Battle of the Blackwater

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Battle of the Blackwater
T Jedruszek BattleoftheB ship.jpg
by Tomasz Jedruszek. © Fantasy Flight Games
Conflict War of the Five Kings
Date 299 AC
Place mouth of the Blackwater Rush and King's Landing
Result Decisive victory for House Baratheon of King's Landing
Stannis Baratheon, The King in the Narrow Sea
King Joffrey I Baratheon, The King on the Iron Throne
Force on land:


King's Landing garrison:

Relief force:

The Battle of the Blackwater[11] is the largest battle in the War of the Five Kings. The battle is fought between the forces loyal to King Joffrey I Baratheon, the King on the Iron Throne, and those loyal to Stannis Baratheon. After eliminating his younger brother Renly, Stannis gains forces from the stormlands and begins his march towards King's Landing, intent on seizing the city and claiming the throne.


Convinced that Joffrey Baratheon is not King Robert I Baratheon's son, Stannis believes his claim to the Iron Throne is the true one. However, he lacks the strength to attack King's Landing, as few Houses are sworn to Dragonstone and the rocky, volcanic islands surrounding Dragonstone have a sparse population, and the men of the stormlands have given their support to his younger brother Renly, the Lord of Storm's End, who has proclaimed himself king as well. Additionally, Renly has taken Margaery Tyrell to wife, which has earned him the support of the men from the Reach as well.[12] On Dragonstone, the red priestess Melisandre tells Stannis of two futures she has seen in her flames; One in which Stannis is defeated in King's Landing by his brother Renly, and one in which he sails to Storm's End, where his brother shall die, and his men will flock to Stannis.[13]

Stannis arrives in the stormlands with his five thousand men and lays siege to the coastal fortress Storm's End, the seat of his younger brother, Renly.[14][15] Renly is at Bitterbridge with his army when news reaches his camp. He splits his forces and rides with some twenty thousand cavalry to Storm's End to break the siege.[1] After a failed parlay in which neither brother will yield, the battle is set at dawn.[1] However, that night Renly is killed by a shadow assassin summoned by Melisandre.[16] With Renly dead, the majority of the host that had accompanied him to Storm's End swears their allegiance to Stannis.[17] House Florent and both branches of House Fossoway also defect to Stannis, but a fifth of Renly’s knights returns to Bitterbridge with Ser Loras Tyrell.[17] The siege continues, as Storm's End's castellan, Ser Cortnay Penrose, refuses to yield the castle to Stannis[17] because he fears for the safety of King Robert's bastard son Edric Storm.[13] To end the siege quickly, Ser Davos Seaworth smuggles Melisandre under the castle by boat, where she summons another shadow to assassinate Cortnay.[13] After Cortnay's death, the castle yields, leaving Stannis free to advance on King's Landing.[18][19]

Sixty thousand men from Renly's army are still encamped at Bitterbridge, and when news of Renly's death reaches them,[13] fighting breaks out between Stannis' supporters and Renly's loyalists led by the vengeful Loras Tyrell. Parmen Crane and Erren Florent – the two knights sent by Stannis to retrieve the army for him[13] – are taken prisoner,[20] while Lord Randyll Tarly seizes the supplies and puts many men, mostly Florents, to death.[18] In King's Landing, the small council of King Joffrey decides to attempt to make an alliance with House Tyrell by offering to marry Joffrey to Margaery. Petyr Baelish, representing King Joffrey I,[17] travels to Bitterbridge and wins the allegiance of House Tyrell. Riders are sent north to warn Lord Tywin Lannister of Stannis's threat to the capital.[21]

Meanwhile, Robb Stark attacks the westerlands, hoping to lure Lord Tywin Lannister, who had been residing at Harrenhal with his twenty thousand men, away from King's Landing while King Stannis attacks the city from the south. Stannis's victory would mean the end of King Joffrey I, Queen Cersei, and acting Hand Tyrion Lannister, breaking Lannister power.[21] Tywin begins his march west,[22] but Lord Edmure Tully, unaware of Robb's plan,[21] refuses to allow the Lannisters to cross the Trident without giving battle and places an army of eleven thousand men at the key fords along the Red Fork.[22] After several probing attacks, Lord Tywin attempts to force a crossing in a dozen places. Unable to cross the river, Tywin is forced to retreat.[19] This delays Tywin just long enough for riders out of Bitterbridge to reach him with word of Stannis's threat to King's Landing.[21]

