Battle of the Blackwater

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Battle of the Blackwater
Conflict War of the Five Kings
Date 299 AC
Place King's Landing / Mouth of the Blackwater
Result Decisive victory for King Joffrey
The Stormlords, houses sworn to Dragonstone,
some houses of the Reach,
Lysene sellsails
The City Watch,
Western army,
Most houses of the Reach,
some houses of the Stormlords
Stannis Baratheon
Alester Florent
Imry Florent
Guyard Morrigen
Tywin Lannister
Tyrion Lannister(WIA)
Garlan Tyrell
200 ships with landing party
20,000 army
50 ships
6,800 city defenders
80,000 Lannister-Tyrell reinforcements
Most of the fleet,
47 lesser lordlings
619 knights and several thousand men-at-arms,
ground army scattered or switched sides[1]
Most of the fleet,
1600 Gold Cloaks killed or deserted
, ground forces casualties unknown

The Battle of the Blackwater was the largest conflict in the War of the Five Kings. The battle was fought between rebel forces loyal to Stannis Baratheon and royalist forces. Stannis' army was on the verge of defeating the garrison of King's Landing, but was taken by suprise and all but annihilated by the joint forces of Tywin Lannister and the Tyrells.



Stannis was one of the first members of King Robert's Small Council to harbor suspicions of the parentage of the King's children, and to discover that they were born of incest between Queen Cersei Lannister and her brother Ser Jaime. Taking his suspicions and what proof he could muster, in the form of Robert's numerous bastard children, to Lord Arryn, he hoped to convince the Hand of the King, one of Robert's oldest and most trusted friends, of the Lannisters's treason. When Arryn died under suspicious circumstances shortly thereafter, Stannis fled to Dragonstone, his seat of power. Rallying what strength he could, with but few Houses sworn to Dragonstone, he closed the port and its surrounding waters, hiring mercenaries and pirates of the Free Cities to augment his forces. As the lord of an island nation and the former Master of Ships, Stannis' naval power was considerable, but the sparse population of the rocky, volcanic islands surrounding Dragonstone left him without the strength to risk openly contesting the Lannisters.[2][3]

After Robert died, Stannis presented his claims through letters distributed throughout the Seven Kingdoms, proclaiming Prince Joffrey and his siblings the fruit of incest, and claiming the crown as Robert's eldest surviving brother and rightful heir. With neither proof, nor the support or love of nobles and commons alike, his proclamation ended as little more than tavern gossip.[3]

Battling Renly

Even before Stannis' ravens had taken wing with his claim, his younger brother Renly had ridden from King's Landing to Highgarden, where he wed the daughter of Lord Tyrell and claimed the crown for himself. For Stannis, this was blatant treason. What more, Stannis was infuriated with the knowledge that the the Stormlands had thrown in with Renly, despite the fact that Stannis, as the eldest son of House Baratheon, should have held claim to the loyalty of his House's ancestral seat. Unwilling to let such treachery pass, when Stannis at last set out from Dragonstone to war, he made not for King's Landing, but Storm's End.[4]

Stannis laid siege to the coastal fortress, which was under the command of Ser Cortnay Penrose, but all his might was but a meager thing against all the strength of storm and Reach at his brother's command. When Renly abandoned his march on King's Landing, bringing all his knights and mounted forces to lift the siege, Stannis was vastly outnumbered. However, before the battle could begin, Renly was slain by a shadow called forth by the woman Melisandre, an Asshai'i Shadowbinder in Stannis' service.[5]

With Renly dead, the greater part of the knights and lords who had been sworn to him submitted to the last Baratheon, chiefly among them House Florent, relatives of Stannis' wife. About a quarter of the forces did not submit, and fled under the command of Ser Loras Tyrell back to Bitterbridge, where almost 80,000 men of Renly's army waited with his widowed Queen.[6][7]


Stannis' army now marched on King's Landing. Reinforced with the strength of the Stormlands, King Stannis now had almost twenty thousand men at his command, mostly knights and freeriders, against the few thousand gold cloaks of King's Landing's City Watch. However, the city was guarded to the south by the Blackwater Rush, and would require an amphibious assault to conquer. Stannis moved his host and fleet upon Kings Landing.

Treacherous waters and inclement weather delayed Stannis's fleet on its northward journey from Storm's End, they lost about a dozen ships and did not reach Blackwater Bay until the Stannis's host had already suffered days of harassment from Tyrion clansmen and skirmishers in the Kingswood, and they would burn much of the Kingswood trying to ferret them out.[8] Stannis commanded his troops on land and gives command of the fleet to Ser Imry Florent, who commanded from his galley the Fury.

