakfast. Once the boring breakfast was eaten she spoke up once again. “We don’t know what the ‘boss’ has been told, but eventually he’s going to believe the rumors floating around about you. The ones Sen heard.”
“I told you to call!...” Sen’Chakar started from the other cell. “Nevermind Dee, I suppose I can handle being called Sen for the time being.”
Deana scowled at Gabriel, “Coming here and ruining my fun…Oh well, we should try and escape before the boss figures you out if you still think that’s possible.”
“I do and yes, I agree,” Gabriel said. “Do you think we can talk our way into the armory between matches?” He asked.
“Not really, but it’s worth trying,” she said and rubbed her crest. “Sen, any ideas?”
“We can ask to practice in armor, otherwise I do not have any ideas at the moment...Dee” He said.
“Thanks again Gabe,” Deana sighed and scowled, but it quickly turned to a chuckle.
“Speaking of nicknames, does Gabe mean anything?” Gabriel asked.
“Not in Roniean,” Deana said.
“Not in Igris, but gabend means something similar to someone that does not think, or in other words, idiot.” He said, gabend was pronounced with a short a, but still quite similar.
“Oddly appropriate,” Gabriel murmured. “But now that I’m done bragging and we are done talking about theories we can’t solve at the moment, I think you have a story to tell Dee.”
She looked up from trying to scoop up the last of her breakfast, “I do?”
“Yeah, last night you said you would tell me how you ended up here, I told you my tale.”
She sighed, “You told me what happened after you ended up in space. But, I suppose I did. I can’t claim it to be a story or tale but I can tell you about it.” She put the plate away and got comfortable. “So, where do I start?”
“Wherever you want, we got time,” Gabriel said and sat down on his bed.
“Alright, what brought me here, in the end, was my work in the Roniean military as an intelligence officer. I looked through captured information, drives, recorded conversations, and the like.” She started. “I’m going to assume you know little about my society but stop me if you have further questions.”
“Will do,” Gabriel said.
“Before the military, I studied to work in communications, on FTL tech preferably but I planned to take whatever was available. But I was recruited to the military and went that direction instead. Roniean society is based on a strong military and almost all public services are provided by them. And most large factories also belong to the government and the military.”
“Almost?” Gabriel asked.
“Yes, it is difficult to compete with the prices of the military, whether it is food, clothes, housing, appliances, or the like. But there are always many willing to pay more for custom stuff, or different brands, handmade stuff you know. And so, almost all private companies deal in custom wares of whatever.” She paused for a moment, seeming to gather her thoughts after the tangent. “And because of that, many top students in their field get offered further education in the military. It’s a way to get a good education for less money but comes with a two-year contract after the studies are finished.”
“Forced service?”
“Sort of, but in many different sectors, and none in direct conflict. You can get recruited further to become a soldier or pilot or whatever but for most, it is an employer like any other. I worked testing some new communication unit that was meant to work instantaneously over light seconds. Different ships would be able to talk with each other in the same system.”
“You said would?”
“Yeah, never got it to work during my time there. After those two years were up I was offered my current...well I might be replaced now, but my last assignment which was as I said to gather and sort information.” she looked down at the floor.
“That sounds like a desk job to me,” Sen said from the other cell.
“It was, for the most part. I found some leads that suggested a large criminal organization operated in our capital, where I lived. They both smuggled and sold illegal stimulants and I suspected they also dealt in trafficking. And foolishly I thought if I could just get a little more information I could make sure the gang left the capital altogether. But I was stupid and got captured with enough information to be seen as dangerous and I got sent here.” She finished and looked at Gabriel. “And that’s my story.”
“Thank you for telling me,” Gabriel said and smiled. “I’m sure the information in this place will put many behind bars. After we get out that is.”
Deana chuckled, “Maybe I can convince my boss that I was deep undercover”
“It’s always good to stay positive. Sen, do you want to share?” Gabriel asked.
“I was captured doing much the same, except my position was in Security. Before that, I was studying to go into Security. Before that general school, and before that I did nothing that affected me ending up here.” He somehow managed to fit into one breath.
“...Thanks for sharing,” Gabriel said and shot a questioning look to Deana. She grinned and shook her head. “Did you practice that?” Gabriel asked Sen.
“No?” He said and walked off to do whatever.
“Ok then,” Gabriel turned back to Deana. “An Igris of few words was it?”
“Correct, most of the time, he can string together several sentences once in a while,” she said chuckling. “Your turn Gabe, what did you do before ending up in space?”
Gabriel stood up and began pacing, “Alright, where do I start?” He said, mostly to himself.
“Wherever you want, we got time,” Deana said.
“Fine, fine,” he said grinning. “I’m going to skip most of my childhood, it’s not that interesting. I was a nerdy kid, always liking games and movies more than many of my friends who dove headfirst into sports. When I started high-school a war started between two foreign countries and our country sent forces to help. My sister that I told you about started military training and after I turned the right age I also joined up. I went through a program that was supposed to last for two years but after a year and a half the war ended and my sister came back. Shortly after I was discharged due to...various reasons,” Gabriel said a bit sheepishly.
“Now I’m interested,” Deana said and leaned forwards.
“It’s nothing too special, I got into some fights because I was young and dumb. And they insulted my sister who came back without some of her friends.” He said and sat down.
“I see, talking bad about soldiers who have fought in battle is seen as bad manners and even punishable in the military. Only with chores and less free time but still.” Deana said.
“I'm not sure if they were punished, but I sure was.” Gabriel leaned back against the wall. “Regardless, after that, I started selling and fixing electronics, our version of com units, and the like. It was at quite a high-end store that served several large companies and not at all a bad job.” Gabriel sighed. “Then from what I call piece together I was on my way to my parents with my sister and we got kidnapped.” He shrugged and spread his arms. “The rest I’ve told you I think.”
“Yes, I think so, I just have one question,” Deana said.
“Shoot,” Gabriel said.
“Never mind, what’s your question?”
Deana squinted at him, “You have to explain that later, but what is boxing?”
“A...let’s call it a physical sport where we put on gloves and fight. With rules of course.” Gabriel launched into a very bare-boned explanation of boxing, explaining the basic rules and weight classes, finishing with an explanation on how matches were conducted. “There are some great human movies about boxing, shame I can’t show you any.”
“I think I understand, we have a sport which is similar but more focused on points and getting an advantage over your opponent. In the past, it was more or less put together so soldiers would train harder to try and win. But it is physical combat, though with more protection.” Deana said, “I was never a soldier so I didn’t try it, never got the training.”
