Battle on the Green Fork
The battle on the Green Fork is an early battle in the War of the Five Kings and is the first to involve forces of House Stark. The battle occurs along the Green Fork of the Trident in the riverlands.
War breaks out after the death of King Robert I Baratheon and the arrest of Lord Eddard Stark in King's Landing. House Lannister invades the riverlands, scattering the riverlords and placing Riverrun under siege. Lord Tywin Lannister occupies the crossroads near the ruby ford and waits to see how Houses Arryn and Stark will respond. Tywin expects House Frey, who control the crossing over the Green Fork, to remain neutral.
Robb Stark calls the northern banners and marches south from Winterfell to rescue his father. When Ser Addam Marbrand's outriders report that Robb is on the causeway, Tywin orders for Addam to draw the northmen further south while Tywin leads his own host north on the kingsroad east of the Green Fork to meet them.
Once south of the Neck, Robb's mother, Catelyn Stark, persuades Lord Walder Frey to ally with Robb, opening the way over the Green Fork at the Twins. Robb, who does not wish to stake everything on one battle with Tywin, splits his host in two. The foot and one-tenth of the horse under Lord Roose Bolton continue marching south on the kingsroad to engage Tywin, while Robb himself commands the rest of the cavalry and crosses west of the river, in the hope of lifting the siege of Riverrun by taking Tywin's son, Ser Jaime Lannister, unawares.
Addam's outriders inform Tywin that the Freys have joined the Starks and their combined host is marching south on the kingsroad. Ser Brynden Tully's men kill some of Addam's scouts, however, preventing the Lannisters from knowing that Robb's host split at the Twins.
When the westermen think the northmen are still a day's march away, the Stark army, commanded by Lord Roose Bolton, marches throughout the night in an effort to take the Lannister army by surprise, arriving before dawn.
However, the Lannister army arrays itself in time to meet the northmen. The westermen's order of battle includes:
- Ser Kevan Lannister commands ten thousand men in the center, with Lords Lefford, Lydden and Serrett at his side with three hundred heavy horse. His foot archers are arranged in three long lines east and west of the kingsroad. Between the archers are squares of pikemen, and behind them are ranks of men-at-arms wielding axes, swords, and spears.
- On the right, Ser Addam Marbrand commands four thousand knights and other heavy lancers, among them Ser Flement Brax and members of Houses Crakehall, Swyft, and other families.
- Ser Gregor Clegane commands the vanguard on the left. At one thousand men, the van is entirely mounted, but consists of freeriders, sellswords, and raw fieldhands and smallfolk from Lannisport. The van also includes Tyrion Lannister, his sellsword Bronn, and his three hundred Vale mountain clansmen, who are considered savages by the nobles.
- From the high ground of a hilltop, Lord Tywin Lannister commands the reserve of five thousand men, half mounted, half afoot.
Unbeknownst to Tyrion, Tywin has placed his undisciplined men on the left to tempt the Stark commander, whom Tywin believes is the untested Robb Stark, to overcommit there. Tywin hopes the Lannister van will rout and the Starks will plunge into the gap, eager to flank him. Tywin then intends for Kevan and the center to wheel to the left and take the northerners in the flank, driving them into the Green Fork. Before the fighting begins, Gregor orders Tyrion to hold the van's left, along the riverfront.
Kevan's archers fire volleys of arrows from the kingsroad as the northmen march forward; Tyrion observes the banners of Houses Cerwyn, Frey, Glover, Hornwood, Karstark, and Stark. The armored veterans with Gregor break a shield wall of Karstark spearmen, and Tyrion's clansmen follow through the breach. Tyrion notices a volley of arrows land amongst the northmen and Lannister van, although he does not know from where they were fired. Tyrion kills a northern swordsman who attacks him, and then forces a northern knight to yield after the man becomes trapped beneath his horse.
Meanwhile, Kevan sends in his pikemen to push the Stark lines against the hills behind them, and Kevan's archers fire against the northmen behind shield walls. Tywin leads his reserve behind the van, along the river, to break the remnants of the Stark line. Tywin feels the northmen were led cautiously during the battle, which he did not expect from young Robb.
Roose Bolton's host loses several thousand men in the battle, including Lord Halys Hornwood. Captives taken include Lord Medger Cerwyn, Harrion Karstark, Ser Wylis Manderly, Ser Donnel Locke, Ser Jared Frey, Ser Hosteen Frey, Ser Danwell Frey, and Ronel Rivers.