In preparation of the defense of King's Landing, Cersei Lannister has arranged for the production of vast amounts of wildfire,[23] while Tyrion Lannister has commissioned a great chain boom across the mouth of the Blackwater Rush.[24] The City Watch is tripled in size,[23] sellswords are hired,[25] contingents of soldiers are send from Rosby and Stokeworth,[4][5] and hundreds of scorpions, spitfires, and catapults are constructed and placed on the walls.[23][1] Tyrion further sends out his hundred and fifty Vale mountain clansmen to harass Stannis' flanks and kill his scouts in the kingswood.[26] Stannis's vanguard arrives at the city early, and Joffrey's war galleys are dispatched to exchange arrows with his forces. The vanguard is said to have five thousand men, flying the banners of Houses Fossoway, Estermont and Florent, under the command of Ser Guyard Morrigen.[26]

Treacherous waters and inclement weather delay Stannis's fleet on its northward journey from Storm's End. A dozen ships are lost on the journey to Blackwater Bay. Stannis gives command of the fleet to Ser Imry Florent, who commands from Stannis's galley, the Fury. Stannis himself is on the south side of the Blackwater with his host, making them create arrows and rafts.[3]

The Battle

Map of King's Landing during the Battle of the Blackwater
I. The Red Keep; II. Great Sept of Baelor upon Visenya's Hill; III. Dragonpit upon Rhaenys's Hill; IV. Western baracks of the City Watch; V. Eastern baracks of the City Watch
1. Stannis' fleet enters the river from Blackwater Bay; Only the ships of Salladhor Saan remain behind; 2. Once the first lines have passed, the defenders of King's Landing begin raising the chain; By the time the entire fleet has passed, the chain has been raised completely; 3. When Stannis' ships engage Joffrey's fleet, the ships are lit afire with wildfire; 4. Skirmishes start in Flea Bottom; 5. King Joffrey I Baratheon travels to the trebuchets ("the Whores") to launch the Antler Men; 6. Survivors from Stannis' fleet land on the riverfront and take a ram to the King's Gate; 7. The burning and broken ships have pilled together, creating a bridge of ships allowing Stannis' vanguard to cross the river; 8. An army of westermen and men from the Reach arrives to take the forces of Stannis Baratheon in the rear; 9. Seeing the battle is lost, Salladhor Saan, who kept his ships in the bay, lands his ships, allowing Stannis and ~1500 men to retreat.

Battle on the River

The battle opens when Stannis's admiral, Ser Imry Florent, leads Stannis' fleet up the river to engage Joffrey's ships. They enter visual range of the city in the late afternoon.[3] Confident of his superior numbers, and knowing that the fleet of King's Landing cannot hope to contest them, Ser Imry does not send scouts ahead, and attacks immediately, leaving the Lysene galleys of Salladhor Saan as rearguard out in Blackwater Bay. The fleet is organized into ten battle lines composed of twenty ships each. The first three lines are made up of war galleys belonging to the royal navy and the lords of the narrow sea. Behind them sails the smaller Myrish contingent, who are to land troops to attack the city, before joining the first three lines in battle. The smaller and slower sailed ships are to ferry Stannis's host.[3] Ser Davos Seaworth realizes that the two watchtowers at the mouth of the Blackwater Rush are newly build, and he notices the chain in the water.[3] The fleet continues forward nonetheless. From within the city, pots of pitch are flung at the ships, and the trebuchets located within the city start to fling stones.[3]

The wildfire burns the Blackwater - by Amok ©

Tyrion Lannister has ordered several of Joffrey's ships to be filled with wildfire. Stannis' fleet is lured further in the bay when Joffrey's pull back. When they engage the fleet of King's Landing, the ships and the river are soon afire. The wildfire destroys nearly every ship in both fleets. To their horror, the men on Stannis' ship discover that the great chain has been raised behind them, cutting off their retreat.[3] However, as Ser Imry's first two battle lines had been well upstream of the fire when the hulks went up, some thirty or forty galleys are able to escape the inferno at first.[27] Eight ships manage to land under the city walls and put men ashore, while many of the Myrmen escape the flames by sailing for the south bank.[27]