“You don’t get training if you’re not in...let’s say the military part of your government?” Gabriel asked.
“Yes, and no, we get plenty of physical training and some very basics in using both guns and physical combat but no, we do not get any certification for weapons or learn combat as you have.” She explained.
Gabriel nodded, “I wasn’t that good at CQC too be honest, boxing is not part of the training I received in the military but I was better at it, and enjoyed it more.”
“What was that word, cequce?”
“Oh, C.Q.C, close-quarters combat,” Gabriel said. “We learned to fight hand-to-hand and defend against knife attacks and stuff like that.”
“I don’t suppose you learn how to fight with swords and shields?” she asked.
“Unfortunately, no”
“Shame, I don’t think we can fight without weapons. Or I mean we can, but probably shouldn't.” She said and sighed.
“No, probably not,” Gabriel said, quite aware he could likely break arms with his bare fists, even through shields. But that would hurt his knuckles in the process, or even break a wrist or two if the hit landed wrong. “Is there any, uh, tape or bandages to wrap my hands with?”
“For what? are you hurt?” Deana asked, looking questioning at his hands.
“No, not at all, just to keep me from breaking anything if I do decide to punch someone,” Gabriel said waving a hand dismissively.
“I don’t know, but that can’t be too hard to get. The ‘boss’ does want a good match and bandages will cost him little. It’s all about costs with that man.” Deana said. She stood and rolled her shoulders. “Can you teach me some boxing while we wait?”
“Sure, but what are we waiting for?” Gabriel said and stood as well.
“Food. There is nothing else to look forward to.” Deana said and looked at her fists. “Should we wrap our hands for this?”
“Preferably yes, but we can start easy,” Gabriel said. He showed her how to stand and how to guard and apart from hitting his palms a few times, they spent the next few hours on technique, some shadow boxing, and dodging. It was slow and easy-going so they used most of the time until lunch arrived. Still, they had both worked up a sweat when they broke for food.
“And you are telling me you fight for three minute rounds with only one minute between?” Deana asked as she ate. “Shadowboxing for three minutes was quite a workout.”
“Yep. Is it just me or is this food blander than usual?”
“Just you. And you fight for...what was it, 12 rounds at most?”
“At most, yes, but fights can be over in the first,” Gabriel said.
Deana nodded slowly “I can live with never becoming a boxing champion,” she said and grinned.
Gabriel chuckled, “Same here.” There rest of the day they trained some more, although it was more demonstrations and less physical and Gabriel tried to remember how CQC worked without resorting to just throwing a punch to the face of his opponent. Before dinner, he had managed to remember some throws and how to twist an arm holding a knife. Though he still remembered the optimal way to fight a knife which was to turn and sprint as fast as you can the other way.
After dinner, they talked about both Roniean II and Earth and even managed to get Sen to join them and Gabriel learned a bit more about Igris prime, the first Igris planet. Roniean II was a forest planet with quite extensive polar caps. Around the equator was a thick band of lush forests that did not get to warm or cold. It hardly ever snowed and often rained. Igris prime on the other hand was closer to earth but with more landmass north and south and less at the warm equator.
Igris prime had many popular locations for tourists with warm weather and good swimming, but further down, or up depending on with hemisphere you were on, it often rained with strong winds. And although they were not hurricane levels it would still be miserable to be out in them.
“So Earth has temperatures in the same range as us?” Sen asked.
“Yes, thereabouts,” Gabriel said. It has taken quite some time to translate temperature but they had gotten close he thought.
“But you live in almost all of them?”
“Are there several species of humans? how can you handle the coldest and warmest temperatures?” Sen asked him.
“We are adaptable I guess, As we produce a lot of heat ourselves we just need to isolate for the cold. The heat is different and while we do sweat to cool down we can easily overheat. Many die every year from heatstroke.”
“I see, while we do send scientists to the polar caps we need environmental suits to handle the cold. But I think we produce less body heat.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Gabriel shrugged, “My knowledge of Xenobiology is severely lacking.”
Deana reached over and grabbed his wrist, holding it for a while and then nodded, “Yes, you are warmer than me,” She nodded. “And we Ronieans have about the same temperature as Igris.” She let go of his wrist and reached a hand towards his chest, but stopped before making contact. “Boundaries, sorry,” she said and withdrew her hand. “Just wanted to check, limbs are usually colder.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t get any ideas,” Gabriel grinned and grabbed her hand and placed it on his the back of his neck.
Deana tilted her head, “Your arm was almost cold compared to this. Want to touch me in return?” she asked. “No private place though,” she grinned.
“Thanks for the offer, but I’ll pass,” Gabriel chuckled.
“Your loss,” Deana laughed, she walked back to her bed, “I think I would like to see Earth sometime, Igris prime too for that matter.”
“Won't gravity be a problem?” Gabriel went back to his bed, then decided a shower would be a good idea.
“I guess, but I can get an exoskeleton or something,” She said and stretched out on the bed.
“Or something,” Sen said from the other cell, “You could use a powered armor, provided you can get a hold of one.”
“See,” Deana said, “I just have to convince someone to give me one.”
“Good luck with that, I’m going to take a shower,” Gabriel said and grabbed a change of clothes.
“Have fun, and leave it running,” Deana said waving a hand.
The next couple of days was much the same, breakfast, practice in the training room, lunch, more practice, dinner, and free time. Gabriel tried to convince the guards to let them into the armory but apparently, the boss was away on business and they didn’t want to make any decisions while he was away. And calling was not an option it seemed. On the fourth day, after dinner, they were informed that there would be fighting the next day. Maybe his best bet for escape had been when the boss had visited but that ship had sailed. The guards were always careful when delivering food, always when Gabriel and Deana were at the far wall and they quickly shut the door after pushing in the plates. But if things went on like this he would have to risk it.
“We have to make a move soon,” Gabriel said while they were just about to sleep for the night.
“I agree, but what do we do?” Deana asked.
Gabriel sighed frustrated, “I don’t know, but if we can’t convince the boss we need access to the armory we have to try something. Every time we fight may be our last.”
“Again, I agree but I have been through several matches already,” Deana said and tapped her chest, “I can take it,”
“I’m sure,” Gabriel said, “But I don’t like risking it.”
“I agree with Gabe,” Sen said. “I believe we should try and escape after this next match, it is risky to wait.”
“I’m not arguing,” Deana said and raised her hands defensively. “But we can’t tomorrow, there will be too many guards.”
Gabriel laid down and stared up at the ceiling. “Damn it, I wanted to be out here by now.”
“Sleep, Gabe,” Deana said. “Worry tomorrow.”
“Goodnight Dee, Goodnight Sen!” Gabriel shouted at the door.
Sen chuckled from the other cell, which mostly sounded like several sharp hisses, “Goodnight Gabe, and Dee”
“Goodnight,” Deana sighed.

