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A column is a type of marching formation of an army. In this configuration, soldiers march together in one or more files in which the file is significantly longer than the width of ranks in the formation. Honor guards and processions can also adopt this formation.
A military column can generally be separated into three groups:
- Vanguard: Called the van for short, it is the leading part of the advancing army.
- Main column: Sometimes refer to as the center column, it is the central part of the marching army. The baggage train is usually located in the main column. The train uses vehicules such as carts, wagons, and wayns to transport the army's provisions and supplies.
- Rearguard: Called the rear for short, it is the part of the army that protects it from attack from the rear during the march.
A column can stretch several miles. Scouts are sent to explore ahead of the column. They report back to the column about enemies movements and give information on the terrain the column is about to encounter. Some dragonriders have used their dragons for scouting missions.
The column formation is widespread in Westeros. Even the Free folk from beyond the Wall, who are not known for their military discipline, use it while marching south under their King-Beyond-the-Wall, Mance Rayder, and later in Tormund's war band.
During the Dance of the Dragons, the host of Ser Criston Cole was protected by Prince Aemond Targaryen who flew on Vhagar above them during their march from King's Landing to Harrenhal, as the prince thought his uncle, Prince Daemon Targaryen, would attack the column with Caraxes. From Harrenhal onwards, Ser Criston's host marched south to regroup with the green host commanded by Lord Ormund Hightower without Aemond and Vhagar. The blacks used guerrilla warfare against the column along the way with the conflicts culminated at the Butcher's Ball.
Clansmen harrassed the column of Ser Robert Rowan when he crossed the Mountains of the Moon in 134 AC. Robert and many others were crushed to death by falling boulders the clansmen had launched on them.
The battle of Ashford was the only defeat of Lord Robert Baratheon during his rebellion. Lord Mace Tyrell took credit for the victory despite the fact that the battle was already won by his vanguard commanded by Lord Randyll Tarly before he arrived on the battlefield with the main column of the Reach army.
A Game of Thrones
On his march south, Robb Stark takes the habits of riding in front of the column and asks a different lord to march with him each day. Quickly an informal personal guard of nobles is formed around Robb. In order to surprise the Lannister forces besieging Riverrun, Robb decides to divide his forces at the Twins. It takes hours for his army (~ 6,000 men) to cross the Green Fork in a double column formation.
A Clash of Kings
Two hundred men leave Castle Black for the Great ranging beyond the Wall. Ser Jarman Buckwell has the command of the scouts ahead of the column, Thoren Smallwood commands the vanguard, Lord Commander Mormont commands the main column, Ser Mallador Locke is in charge of the baggage train, and Ser Ottyn Wythers commands the rearguard. Once on their way, Mormont deploys outriders to either side of the main column. Jon Snow's direwolf, Ghost, does not like marching with the column but never wanders far from it while hunting.
A royal procession is assembled to see Princess Myrcella Baratheon off to the docks. Ser Jacelyn Bywater of the City Watch, Ser Aron Santagar and Ser Balon Swann rides in front of King Joffrey I Baratheon and Sansa Stark, who are flanked by Sandor Clegane and Ser Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard. After them rides Prince Tommen Baratheon with Ser Preston Greenfield, Queen Dowager Cersei Lannister and Ser Lancel Lannister protected by Ser Meryn Trant and Ser Boros Blount, then Tyrion Lannister and the High Septon in his litter. All of them are followed by other courtiers and a double column of guardsmen to protect the rear of the procession.
A Storm of Swords
Mance Rayder takes command of the main column of wildlings marching south, he gives command of his van to Harma Dogshead and giants and other warriors form his rear. Small bands are organized around Rattleshirt, Jarl, Tormund Giantsbane, and the Weeper. They served as outriders, foragers, and help to keep the column moving in a more or less orderly fashion.
On the march from Riverrun to the Twins, Robb Stark takes thirty-five hundred men with him. He replaces Ser Brynden Tully by Lord Galbart Glover as the commander of his scouts, and the Greatjon is given commands of the van. The baggage train follows the main column under the supervision of Ser Wendel Manderly and his White Harbor knights, and at the end of the column, Robin Flint commands the rearguard.
A Feast for Crows
Remembering his defeat at the Whispering Wood, Ser Jaime Lannister sends scouts ahead of his column marching for Riverrun. The scouts are commanded by his childhood friend, Ser Addam Marbrand, whilst the baggage train is under the responsability of Ser Steffon Swyft.
A Dance with Dragons
Three days after the resolution of siege of Moat Cailin, the vanguard of Lord Roose Bolton's host, composed of Frey men-at-arms and commanded by Ser Aenys and Ser Hosteen Frey, pass through the ruined castle. The main column of northmen follows close behind them. A decoy is use by Lord Bolton who rides in an enclosed wagon with his wife, Lady Walda Frey, for more security. The baggage train is next and more Freys close the column.
During the march on Winterfell, the northmen in Stannis's army quickly outpace the southron men who are not acclimate to the weather of the north. The baggage train and knights of the rearguard have a particularly hard time to keep up the pace set up by the northmen.
The rearguard of Tormund's band is composed of a dozen mounted warriors armed with spears and swords.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 22, Catelyn II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 27, Daenerys II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 41, Tyrion IX.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 20, Reek II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 42, The King's Prize.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Triumphant.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 53, Jon VII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 64, Jon VIII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 26, Jon III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 58, Jon XII.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 23, Daenerys III.
- Fire & Blood, Aegon's Conquest.
- Fire & Blood, The Lysene Spring and the End of Regency.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 19, Tyrion III.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 78, Samwell V.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 59, Catelyn IX.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 13, Jon II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 23, Jon III.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 27, Jaime III.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 30, Jaime IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 17, Jon IV.