Attack on King's Landing

The city itself is defended by some five thousand seven hundred gold cloaks,[N 6] leavened with eight hundred mercenaries and three hundred knights, squires, and men-at-arms from the court and the surrounding crownlands. As acting Hand of the King, command of the defense is taken by Tyrion Lannister.[4]

At the start of the battle, some small skirmishes arise within the city when some drunkards in Flea Bottom smash doors and climb into houses. Lord Jacelyn Bywater sends his gold cloaks to deal with them.[28] When rich merchants and such gather in the square before the Red Keep, asking for refuge in the castle, Queen Regent Cersei Lannister commands the gates be kept close.[28]

Tyrion tasks several groups of mounted men-at-arms, along with what few knights the city has, to harry Stannis's forces as they come ashore. Under the command of Sandor Clegane and Ser Balon Swann of the Kingsguard, they manage to help stem the tide, but as the battle drags on, they suffer grievous casualties. Tyrion and King Joffrey I Baratheon look on from the Mud Gate how the fleet goes up in flames. After King Joffrey leaves to shoot the Antler Men from the trebuchets, guarded by Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Osmund Kettleblack, Tyrion learns of Stannis' men having landed on the tourney grounds, who are preparing to ram the King's Gate. He arrives at the Mud Gate where Sandor Clegane, who had already led three sorties in which he has lost half his men, refuses to go out again. The wildfire raging across the river has robbed Clegane of his courage, and his refusal to lead any more sorties threatens to break the morale of the defenders. As they need to hold the river at all costs, Tyrion decides to lead the next sortie himself. Shamed into action by the dwarf's display of courage, several defenders gather to Tyrion's side.[29]

While Tyrion is leading the sortie at the King's Gate, the Mud Gate falls under attack as well.[28] Queen Regent Cersei Lannister orders King Joffrey, who is still at the trebuchets near the gate, to be brought back to the castle.[28] When the defenders see their king retire, their morale breaks and they begin throwing down their spears and flee by the hundreds, leaving the walls and killing their officers, including Ser Jacelyn Bywater, in the process.[citation needed] Tyrion manages to disperse the attackers at the King's Gate and makes for the Mud Gate. When Ser Balon Swann points out that the galleys on the river which had smashed into each other have tangled together, creating a bridge of ships, which is being used by Stannis' boldest knights to cross the river, they take the fight to the riverfront.[30] Tyrion eventually finds himself on the bridge of ships, when it is about to collapse. He is severely wounded by Ser Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard, who had been Tyrion's sworn shield throughout the battle.[30] Moore is killed by Tyrion's squire, Podrick Payne.[30][31]

With the bridge breaking up and their Hand lost in battle, the defenders retreat within the city walls.[8] At this point, after only a few hours of resistance, the battle seems to be lost to Tyrion, though at this time he also sees Stannis's army seemingly fighting itself on the other side of the river.

Renly's ghost

Having learned of Stannis' approaching attack on King's Landing and the alliance between then Iron Throne and House Lannister, Lord Tywin Lannister has marched his host south. Near the headwaters of the Blackwater Rush he joins up with Lords Mathis Rowan and Randyll Tarly, from where they force a march to Tumbler's Falls, where they find Lord Mace Tyrell and his sons wait with their huge host and a fleet of barges. Together, the Lannisters and Tyrells float down the river to disembark half a day's ride from the capital.[21] They arrive at the battle scene at dusk,[30] taking Stannis' army from the rear. Lord Tywin leads the right wing on the north side of the river, while Randyll Tarly commands the center and Mace Tyrell the left.[32] However, it is their vanguard, led by Ser Garlan Tyrell,[33] which plunges through Stannis' army. Dressed in the recognizable armor of the deceased Renly Baratheon, his former supporters, convinced their dead lord has returned, abandon Stannis.[32] "Renly's shade" kills Ser Guyard Morrigen, who leads Stannis' van.[32]

Lannister soldiers defending King's Landing – by Tomasz Jedruszek. © Fantasy Flight Games

Seeing that the battle has turned bad, Salladhor Saan puts his ships, which had been kept out in the bay, in along the shore, taking as many people as will fit.[8] Rolland Storm leads a rearguard action, allowing Stannis and several hundreds of his men, about half of Florents, to reach the ships.[34] As Saan’s ship can only take a limited amount of men, thousands are left behind due to lack of space,[7] and towards the end, men begin to kill each other to get aboard and escape.[8]


The Battle of the Blackwater is a major defeat for Stannis. He retreats to Dragonstone with only a fraction of his army, and only Saan’s ships.