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I'm playing a game called Smile but nobody taught me the rules [Final]

Rounds 1 2 3 4 5
I can't begin to describe what a rollercoaster of emotions I went through in these last couple of days. Days that felt like an eternity. Together with my friends I got sucked into the loop of a game named Smile. The game of madness, randomness, and pain. I had lost Hailey. I had lost Killian. And Killian had lost his poor sister. Nothing went the way I had planned them at all. As much I tried to control the direction of the game, it was always a step ahead of me. I had officially lost control.
And now on top of it all, Lucas was gone as well. We had trusted each other with our lives on numerous occasions and I never regretted it. I didn’t regret it when I left the life I knew because it was clear to me that I had gained a new family. Lucas and I were like brothers. Brothers who went through the hell that was the tv show of satan. A show we starred in as kids that made children who watch it do unspeakable things. Without our knowledge our faces were involved in murder, kidnapping, and suicides. And while we didn’t know what we had gotten ourselves into when we were that young and just wanted to act, we had been plagued by guilt ever since the memories of that time came back to us. And so we had sworn to do everything in our power to destroy anything that revolved around that show. But now I wasn’t so sure anymore that Lucas was really on the same side as me. And Hailey it seemed had turned into a cold-blooded killer.
Suddenly my family was gone and I was standing there on an empty carnival which had turned eerily silent. It was just me and this woman.
I didn't recognize her face at first. She had gotten older, just as I. To be honest, I never expected to see her again.
“Janie,” I whispered but then my eyes shifted back to the Ferris wheel and I couldn’t focus on her anymore. I started running while typing on my phone.
“Alex, who the hell are you calling?” Janie shouted and jumped me from the back.
“A fucking ambulance. If it’s not too late already,”
I pushed Janie away.
“You did this. You killed an innocent boy for some shitty game. Why did you even come back? Did you side with them? Was this all planned out from the start?”
“Aw Alex, I knew you liked me!” I heard someone laugh from the back.
As I turned around I saw Killian’s body drenched in blood but he got up from the wagon as if nothing had even happened. And then I started realizing that he didn’t have any wounds. I moved closer and touched his chest.
“This is paint.”
I couldn’t control myself, my mouth turned into a big smile followed by hysterical laughter. This situation was so insane but the relief I felt was incredible.
The relief quickly turned to anger however. I grabbed Killian by his shirt and started shaking him.
“You were never on our team, were you? You played with us.”
“I’m sorry, Alex. We had to. This was the only way to free my sister,”
Janie started typing something on her phone and walked over to us.
“It’s because of Lucas, Alex. Haven’t you understood that yet? He is involved with Warly. He helped him to recruit the players. His video went all around. We believe that every kid who joined this game did so because they saw the video. That’s how I even found out about it. He spoke to them on a level that not everyone can understand. But the ones that can lose all their free will. They didn’t care if they would have died. They all followed Lucas.”“No,” I whispered, “I was with him. All throughout the game. None of this is making sense. He cut up his own mouth for fuck’s sake,”
“Ask your own friend. She got started because of him,” Janie pointed towards someone behind the Ferris wheel who was walking up to us. She was wearing a mask but I knew this was gonna be Hailey.
Instead of saying anything she just walked to me and spread her arms around me.
“I’m so sorry, Alex.”
Killian and Hailey exchanged a look and she said.
“It’s taken care of. They left and are already on their way back to Marden,”
For a second he smiled but then his expression turned dark again.
“Why are they not saying anything. The round is over.”
“Can anyone please just tell me what’s going on?” I almost shouted.
Hailey sighed and sat down on the platform of the Ferris wheel. Then she told me the story.
“Weeks ago this game found its way to some people I knew in college. They just called it Smile and it didn’t take long before they were entirely obsessed with it. They wouldn’t tell me about any specifics but from what I could tell it sounded insanely morbid. One day I saw my roommate cutting up the edges of her mouth and when I asked her what was going on and tried to call a doctor, she jumped me. She went insane and kept repeating that she has to play the game because Leigh the adventurer told her so. That combination of words already gave me goosebumps but I thought it had to be a coincidence. I was in contact with Leigh all the time and he never mentioned a game. When she finally showed me the video and I heard the oh so familiar tune, I knew that we were back in the mess of Warly. But this time it seemed like Leigh was on their side. After we changed our names, cut so many ties, and everything, it was all back.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because of the game. You know damn well that none of us could speak about it or they would harm anyone we care about. But the first time I played, I was assigned to a team.”
“My team,” Janie chimed in. “And just so you know, I never wanted to get back to any of this. I would have been happy never seeing anyone of Warly’s adventure club again but my little cousin played the game. I couldn’t let anything happen to her, not after all the children that died back then. Well, and I couldn’t let Killian do this all on his own,”
“Wait, so Jen and Killian are your cousins?”
