Battle of Castle Black
|Battle of Castle Black|
|Conflict||Conflict Beyond the Wall|
|Result||Night's Watch / Stannis Baratheon victory|
The Battle of Castle Black takes place during the War of the Five Kings at Castle Black along the Wall in the North. The free folk or wildling masses under the command of the King-Beyond-the-Wall, Mance Rayder, attack the Night's Watch, who are originally under the command of a blacksmith, Donal Noye, and later under the command of a steward, Jon Snow. The Night's Watch is also joined by a host under the command of the King in the Narrow Sea, Stannis Baratheon.
Mance Rayder, now knowing that the bulk of the Watch's fighting force has been wiped out on the Fist by their mutual enemy, makes his way out of the Frostfangs and starts his march toward the Wall. Mance forms a plan to divert the remaining fighting men from both Castle Black and the Shadow Tower to the far west so he can send a team to scale the Wall and take the unwalled Castle Black from behind by surprise. With Mance's diversionary force striking hard in the west, Lord Steward Bowen Marsh marshals his forces and takes the bait, leaving only the old, the green, and the sickly behind to defend Castle Black. Bowen leaves the infirm Ser Wynton Stout as castellan, although the blacksmith Donal Noye takes de facto leadership due to Stout's senility.
Strike from the South
As part of Mance Rayder's plan, the Magnar of Thenn, Styr, along with his co-commander Jarl, and more than 200 of his Thenn warriors, is sent ahead to scale the Wall and take Castle Black by surprise from the rear. After crossing near Greyguard and circling south-east through the Gift, Jon Snow, a supposed defector assigned to Styr's raiding party, escapes at Queenscrown.
Jon warns Mole's Town and Castle Black of the on-coming attack from the south. Many residents of Mole's Town flee to the castle, all of them helping prepare for the assault in some way. Donal Noye and Jon organize the defense around archers in the towers and a line of fighting men on the massive wooden staircase that zigzags up the south face of the Wall. "Scarecrow sentinels", dummy soldiers in Night's Watch black, are posted at roofs and windows to inflate their numbers.
The battle begins in the early morning hours as wildling raiders and Thenn warriors storm Castle Black. Although the archers take a heavy toll on the wildling force (Jon Snow and Satin pouring boiling oil on Thenns who try to take their tower), the defenders at the gate through the Wall are overwhelmed when the Mole's Town men break and flee. The battle culminates on the stair as Styr attacks upward before trying to breach the gate. Once the majority of the wildling forces mount the stair and push back the crumbling defense, the Watch springs a desperate trap. The stair, soaked in oil between the last Night's Watch line of defense and the base of the structure, is set ablaze, destroying the stair and killing Styr and most of his men. Ygritte dies in Jon's arms. While the raiding party is defeated, Mance's main force has yet to be dealt with and the Watch's primary means of transporting men and materials to the top of the Wall is destroyed.
With the news that his advance party has been defeated, and he must instead assault the Wall, Mance assembles his host beyond the tree line. After a small probing attack at night, the first morning's attacks are spearheaded by giants mounted on mammoths. Mag the Mighty, King of the Giants, manages to breach the massive doors that lead to the tunnel underneath the Wall. Donal Noye and several brothers defend the tunnel system with spears and arrow fire from behind the internal gate and murder-hole system built into the tunnel. While they manage to kill all of the attackers, including Mag, and hold the interior portcullis under the Wall, all the defenders are slain, including Donal, whose body is found crushed by Mag, and his sword thrust though the giant's neck.
With the death of Donal Noye, Jon Snow assumes command of the defense of the Wall at the request of Maester Aemon. Over the next several days, Jon manages to throw back repeated attacks on the Wall by using catapults, archers, flaming arrows, boiling oils and finally frozen barrels of rock and ice used to destroy Mance's armored turtle.
Ser Alliser Thorne, an enemy of Jon, and Lord Janos Slynt, a betrayer of Jon's father Eddard Stark, arrive along with reinforcements from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. They take Jon into custody with the knowledge, from a captured Rattleshirt who led a diversion on the eastern side of the Wall, that he had deserted and joined forces with the wildlings. Either not believing him or not caring about his orders from Qhorin Halfhand to do just that, they imprison Jon in the ice cells under the Wall.
Jon is eventually sent out to the wildling camp to treat with Mance, although Alliser and Janos want Jon to assassinate the King-Beyond-the-Wall.
Stannis and Battle Beneath the Wall
Meanwhile, King Stannis Baratheon sails to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with a host of over 1,000 mounted soldiers. Accompanied by Cotter Pyke and his rangers from Eastwatch, they travel along ranger roads beyond the Wall. They take Mance Rayder's host in the flank as it besieges Castle Black.
Mance's scouts warn him of the approaching rangers and as they emerge from the fringes of the wood, his free folk fly to meet them. The rangers are only scouts, a screen intended to draw in the wildlings, and they scatter back into the trees before Mance's wildlings and Harma Dogshead's raiders can slaughter them. At this crucial point, Melisandre destroys Orell's eagle that Varamyr Sixskins uses for scouting. The trumpets blow all around and three columns of heavy horse emerge. One smashes into Harma's raiders, who have no time to regroup and meet them, while the second drives into the flanks of Tormund Giantsbane's spearmen. The third is shattered by the giants on their mammoths, but the other two are able to close in around them like pincers. On the eastern edge of the camps, archers loosen fire arrows at the tents and camps of the wildlings.
The wildling host breaks and runs as more men emerge from the trees. In the ensuing battle, Harma Dogshead is slain and the entire wildling force is either captured or routed with over a thousand wildlings killed. Mance is captured and most of his lieutenants are killed or captured, with the exception of Tormund Giantsbane and Varamyr Sixskins.
With King Stannis on the Wall, Mance in irons and the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, along with most of the senior brothers killed at the Fist or the Gorge, the Night's Watch is left in a precarious position of having to not only elect a new Lord Commander but also to preserve their political neutrality. After a contested election between Lord Denys Mallister, commander of the Shadow Tower, Cotter Pyke, commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and Lord Janos Slynt, Jon Snow's name is suggested by Edd Tollett as a compromise that both Mallister and Pyke can agree upon instead of Janos. The political maneuvers of Samwell Tarly securing Mallister's and Pyke's support and some fortunate election night events result in Jon becoming the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
Ser Godry Farring is nicknamed the Giantslayer for having killed an escaping giant during the battle. The free folk host scatters; a thousand are captured by the Watch, while others flee into the haunted forest. Hundreds are led by Mother Mole to Hardhome or by a dour warrior to Thenn.
References and Notes
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- ↑ Satin's estimate in A Storm of Swords, Chapter 64, Jon.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 76, Jon XI.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 48, Jon VI.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 41, Jon V.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 55, Jon VII.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 64, Jon VIII.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 69, Jon IX.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 79, Jon XII.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 3, Jon I.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 A Dance with Dragons, Prologue.