March on Winterfell

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March on Winterfell
Andrew Navaro The Siege of Winterfell.png
The Siege of Winterfell - by Andrew Navaro. © FFG
Conflict War of the Five Kings
Date 300 AC
Place Wolfswood and Winterfell
Result Unresolved
Stannis Baratheon's host Iron Throne
King Stannis
Ser Richard Horpe
Castellan Crowfood
Lord Hugo Wull
Ser Godry Farring
Warden Roose Bolton
Lord Ramsay Bolton
Ser Aenys Frey
Ser Hosteen Frey
Castellan Whoresbane
~5,400 [1][2]
  • ~1,300 knights and men-at-arms of the Reach, crownlands, and stormlands (only ~60 of 800 horses survived)
  • ~2,500 mountain clansmen
  • ~1,200 Mormont, Glover, Cerwyn, Hornwood, and Tallhart soldiers
  • 400 Umber soldiers
7,750+ (total)
  • Garrison: 4,400+
    • 3,500 Boltons and Karstarks (3,000 infantry, 500 cavalry)
    • 500 other survivors of Robb's army
    • 400 Umber men (300 spearmen, 100 archers)
    • Dustin, Tallhart, Cerwyn, Hornwood, Locke with unknown number of soldiers
  • Vanguard: 3,350
    • 2,000 Freys (500+ heavy cavalry; ~1,500 spearmen, archers, mounted bowmen, and freeriders)
    • 600 Boltons (a large proportion of whom are cavalry)
    • 450 Karstarks (spearmen and archers; with Stannis' host, waiting to backstab)
    • 300 Manderlys (100 knights, 200 men-at-arms)
84+ died during the march Aenys Frey
450 Karstarks captured and imprisoned
Watcher of the Nightfire. Some of King Stannis Baratheon's followers of R'hllor stand by the night fire. Illustrated by Aurelien Hubert. © Fantasy Flight Games

The march on Winterfell occurs in the wolfswood of the North during the War of the Five Kings. The campaign begins with Stannis Baratheon's troops leaving Deepwood Motte to take Winterfell from Lord Roose Bolton, the newly-appointed Warden of the North.


After the fight by Deepwood Motte, the army of Stannis Baratheon marches southeast on Winterfell to free Arya Stark (actually Jeyne Poole) from the clutches of House Bolton.

On the march through the wolfswood, Stannis's army is increased in size by Houses Glover (along with their sworn houses), Mormont, and finally Karstark, led by castellan Arnolf Karstark. Unknown to Stannis, Arnolf is secretly working with House Bolton and during the final battle plans to turn his forces on Stannis.

Stannis also holds the support of the northern mountain clans, who remain loyal to the memory of "the Ned", Lord Eddard Stark. He picks up more support after the surviving troops from the earlier battle at Winterfell form into a fighting force and join him. He is also planning to meet Mors "Crowfood" Umber and a portion of House Umber closer to Winterfell.

Winterfell is held by Lord Roose Bolton and his legitimized bastard son, Ramsay. His force, aside from the strength of House Bolton, consists of a few thousand of Houses Frey, Ryswell, Dustin, Cerwyn, Hornwood, Manderly, and the other half of House Umber under Hother "Whoresbane" Umber.

Although Roose has the larger host, and his soldiers are far better armed and trained than the clansmen that make up a large part of Stannis's army, the loyalties of some of his forces are highly questionable, particularly the Manderlys, Whoresbane Umber, and the Hornwoods. Roose suspects that only the Freys, Dustins, and his own men would be truly loyal to him if word gets out that Bran and Rickon Stark are still alive.

Winterfell is overcrowded with forces, low on supplies, and on edge due to a series of murders with no confirmed suspects.


March on Winterfell

Stannis Baratheon and his host's march on Winterfell is delayed by a severe blizzard and numerous men are lost to starvation or the cold.[3][4] The last known report of Stannis's army's whereabouts is that he is at a crofters' village three days from Winterfell.[4][5][6]

Mors Umber's vanguard arrives at Winterfell

Mors "Crowfood" Umber and his vanguard arrives at Winterfell before Stannis's main host.

Using the snowstorm as cover, Mors has his lads dig pit traps near several of the Winterfell gates. The heavy blizzard allows Mors's boys to do this without the castle sentries seeing them. Mors then has his men sound horns hoping to draw out several of the castle forces in the traps, but the castle garrison is put on alert and mans the walls of Winterfell.

Attempt to engage Stannis's host

After the murder of Little Walder Frey and the near battle inside Winterfell between the Freys and Manderlys, Roose Bolton, fearing another battle inside the castle between his own forces, sends out Hosteen Frey and Aenys Frey along with the 2,000 Freys to engage Stannis's host.

The Freys' presence increases tensions with the northerners as many had lost kin at the Red Wedding. Roose also sends out the forces of Lord Wyman Manderly as he does not trust the Manderly forces. By doing this Roose hopes that Stannis will be defeated without Bolton men suffering any casualties and if not, Roose hopes to weaken Stannis's forces in battle and in the process eliminate a potential future rival in Wyman. Ramsay Bolton follows not far behind, with a force of his own Dreadfort men. The absence of near 3,000 men in Winterfell also means that Roose also has an easier time managing food supplies to his forces.

The escape of "Arya Stark", however, leaves Ramsay in the castle with only a small force to retrieve his bride.

Command of the Freys passes to Ser Hosteen Frey

Aenys Frey is killed when the Freys stumble into one of Mors Umber's pit traps near the Hunter's Gate, meaning that the command of the Freys passes to Ser Hosteen Frey, who, while a capable swordsman, is not a clever commander.[7]

Stannis alerted to the planned treachery of Arnolf Karstark

Thanks to a letter from Jon Snow delivered by Tycho Nestoris, Stannis is made aware of the planned treachery of Arnolf Karstark. He has Arnolf and his son and grandsons arrested while disarming their forces.

Stannis prepares his host to met the Bolton vanguard in the village.[7]

Ramsay's Letter

At Castle Black, Jon Snow receives a letter in which Ramsay Bolton claims Stannis is dead and his army is broken. However, it is unknown if the letter's contents are true or if it was indeed written by Ramsay. Regardless, the letter galvanizes Commander Snow into breaking with tradition and forming an army of volunteers - watchmen and wildlings alike - to march on Winterfell and defeat the Boltons.[8]


We all know what my brother would do. Robert would gallop up to the gates of Winterfell alone, break them with his warhammer, and ride through the rubble to slay Roose Bolton with his left hand and the Bastard with his right. I am not Robert. But we will march, and we will free Winterfell … or die in the attempt.[4]

- Stannis Baratheon

References and notes

  1. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 35, Jon VII.
  2. Stannis has 5,000 men after Deepwood Motte. He is later reinforced by 450 Karstarks, who are actually conspiring with Roose Bolton to turn on Stannis as soon as the battle starts, but are foiled before this could happen. Crowfood Umber lies outside of Winterfell waiting to join with Stannis with half of House Umber's strength, supposedly 400 men.
  3. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 42, The King's Prize.
  5. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 51, Theon I.
  6. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 62, The Sacrifice.
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Winds of Winter, Chapter , Theon.
  8. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 69, Jon XIII.

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