Killian grinned.
“Yeah, also Killian isn’t my real name either. I stole that from a movie.”
“And Hailey, well Helen, was helping you guys? All this time and you didn’t care to tell me?”
All three of them turned serious.
“Look, Alex. It’s not like we were completely in control. The rules of the game were being decided as things were already going. We had no idea what would happen. And frankly, after everything with Lucas we couldn’t know if you weren’t involved as well.”
Killian and Janie had a mission from the start, to save little Jen from the game of Smile. To wake her up and get her back home. They had to be careful because it was clear that the game masters would do anything in their power to scramble up any plan they made. When Killian and Hailey had to switch teams it could all have gone south. Everyone wanted to win the game, to get the princess. But if any other player found her, they would have brought her back to the game masters to collect their reward and so they came up with a plan with as many twists and turns that neither the game masters nor the other players would know what was going on. They created a distraction.
To Lucas and me, it looked like we were going to win. Killian would have gotten to Jen, meaning that our team would win the round and the entire game. But they couldn’t have let that happen. Not knowing that Lucas might be on the wrong side.
Killian had been playing for two teams this entire time. He knew everything but shared only breadcrumbs with me. With us. But now things were finally starting to make sense.
When Killian was as near as possible to the princess, almost sure of our win, the jesters came to play. The jesters were all extras. Here to confuse us and scare us. Game pieces that the masters found replaceable. Jen was shooting them down without a care in the world because that’s what she been programmed to do.
Nobody would have expected a jester to start shooting a gun. To the masters and us it seemed like a different team was going to win. In reality however Hailey had shot Killian with a paintball gun. While everyone was distracted, Killian’s friend who was disguised as a jester, brought Jen to a car and drover her off.
Now what wasn’t clear to me yet was why they didn’t go after Jen but instead came for Lucas. Or had Lucas escaped knowing the game was over for him?
“So what is happening now? We can’t be so foolish to assume that they are not currently listening to everything we’re saying,” I said after they had told me about everything.
“It doesn’t matter. Our team already won,” Hailey responded. “When you started playing the game, they offered you something, didn’t they Alex? They let you choose your reward.”
“They offered that all the children who were still under their spell, or brainwash, would be freed from the game,”
Dun dun du du dun
There it was. The abhorrent tune. Except, this time we had been impatiently waiting for it. We were sure the game masters were listening to every word we were saying. It didn’t really matter anymore at this point. But I knew that things weren’t quite over for me yet. Especially with Lucas being away all of a sudden. Killian and Janie had given up on him and would have rather seen him dead but I wasn’t at that point yet. I knew there had to be more to the fact why my friend betrayed us. What I came to find out was just so much worse than what I could have imagined however.
I lost the game. Big time.
Congratulations on the win, team S! You must have the biggest smile on your face right now. You took your well-deserved reward. Though we can’t promise that our princess will not rip out more hearts in the future. She’s a first-class royal with a wonderful thirst for blood!
The familiar voice was blasting from the speakers all throughout the carnival.
Now, sweet Alex, our main adventurer ... It is time to pay your debt as you lost, sweet child! Don’t worry though the boys of Warly’s adventure club are already awaiting you! We can’t wait for you to join! Please follow our kind jesters. The rest of you may leave now. It has been a blast to play and I’m sure we’ll see each other again soon.
It was finished off by the sound of a smile.
“There they are,” Helen said and pointed to two jester smiling at us, “please be careful. You don’t know what might expect you.”
I took a deep breath and followed the jesters through the carnival. Everything around us was silent again. The remains of lifeless players in jester costumes were lying in puddles of their own blood. Poor souls who were sucked into this because they had listened to Leigh’s video.
It should never have come this far. I should have known this would happen if you play with monsters.
The jesters topped in front of a mirror cabinet. They opened the entrance and waved me inside.
Everywhere I saw myself. Distorted, small, tall. It didn’t matter which mirror I looked into, I felt revolted by my own appearance.
And then a second face appeared from the darkness. And he looked worse than I’d ever seen him before.
“Alex,” he cried out, “I fucked up. I really fucked up.”
Before I could walk over to him, the mirrors changed. They had screens built-in and were playing something. The same video of Leigh was reflected in each mirror. He was dressed in the green clothes that he always wore on the children’s show. But this wasn’t him as a child. It looked as if it had been taken a few weeks ago.
The melody played and Leigh looked straight into the camera.
Hello hello hello, adventurers! I want you to listen closely now.
He smiled.
I want to play a game with you. A game you will never want to finish. A game that will make each and every one of you smile from the bottom of your heart. Isn’t that exciting?
His face turned into a frown.
I know you hate your life. I know deep down you would like to see the world paved in the color red, just as I! So why don’t you join me and we can have lots and lots of-