The Battle

Battle on the River

The fleet under the command of Ser Imry Florent sailed up the Blackwater Rush with almost all their strength. Confidence of their superior numbers, knowing that the fleet of King's Landing could not hope to contest them, not scouting ahead, they recklessly immediately attacked, leaving only a contingent of mercenary galleys led by Salladhor Saan as rear guard guard out in the bay. The fleet was organized into ten battle lines composed of twenty ships each. the first two lines were to smash the small royal fleet, while the remaining ships will land troops to attack the city.[9]

Their lack of caution proved disastrous when the royalists sprung a trap. When Stannis's fleet engaged with Joffrey's, they encounter ships loaded to bursting with wildfire, a deadly accelerant , which burns even on water, spreading downstream it has soon engulfed in flames the closely packed ships of both fleets, which has no way to escape as their retreat is cut off by the massive chain that had been raised between two winch towers at the mouth of the river.

The wildfire does a tremendous amount of damage destroying Joffrey's small fleet and large portion of stannis's. However, a few of Stannis's ships had escaped the conflagration, eight ships managed to land troops to the northern bank, and there are still forty or so galleys ready to row Stannis's main force across the river, while the congestion of wrecks caught on the chain had unwittingly provided a bridge - aflame, unstable, and treacherous though it may be - for the army to cross.[9]

Attack on King's Landing

The city itself was defended by some 6,000 gold cloaks, leavened with a few hundred mercenaries and knights from the court and the surrounding region. As acting Hand of the King, command of the defense was given to Tyrion Lannister.[10]

To avoid being overwhelmed, Tyrion tasked several groups of mounted men-at-arms, along with what few knights the city had, to harry Stannis' forces as they came ashore. Under the command of Sandor Clegane and Ser Balon Swann of the Kingsguard, they managed to help stem the tide, but as the battle dragged on, they suffered grievous casualties. Battering rams had been brought to bear on at least two of the city's gates, and when the wildfire raging across the river finally robbed Clegane of his courage, the refusal of the fearsome Hound to lead any more sorties threatened to break the morale of the defenders.

Realizing that they had to drive off the rams and hold the river at all costs, Tyrion made to lead the next sortie himself. Shamed into action by the dwarf's display of courage, the Kingslanders rallied to clear the riverbank one last time; they managed to disperse the attackers and make for the Mud Gate.[11] Tyrion took the fight to the riverfront as they observed a large group of Stannis's soldiers crossing over a bridge formed from the ship wreckage in the river. However, in the fighting amidst the wreckage of the collapsing bridge of boats, Tyrion was severely wounded in an assassination attempt at the hands of Ser Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard, who had been Tyrion's sworn shield throughout the battle.[12]

After the loss of the Hand, the defenders retreated within the city walls, freeing Stannis to transport enough men over the river to assault the city in earnest. Queen Cersei fearing for her son had King Joffrey withdraw to the Red Keep from amongst the men[13]; as soon as the defenders saw the king retire, their morale broke and they began throwing down their spears and fled by the hundreds leaving the walls, killing their commanders, including Ser Jacelyn Bywater, in the process. At this point the battle was seemed to be lost.[14]

Arrival of Tywin Lannister

Though Stannis' army was still split across the Blackwater, victory was now within his grasp. Just as quickly as it had turned in his favor, however, it was torn away by the sudden appearance of royalist reinforcements on his flanks. Unknown to Stannis the Lannisters and the Tyrells had secured an alliance and Renly's former army has marched from Bitterbridge, uniting with Lord Tywin Lannister own host in the shadow of the Kingswood.[13]

Tyrion's wildlings in the Kingswood created a blind spot for Stannis, killing his outriders and scouts and allowed Tywin to take Stannis smaller and partially crossed host unaware from the rear. The van of Tywin army was led by Ser Garlan Tyrell, dressed in the ornate and unmistakable armor of the late Renly Baratheon, leading to confusion and disorder amongst Stannis' ranks, and even stories that Renly had risen from the dead and fought as a ghost for Joffrey. Divided, surprised, and outnumbered, Stannis' host broke quickly, with many of his lords bannermen switching allegiance mid-battle, proving as fickle to Stannis as they had to the deceased Renly. A few hundred rebels, chiefly Florents, escaped, along with Stannis himself on the Lysene galleys which had been left in Blackwater Bay while the rest of the fleet had burned.[14]


Despite Stannis survival, the battle was a decisive defeat for Stannis, he was able to retreat with only 2,000 swords and a token fleet to Dragonstone. The rest of the Stormlands declared for the Iron throne and with the newlly forged Tyrell alliance, the Lannisters control the whole south and west, commanding overwhelming superiority of numbers in the field. The end of the war now seems close.



Lannister/Tyrell forces

Stannis' forces


King Joffrey

King Stannis

References and Notes