Tyrion Lannister leaves the northern knight he captured in the care of Bronn. About half of Tyrion's clansmen are killed in the fighting, with Conn of the Stone Crows and Ulf of the Moon Brothers among the slain.
The Lannisters learn from their captives that the northern host had split at the Twins, and that Robb Stark is rushing toward Riverrun. Instead of pursuing Roose's host as it retreats northward, Lord Tywin Lannister leads his own host on a forced march south to aid his son, Ser Jaime Lannister. Robb captures the Kingslayer at the battle in the Whispering Wood, however, and he then saves Riverrun with the Battle of the Camps.
After learning of Jaime's defeat while at the crossroads inn, Tywin decides to march to Harrenhal. Three dozen captives from the Green Fork are housed in the Tower of Dread, and Lord Cerwyn dies at Harrenhal from a wound taken on the Green Fork.
Roose reforms his host at the mouth of the causeway and returns to the Twins. The deaths of Lord Hornwood at the Green Fork and his son Daryn in the Whispering Wood cause a succession crisis to Hornwood back in the north.
The northerners would be exhausted after their long sleepless march. Tyrion wondered what the boy had been thinking. Did he think to take them unawares while they slept? Small chance of that; whatever else might be said of him, Tywin Lannister was no man's fool.—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion watched his father fly past, the crimson-and-gold banner of Lannister rippling over his head as he thundered across the field. Five hundred knights surrounded him, sunlight flashing off the points of their lances. The remnants of the Stark lines shattered like glass beneath the hammer of their charge.—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister
We fought between a river and a road. When I saw my father's host deploy, I remember thinking how beautiful it was. Like a flower opening its petals to the sun. A crimson rose with iron thorns. And my father, ah, he had never looked so resplendent. He wore crimson armor, with this huge greatcloak made of cloth-of-gold. A pair of golden lions on his shoulders, another on his helm. His stallion was magnificent. His lordship watched the whole battle from atop that horse and never got within a hundred yards of any foe. He never moved, never smiled, never broke a sweat, whilst thousands died below him.
Take the Battle of Green Fork. Had his night march taken Lord Tywin unawares and won the battle, he would have smashed the Lannisters and become the hero of the hour. While if it failed... well, you see what happened. The only way he could lose there would be if were captured or slain himself, and he did his best to minimize the chances of that.
Game of Thrones
The Battle of the Green Fork in the "Baelor" episode of the television adaptation Game of Thrones is altered, with Robb Stark sending a diversionary force of two thousand bannermen—instead of the larger host commanded by Roose Bolton (who is absent)—against the much larger Lannister army of 30,000. The battle is not explicitly shown, though it is a complete massacre of the northern army. No Stark leaders or nobles are present in the army either. Later in the same episode, Robb laments his decision to sacrifice two thousand of his men to capture Jaime Lannister at the Whispering Wood.
- The banners of Houses Banefort, Bettley, Falwell, Ferren, Foote, Kenning of Kayce, Myatt, Peckledon, Prester, Sarsfield, and Stackspear are spotted by Arya Stark as Tywin Lannister's host leaves Harrenhal in A Clash of Kings, Arya VIII. Men from these Houses may have been in battles involving Tywin's host, such as on the Green Fork, but their participation has not been confirmed.
- The banners of Houses Hamell, Moreland, Turnberry, and Yarwyck are present during the escorting of the corpse of Tywin Lannister from King's Landing back to Casterly Rock in A Feast for Crows, Jaime II. Men from these Houses may have been in battles involving Tywin's host, such as on the Green Fork, but their participation has not been confirmed.
- Tywin Lannister gives orders for Amory Lorch to participate in the burning of the riverlands in A Game of Thrones, Tyrion IX so House Lorch may have recently fought on the Green Fork.
- In A Storm of Swords, Jaime VII, the brothers Plumm are mentioned as having been sent by Tywin Lannister to find Jaime Lannister following his release from Riverrun, so House Plumm may have fought on the Green Fork.
- Houses Burley and Norrey are mentioned in A Storm of Swords, Catelyn VI, as being part of Roose Bolton's host that is attacked by the Mountain's men while crossing the Trident. Men from these clans may have been in earlier battles involving Rooses's host, such as on the Green Fork, but their participation has not been confirmed.
- In A Dance with Dragons, A Ghost in Winterfell, Barbrey Dustin mentions that House Dustin had men die in the Red Wedding. Dustins may have been in earlier battles involving Rooses's host, such as on the Green Fork, but their participation has not been confirmed.