The video broke off there and the mirror went back to normal.
“You fucking bastard,” I said under my breath.
“We wanted to put an end to this, we wanted to save them!” I shouted.
“Alex, it’s not like you think it is,” we walked through the cabinet until we finally found each other. I didn’t know if I wanted to punch him or apologize.
“It’s true. I made the video for the producer. Well, no, that’s not right. I made a video. He changed things, just like they did back then... The man behind Warly’s adventure club reached out to me. I have no idea how he even found me but he was extremely persistent. Threatening everyone I know if I didn’t listen to him or told anyone else about this.” he sighed and looked to the ground.
“Then he made me a proposition. You know how all those children disappeared when we first aired our show. The children we wanted to save but couldn’t find. He told me if he could take one video of me then they would all be free to go.”
“And you believed him?”
“He was very persuasive. That producer isn’t a normal person, Alex, you should know that! He calls himself Mr. V and is this fucking eccentric cult leader or whatever but- look Alex. He did let them all go. All those kids and teenagers playing the game, they were former hostages.”
“Did you see that corpses outside? You didn’t save them.”
“But I tried,” he was shouting now. “And don’t act so fucking innocent, Alex. You helped him too. Or why else did you make me cut open my own face?”
I swallowed and took a step back.
“What did he promise you, Alex?”
All throughout this mess, nobody had asked me what my intentions were to play the game. And I had no idea how to tell him.
“No need to be ashamed, Alex! You can tell him!”
A man with dark hair and shiny eyes had entered the room without me even realizing it. I had never seen him before but I recognized his voice. He called me after we had already started playing the game. When it still seemed normal and all we did was take a photo of us. He called when I was alone. And he made a proposition if I played the game and won. And next to him stood Warly, with an expression of deep fear.
“He wanted to save good ol’ Warly! Isn’t that adorable?”
If you remember Warly, he was the adult in the show we acted in. He had once betrayed us and threatened many lives. We had abandoned him and sent him to prison, hoping to be rid of him. We couldn’t risk having him around but Warly was a victim. Just like us, he was sucked into the show without knowing what it did. He had tricked us but I knew that he wasn’t really a bad person.
We swore to forget about him but when I heard his voice introducing us to the game, I knew they had somehow found him. The game master promised me I could save him if I played the game and did as asked.
The man took out a phone and started playing a message.
I know this is insane but look you have to do it. Trust me. You have to or everyone else will suffer. We need to play the game. We need to Smile. You trust me, right?
I had no idea that this was what they sent Leigh before he cut his mouth. He told me to take the message and I did. Without knowing what exactly they would use it for.
“I wanted to step out at that point. When they told me to harm myself but I thought if you told me that I had to go through with it, there would be a good reason for it. I had no idea that reason was saving fucking Warly.”
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
Leigh stayed quiet for a moment. Then he added “Me too.”
My friend and I had wanted to help, to make things better but instead we only brought put more suffering.
“I do have to admit, both of you are terrific actors. Not one of you ever spilled the guts… And don’t worry boys. I’m not a complete monster!” The man said as if he had just read my mind.
“I’m a man of honor and I intend to keep my promise. Everyone who had been under our spell will be free after this game. However, Leigh, I’m afraid you did lose and so I will have to keep that video of you… for future purposes. I’m sure you understand.”
“As to you, Alex. I bet your friends will forgive you eventually. Warly here however never will. I mean, losers don’t deserve a reward.”
Without batting an eye he slit a razor-sharp knife right through Warly’s throat. I had no other chance but to look at dozens of mirrors showing how the man I tried to save lost the life in his eyes as he collapsed to the ground.
As much as I prayed, this time it wasn’t fake blood.
It took us a while to comprehend what had happened. I thought my friends and I would separate for good but we didn’t and we never would. Not as long as we had this common enemy.
Mr. V did keep his promise and the children were freed. Young adults were brought back to families who never thought they would see their children again.
It was a bittersweet end, though I have to admit that the bitter taste overruled.
It wasn’t easy but I think after much explaining we all understood that Leigh’s intentions were coming from a good place, but he had been naive and gullible. Just as I. It would still take a long time until we all trusted each other again. Especially as we gained two more members to our group. An old friend I never thought I would see again and someone I had grown really close to in those few days.
The horrific rollercoaster that was the Smile game was over. While the game ignited mistrust in all of us, we also understood that we were all sucked so deep into all of this, not being able to distinguish right from wrong anymore.
We had been victims and accomplices at once but there was one thing we all agreed upon. Warly might be dead but the adventure club will never be able to escape from this. Not as long as they know our faces.
So if you ever stumble upon a video inviting you on an adventure, don't listen to us.
submitted by likeeyedid to nosleep [link] [comments]