Most of those captured during the battle bend the knee to Joffrey, including men sworn to Dragonstone. During a court session, Ser Garlan Tyrell publicly asks Joffrey to take his sister Margaery to bride, and Joffrey, as previously agreed upon, fakes unwillingness to break his betrothal to Sansa Stark until the High Septon and small council agree that he is allowed to do so. Multiple honors and rewards are given to the participants and survivors of the battle by King Joffrey and his small council:

Hostages and casualties

Tyrion Lannister during the Battle of the Blackwater ‎- © 2012 John Picacio

Highborn Hostages

Notable Casualties

Lannister/Tyrell forces

Stannis' forces


King Joffrey

King Stannis


A wall of red-hot steel, blazing wood, and swirling green flame stretched before him. The mouth of the Blackwater Rush had turned into the mouth of hell.[3]
- Davos Seaworth's thoughts

We're delivered, sweetling! They came up the roseroad and along the riverbank, through all the fields Stannis had burned, the ashes puffing up around their boots and turning all their armor grey, but oh! the banners must have been bright, the golden rose and golden lion and all the others, the Marbrand tree and the Rowan, Tarly's huntsman and Redwyne's grapes and Lady Oakheart's leaf. All the westermen, all the power of Highgarden and Casterly Rock! Lord Tywin himself had their right wing on the north side of the river, with Randyll Tarly commanding the center and Mace Tyrell the left, but the vanguard won the fight. They plunged through Stannis like a lance through a pumpkin, every man of them howling like some demon in steel. And do you know who led the vanguard? Do you? Do you? Do you? It was Lord Renly! Lord Renly in his green armor, with the fires shimmering off his golden antlers! Lord Renly with his tall spear in his hand! They say he killed Ser Guyard Morrigen himself in single combat, and a dozen other great knights as well. It was Renly, it was Renly, it was Renly! Oh! the banners, darling Sansa! Oh! to be a knight![32]
Dontos Hollard, to Sansa Stark

My hirelings betray me, my friends are scourged and shamed, and I lie here rotting. I thought I won the bloody battle. Is this what triumph tastes like?[8]
Tyrion Lannister's thoughts