- Condon, Ryswell, and Stout men are mentioned in A Storm of Swords Catelyn VI, as being left behind by Roose Bolton to defend against incursions by the Mountain's men, following the crossing of the Trident by the northmen. Men from these Houses may have been in earlier battles involving Rooses's host, such as on the Green Fork, but their participation has not been confirmed.
- Robb Stark's initial northern force consists of 19,500 men (A Game of Thrones, Catelyn VII), with slightly more than 1/4 being heavy cavalry (A Game of Thrones, Bran VI gives the figures of 3,300-3,400 heavy cavalry out of an initial muster of 12,000). This would suggest ~14,500 infantry and ~5,000 heavy cavalry in his northern host. He is joined by 4,000 men of House Frey (A Game of Thrones, Catelyn IX), whose forces have a heavy cavalry-to-infantry ratio of 1-to-4 (A Storm of Swords, Catelyn II). His total force after this therefore consists of 23,500 soldiers (17,500 infantry, 6,000 heavy cavalry). He leaves 400 Frey infantry and 400 northern infantry at the Twins with a mix of swordsmen/spearmen and archers (A Game of Thrones, Catelyn IX), and orders a small garrison, mostly archers, to be left at Moat Cailin (A Game of Thrones, Catelyn VII). Earlier, Eddard Stark had stated that "two hundred determined archers [at Moat Cailin] can hold the Neck against an army" (A Game of Thrones, Eddard IV). By leaving these 1,000 infantry behind in garrisons, this brings Robb's army back to 22,500 men (16,500 infantry, 6,000 heavy cavalry). Robb then splits his army, leaving all of the infantry and one-tenth of the heavy cavalry (~600) under the command of Roose Bolton, and taking the rest of the heavy cavalry (~5,400) under his personal command to the Whispering Wood (A Game of Thrones, Catelyn IX). Thus, Roose's host is about 17,100 troops in total (16,500 infantry, 600 heavy cavalry).
- The casualties Roose Bolton's forces take on the Green Fork can be calculated by going backwards from what he ends with at the Red Wedding. There, he claims to have 3,500 men with him (mostly Bolton men with some Karstarks) and another 600 guarding a ford, with 200 Bolton riders having previously been sent to escort Jaime Lannister to King's Landing under Walton (A Storm of Swords, Jaime VI), for a total of 4,300 remaining soldiers (A Storm of Swords, Catelyn VI). In chronological order from after the Green Fork, his host suffered the following major changes to its strength: 400 men Robb Stark originally left at the Twins joined it under Edmure Tully's orders (A Clash of Kings, Catelyn V). ~1,000 Karstark troops deserted him and took to the countryside following Robb's execution of Rickard Karstark according to Roose (A Storm of Swords, Jaime V). The 1,500 Frey soldiers (A Clash of Kings, Arya X) who were with Aenys Frey by the time Roose took Harrenhal pulled out like the rest of the Frey men due to the Stark-Frey marriage pact being broken. ~3,000 soldiers (said to be 1/3 of Roose's remaining infantry at the time) were sent to Duskendale (A Storm of Swords, Catelyn IV) where they were smashed. Finally, ~2,050 soldiers were left to die at the ruby ford (A Storm of Swords, Catelyn VI). This would mean Roose's host underwent a net loss of ~7,200 troops between the aftermath of the Green Fork and the Red Wedding, where he had 4,300 troops left. Therefore Roose's host had ~11,500 troops before any of these events, meaning losses on the Green Fork could not have exceeded ~5,600 men. Note that this is an upper ceiling rather than a concrete figure for this losses in the battle, as possible losses to Roose's from various small skirmishes and sieges in the riverlands must also be considered.
- See the War of the Five Kings calculations.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 38, Arya VIII.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 69, Tyrion IX.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 62, Jaime VII.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 62, Tyrion VIII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 49, Catelyn VI.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 46, A Ghost in Winterfell.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 59, Catelyn IX.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 25, Tyrion VI.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 55, Catelyn VIII.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 7, Catelyn I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 58, Tyrion VII.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 49, Eddard XIV.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 56, Tyrion VII.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
- A Clash of Kings, Appendix.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 63, Catelyn X.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 71, Catelyn XI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 30, Arya VII.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran II.
- The Winds of Winter, Chapter , Tyrion.
- So Spake Martin: Roose Bolton, February 02, 2001