A close look at the story. Part 23: Geographic clusters

The first twenty parts of the series focused on how the narrative of the Blacklist crumbles on close examination, and we then recapped most of what we had examined.
Now we have started to look at the story that emerges behind the thin, crumbling facade. We started by questioning exactly what did Katarina do for the KGB, the cabal, and IF she really was a CIA officer, as it seems, what did she do for them.
But we should also look for the small, subtle elements that are consistent, that weave a backdrop for the story behind the charade. And no better place to start, than the maps, the geographic clusters.
Places that are used over and over, creating links between characters.
For those who insist the answer is that the creator or show runner or some writers are from there, that answers the issue of why the place, not why cluster those characters around that place. Like the issue of the shared Scott name. It was the maiden name of JB's mother in law, which tells us why Scott and not Jennings, but not WHY two characters share a middle name.

The Chicago cluster

the Chicago and Michigan clusters
Kate is the first character connected to Chicago. That is how we learn of her. Red gives Liz how to contact Kate in 1.10
The Emissary Hotel in Chicago. Mr. Kaplan.
Sure it IS a Hitchcock nod. But the fact is, Kate's is tied to Chicago from the very beginning, and it continues in Requiem when Kate tells Katarina over the phone where her sister lives:
Masha can't stay in a hotel that long. She needs a home. I can take her to my sister in Chicago.
A sister that apparently is later on living in Wisconsin, when she supposedly enters WITSEC for providing evidence against a Russian mobster. Another link between Russians and Kate's family:
that seems to indicate that Kate's family was Russian, or had Russian (or USSR) ties. And considering she, an American was happy to care for the baby of a KGB asset so she could go spy on America, chances are, she was also a soviet symphatizer, or as u/jay00212 calls her, Kap the Commie.
I am still intrigued by the bizarre scenes of Kate's mother funeral. Something is beyond strange:

Another character with ties to Chicago is Katarina's mother, Lena Volkova AKA Virginia Lopatin King
Name's Virginia Lopatin. Married Tim King in '98. Lives in Chicago with a dog and a cat, three credit cards, and a subscription to Foreign Affairs.
She also has a cover story of being Russian, migrating to the US in the late 1970s (but no accent):
I met Virginia in 1998. The love of my life. I-I knew it the moment I laid eyes on her. She told me she was from Saint Petersburg, uh, that she'd split with her husband in her 40s, came to America to start over, and spent the rest of her life here.
The third character with ties to Chicago is Tom Keen, who believed his name was Jacob Phelps, and whose terrible foster parents, the Phelps, lived in Chicago:
You stole the purse, Jacob. Like the credit cards and the Pontiac.... I'm surprised you haven't stolen more, considering the situation with your foster home.
the fake brother tells Liz:
I don't know his real name. He's got a brother in Chicago. I've heard him talk about a woman, Niki.
and as we see in Tom's social services report, he stole a car there to drive to NYC where he is picked up by the Major at about 14 years old:
I've been running since I was 14. It's all I've known.
Tom's social service records indicate his foster parents lived in Chicago

The most interesting aspect of it, occurs between New York and Chicago, for we have some connecting aspects, including in the timeline between Katarina's mother and Tom:
Tom's parents live in New York, where Halcyon's headquarters are. He, even without remembering anything from his childhood before been taken at age 3 (almost 4) steels a car at about age 14 and drives to New York, as if something in his mind pulled him back there. The Major picks him up there, and trains him to be a covert agent. Tom was taken from Ocean City, but it is unclear if that is ocean City in New Jersey or in Delaware.
The Major picks him up circa 1998/1999 at about age 14.
While Katarina's mother, who started up in New York in 1991, where she boards a ferry and assumes a new identity, Virginia Lopatin, and she ends up in Chicago, where she meets and marries Ted King in 1998.
but is the timing which is quite interesting.
there is some interstigigmovements
in season 7 we learn that Cooper was born in Chicago.
I do not think it means anything, for the paths of Cooper and Red cross until much later in life, but it works to keep the place in mind, as do the multiple mentions of the city:

The Midwest cluster (excluding Chicago)
There are a number of characters whose stories are anchored in the Midwest.
The most notable is Red, with his stories of Michigan, and the details of his word choices and even culinary likes.
Sam is the other character that since we meet him, back in 1991 was residing in Nebraska. Red says he has known Sam for most of his life. That is consistent with a childhood in the Midwest for Red, and a life there for Sam.
I've been friends with Sam for all of yours and most of my life.
and even what Katarina seems to have told Kate.
The question is how did Katarina meet Sam? I can see Sam having lived in other places in the Midwest. But how was his name not connected to anyone, so that all these years nobody could find Liz?
It has to be in Red and/or Katarina's real identities.
Yet another character in that cluster is Kathryn Nemec, who took the name Kate after 1991, and the surname Kaplan after Annie was killed.
Kathryn Nemec has deep ties to the midwest:
Kathryn Nemec is missing?
Yeah, she disappeared in 1991, just dropped off the grid. Lived at a few addresses in the Midwest in her 30s. Worked at an exclusive domestic staffing agency, but then one day she's just gone. - And there is no more record
If Kate was born as her fake ID suggest in 1953, she would have been in her 30s in the early 1980s, and she was hired by Katarina when Liz was near a year old, so sometime in late 1986 to late 1987, when she worked in Canada, where all the memories we saw took place until Liz was kidnapped in the Autumn of 1990.
It is possible Kate was older than that, but still not for much. She would have been working in the Midwest in the late 1970s to 1986/87 when she went to Canada.
Kate sister, If that story by Red is true, moved from Chicago, where she was in 1991 to Wisconsin.
Years ago, a Wisconsin housewife named Maureen Rowan was outside in the wee hours with the family dog, Dodger. It was absolutely frigid. No one in their right mind would've been out in that kind of bitter cold, and if not for Dodger's aging bladder, I imagine Maureen would have been fast asleep. But as fate would have it, her neighbor, Alexei Lagunov the avtoritet of a Russian bratva, felt given the late hour and windchill, he and his boyeviks could move a body from his basement to the trunk of an associate's car without being observed. They didn't count on Dodger's call to nature.
So Maureen had a choice between remaining silent or doing the right thing. She chose to testify. And while she helped to bring Alexei Lagunov to justice, she also forfeited the rest of her life in doing so. She's on that list.
LIZ: Who is she to you?
Maureen Rowan is Kate's sister-- uh, Mr. Kaplan's sister. I didn't need to find her. I just needed to make sure no one else can.
Outside of the mythology cluster, we have Donald Ressler, whose childhood was in Detroit:
Well, that's exactly what Tommy Markin used to tell my dad. They were partners-- Detroit PD.
we got to visit that part of Ressler's life in Brothers.

The New York cluster
the next cluster is in New York, where we have the Hargraves, whose company Halcyon Aegis is located in NYC. They go to a Summer Beach house in Ocean City, but is uncertain if that is the one in Delaware, or the one in New Jersey.
The letter instructing Mrs Game to have her convicted killer son confess to the murder of Christopher Hargrave AKA Tom Keen, which stopped the official investigation into his disappearance came from a PO box in New York with 100,000 in cash:
Letter come special delivery. Return address was a PO box in New York. $100,000 if Richard said he did something he didn't.
Tom, at about age 14, stole a car in Chicago and drove to NY. There, the Major picked him up.

Dom's house with the blue door is in upstate NY, near Wilmington, NY, where Katarina supposedly got a PO box under the name Tracey Ivers as a communication set-up. A drawing of a house with a blue door is among Katarina's childhood things, suggesting Dom had this house since Katarina was a child.
Lena is also living near NYC in 1991, for she boards a ferry from Long Island, New York to New London, Connecticut in 1991, two weeks after the alleged suicide in Cape May of Katarina.
You're gonna take the ferry to New London, and then, you'll take the bus to Boston.

Red said he invested money in a play NYC in 1991:
I was completely swept up in the idealism of the theatre owner-- a pipe-smoking cream puff of a German named Gerta. She read "Mother Courage" to me aloud-- the whole play in one sitting. A brilliant exploration of the politics of war and those who profit from it. Sadly, it was 1991, and audiences were going in droves to see "Cats." Gerta lost every penny of my investment, but she remains grateful to this day. Her theater is ours as long as we need it.

Jennifer told Liz when she left, she was going to a friend in Long Island. Truth or lie?
I've got a friend with a place on Long Island. It's peaceful there this time of year. I could use peaceful.
and finally, the cabin where Red sends Emma Knightley is in Vermont, but on Lake Camplain, which straddles New York and Vermont, close to Wilmington.