That chain of yours, that was cunning.[6]
Mace Tyrell, to Tyrion Lannister

Too many good men died that day.[7]
Tyrion Lannister, to Kem

See also


  1. Stannis orgiginally had an army of five thousand men, but he claims to have twenty thousand men after Renly's death has caused a large part of his men to join Stannis. According to Davos, Stannis has “nearly twenty thousand” men at the start of the battle (A Clash of Kings, Davos III)
  2. Stannis' fleet consists of ten battlelines of twenty ships (A Clash of Kings, Davos III), bringing the total amount of ship to two hundred.
  3. The first three lines of twenty are made up of war galleys; Out of these sixty ships, at least nine are known to belong to the lords of the Narrow Sea (Pride of Driftmark, Bold Laughter, Harridan, and Seahorse from House Velaryon; Red Claw from House Celtigar. Swordfish from House Bar Emmon; Piety, Prayer, and Devotion, commandeered from House Sunglass)
  4. Described as a smaller contingent "the smaller, slower Myrish contingent" (A Clash of Kings, Davos III), indicating that the Myrmen definitely have less than sixty ships, possibly as few as twenty.
  5. The Lyseni Salladhor Saan commands his Valyrian and two dozen smaller galleys (A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
  6. 6.0 6.1 The city watch contains six thousand men, although only two thousand of these, who had received their gold cloak from Robert, are seasoned men (A Clash of Kings, Tyrion XI). Three hundred gold cloaks later escort Petyr Baelish to Bitterbridge (A Clash of Kings, Tyrion VIII), leaving only five thousand seven hundred.
  7. Stannis has ten lines of twenty ships, bringing his total to ~200; Stannis has four times more ships than Joffrey, giving Joffrey ~50 ships of the royal fleet. (The Baratheon forces would have no information regarding the trading vessels seized on Tyrion's command). However, unbeknownst to Stannis and his men, five of these ships (King Robert's Hammer, Seaswift, Lionstar, Bold Wind, and Lady Lyanna) have departed King’s Landing long before to escort Myrcella to Braavos(A Clash of Kings, Tyrion IX). When the Battle of the Blackwater takes place, they have not yet returned (A Clash of Kings, Davos III)
  8. The host of Renly Baratheon is said to number a hundred thousand (A Clash of Kings, Tyrion IV). Renly himself claims to have eighty thousand with him at Bitterbridge, while another ten thousand are with Lord Mace Tyrell at Highgarden (A Clash of Kings, Catelyn II). The forces of House Tyrell make up the majority of Renly's forces. Renly's cavalry, said to number ten thousand, accompanies him to Storm’s End to lift the siege, while his foot, near sixty thousand strong, remains at Bitterbridge when Renly goes to lift the siege of Storm’s End. As Renly previously stated that the total of his men numbered eighty thousand, either his cavalry numbers ~fifteen thousand and his foot numbers ~sixty-five thousand in truth, or that Renly was exaggerating by stating eighty thousand while he actually had only seventy thousand men. The former might be most likely, as Stannis, who originally had five thousand men,(A Clash of Kings, Catelyn III) has twenty thousand men shortly after Renly's death.(A Clash of Kings, Davos II).
    Of those who remain, some — chiefly those of House Florent — are put to death by Lord Randyll Tarly after Renly's death (A Clash of Kings, Davos II and Tyrion X). As House Florent can field two thousand men at best (A Clash of Kings, Prologue), this would reduce Renly's foot to fifty-eight thousand at a minimum. A fifth of the knights that had accompanied Renly to Storm's End return to join the other forces from the Reach (A Clash of Kings, Tyrion VIII), but how many of his ten (of fifteen) thousand cavalry had been knights is unknown. Mace Tyrell's additional ten thousand at Highgarden would bring the total to ~70,000 soldiers from House Tyrell.
    Petyr Baelish tells Joffrey Baratheon's small council that Mace Tyrell can field fifty thousand swords (A Clash of Kings, Tyrion VIII). According to Tyrion Lannister, some fifty to seventy thousand Tyrell soldiers are in King's Landing vicinity after the Battle of the Blackwater (A Storm of Swords, Tyrion V).
  9. Tywin's host originally is 20,000 men strong (A Game of Thrones, Tyrion VII). Despite desertions and insurgency in the riverlands, and many minor sieges and skirmishes, he still has about the same number before the Battle of the Fords (A Storm of Swords, Catelyn V). Despite casualties during the battle, Tywin is later said to have twenty thousand swords in King's Landing (A Storm of Swords, Tyrion V), suggesting he either gained men or did not lose a significant amount
  10. Following the deaths from and the desertions during the battle, the city watch only contains some forty-four hundred men (A Storm of Swords, Tyrion I), where it had numbered six thousand before (A Clash of Kings, Tyrion XI).
  11. Sandor Clegane loses half his knights and sellswords (A Clash of Kings, Tyrion XIII). Tyrion Lannister leads another sally, which is nearly wiped out (A Clash of Kings, Tyrion XIV)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 31, Catelyn III.
  2. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 17, Tyrion IV.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 58, Davos III.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 49, Tyrion XI.
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 57, Sansa V.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 19, Tyrion III.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 66, Tyrion XII.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 4, Tyrion I.
  9. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 10, Davos II.
  10. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
  11. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 16, Sansa II.
  12. A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 42, Davos II.
  14. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 22, Catelyn II.
  15. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 25, Tyrion VI.
  16. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 33, Catelyn IV.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 36, Tyrion VIII.
  18. 18.0 18.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 44, Tyrion X.
  19. 19.0 19.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 45, Catelyn VI.
  20. 20.0 20.1 A Storm of Swords, Appendix.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 14, Catelyn II.
  22. 22.0 22.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 39, Catelyn V.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 3, Tyrion I.
  24. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 15, Tyrion III.
  25. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 8, Tyrion II.
  26. 26.0 26.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 52, Sansa IV.
  27. 27.0 27.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 59, Tyrion XIII.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 60, Sansa VI.
  29. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 59, Catelyn IX.
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 61, Tyrion XIV.
  31. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 67, Tyrion XV.
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 62, Sansa VII.
  33. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 67, Jaime VIII.
  34. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 54, Davos V.
  35. 35.00 35.01 35.02 35.03 35.04 35.05 35.06 35.07 35.08 35.09 35.10 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 65, Sansa VIII.

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