The Philadelphia cluster

the Philadelphia cluster is the intersection of the wife and mistress of RR
Another cluster occurs in Philadelphia, another city often mentioned. This one connects the wife and mistress of RR:
The woman we met as Naomi Hyland is assigned to Philadelphia when she enters witness protection:
And by Thursday, we were in Philadelphia, fending for ourselves.
So, Garvey must have also had been assigned to Philadelphia at the time, a young US Marshal assigned to the case of Carla and Jennifer Reddington. It is unclear how he made them disappear, if he just did that, or if there was an elaborate fake death or crime scene created, as he did for Sutton Ross.
But the really interesting thing comes from the train station Katarina has Ilya meet her according to Rassvet: 30th street station.
There is only one train station of that name, in Philadelphia, which likely means the motel Katarina was staying was also near Philadelphia, and likely the shelter she was in in February of 1991, if we are to believe the newscast, was in the general area as well.
And if that shelter stay was in February of 1991, before the fake drowning in March/April 1991,then we have a possible point of contact between the two women: They would have been in Philadelphia about the same time. The motel
If Katarina fabricated the treason evidence, but Carla is who went into Witness Protection, then either they are the same woman, or they met after Carla was placed in Protective Custody, when she reported her husband missing on December 27, 1990. Because after this, how could she have known about evidence that did not exist until Katarina made it?
a women's shelter that is likely to have been in the Philadelphia area
A shelter for women in Philadelphia seems the place to meet, if they are not the same woman, because Carla Reddington claimed to be terrified of her husband who was a threat to her and her daughter, while we know Katarina seems to have been in one of those, and had bruises to make it credible she was scared of someone.
there have been numerous mentions of Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia in particular. Not that they are necessarily directly connected, but they keep the location fresh in our minds:

The greater DC area cluster
A cluster that is obvious occurs in the DC area, including Maryland and Virginia. The majority of the action takes place in there. But we have a few items of note, regarding the main characters.
Red blows up a house in Takoma Park Maryland, where he says he raised his family.
An address near Blacksburg, VA is noted in a fingerprint sheet of Raymond Reddington, dated 1989
Carla Reddington was supposed to have lived in the DC area before 1990:
He's looking for someone who lived in D.C. before 1990....Turns out Lord Baltimore's not looking for Mr. Reddington.
the cabin where Red takes Naomi after he ransoms her back from Berlin is in rural Maryland:
People that Frank and Naomi might have reached out to.
There's a woman Monica Lyons. She got six calls today, all unanswered. All came from a pay phone at a gas station in rural Maryland. Only a handful of homes in that area.
and Ilya seems to be in DC:
Red's apartment is in Bethesda,Maryland,
and he has a townhouse or apartment in Vinegar Hill, Maryland.
LIZ: What is this place?
RED: Something of a hideaway. It used to be home to one of the finest American writers who ever lived – Fredrick Hemstead.
A number of characters are also tied to DC: Alan Fitch, Peter Kotsiopolpus, Diane Fowler, tc.
Of course the DC greater area is featured quite often, as is the location of the task force, so is not remarkable. What is remarkable are the specific two mentions of Takoma Park, which kept the locale fresh in our minds:

The beach area cluster: Cape May, Ocean City & Rehoboth Beach
Those are remarkably close. They link the Reddingtons, Katarina and the Hargraves. The two families would be renting houses, going for the Summer, at about the same time.
Think that Constantin blackmails Susan Hargrave with something she wants hidden. this creates another link.

Katarina supposedly went to Cape May of all places to commit suicide, there has been no reason given for it. But I bet there is one.
Two months later, she went to Cape May and left her clothes on the beach, walked into the ocean, and was never seen again.
There was a stay at a Dover motel Liz investigated:
I was taken to a motel in Dover the night of the fire. But I went there. It's a dead end.
This stay leads Liz to believe the fire was in 1991. Is this the motel where Kate was staying? or is this a misdirection again?
the hotel where Kate stayed at least from when Liz was dropped off, supposedly the night of the fire, to the time of the second call, about March/April 1991. Note her hot plate.

Rehoboth Beach is where Jennifer's parents took her in the Summer, a house apparently Liz remembers, or at least remembers being told it was "20 steps to the sand"
JENNIFER: The motel maybe. Or Dover. But not Delaware. My parents used to take me there every summer. To a house they'd rent an hour outside Dover - in Rehoboth Beach.
and when they get there, Liz remembers a phrase, and Jennifer notices Liz remembers:
JENNIFER: The ocean, the air. It all smells the same. The house we rented was right - There.
LIZ: 20 steps to the sand.
JENNIFER: You remember.

Ocean City (be Delaware or New Jersey) is close to Cape May or Rehoboth Beach where the Hargraves took their son for the Summer, from where Tom was abducted.

What is interesting to me is how close those places are. In particular how close Cape May and Rehoboth Beach are. Right across a narrow bay. And how close to Philadelphia they are.
If I were to stage a fake death in the water, Cape May might be handy, especially with a boat moored just off sight, crossing the bay to Rehoboth Beach. A wetsuit worn under the turtleneck.
But in the newspaper we see about the fire in Rehoboth Beach, there seems to be something hidden about the ownership of the house. Why was that? To hide the real name of the family? The Reddingtons, or a trust to obfuscate their real identity?
whose house it was that burned was not easy to ascertain.
see the entire series:
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