- "Those are brave men knocking at our door. Let's go kill them!"
- ―Tyrion Lannister
The battle was an attempt by Stannis Baratheon, brother of the late King Robert Baratheon, to take King's Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, and to seize the Iron Throne from King Joffrey Baratheon. It required a naval assault and an attack on the city gates by land. Tyrion Lannister, acting Hand of the King, led the defense of the city. He successfully destroyed a large portion of Stannis's fleet through the use of wildfire, but was unable to prevent Stannis's army from landing and gaining the walls of the city. However, late-arriving reinforcements under Lord Tywin Lannister, Lord Mace Tyrell, and Ser Loras Tyrell defeated Stannis's army, resulting in a decisive Lannister-Tyrell victory in King Joffrey's name.
Upon claiming the Iron Throne, Stannis Baratheon realized he lacked the manpower needed to take King's Landing. With the help of Melisandre, a red priestess from Asshai, he arranged the assassination of his younger brother, Renly Baratheon, and secured the loyalty of many of the lords sworn to him. However, he failed to win the allegiance of House Tyrell, who withdrew their large army from the field and returned to Highgarden. Nevertheless, having also secured an alliance with the sellsail captain Salladhor Saan, Stannis was confident of victory. On the advice of his loyal vassal and future Hand, Ser Davos Seaworth, he decided not to take Melisandre with him to King's Landing, concerned that the victory would be credited to her and not himself.
With King's Landing in danger, Tyrion Lannister made preparations to withstand siege. However, most of their manpower had been drawn north to fight the Starks in the Riverlands, leaving the city walls undermanned. Cersei Lannister planned to level the field through the use of wildfire, a dangerous and highly destructive substance that she had made en masse that Tyrion would later use for the battle. With Robb Stark's forces poised in the west, Tywin was unwilling to leave his defensive position at Harrenhal, fearing being attacked from the rear. However, when Robb launched an invasion of the Westerlands instead, drawing close to Casterly Rock, Tywin decided to move his army. At the same time, Lord Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish negotiated a fresh alliance between House Lannister and House Tyrell.
- "Come with me and take this city!"
- ―Stannis Baratheon rallies his troops without the need of speeches.
Although the explosion sinks many of Stannis's ships, it is insufficient to stop him landing significant numbers of troops on the banks of the Blackwater Rush below the city. Under heavy arrow fire, Stannis personally leads an assault on the city walls and manages to lead a small detachment onto the battlements. An attempted sally led by Sandor Clegane falters when his fear of fire causes his flight from the field.
Queen Regent Cersei gathers up the women and children of the keep and brings them to Maegor's Holdfast, including Sansa Stark, where she intends royal executioner Ser Ilyn Payne to kill her and all the others rather than let Stannis's forces capture and rape them. She recalls Joffrey from the battlefield, leading to a loss of morale amongst the King's Landing defenders. Tyrion rallies them, and leads a counter-attack against a battering ram trying to smash down the Mud Gate, accompanied by Ser Mandon Moore and Ser Boros Blount of the Kingsguard. A late-arriving force of Stannis's troops attack the sortie force. In the confusion, Ser Mandon turns on Tyrion, and strikes him down with a blow to the face, however Moore is slain by Podrick Payne, Tyrion's squire, before he can kill the Hand.
At this point, Tywin Lannister's army arrives in concert with the Tyrell forces under Ser Loras Tyrell. Ser Loras wears the armor and crown of the late Renly Baratheon to sow confusion and discord amongst Stannis's men. Tyrell and Lannister cavalry smash Stannis's forces and rout them although some are able to retreat in good order to their landing vessels. Stannis is dragged reluctantly from the battlefield by loyal retainers.
The forging of an alliance between House Lannister and House Tyrell places the overwhelming bulk of the armies of southern Westeros under the banner of King Joffrey Baratheon. This combined army now hugely outstrips the armies of House Stark in size, and makes the Lannister-Tyrell faction the largest and most powerful in the war.
In the weeks after the battle, the children of the city picked over the half-sunken wrecks of ships in the harbor searching for gold and other treasures taken from the dead sailors.
Most of the military strength of the Stormlands was destroyed in the battle. Most Baratheon vassal Houses sided with Renly Baratheon at the beginning of the war, but later shifted to follow Stannis after Renly's death. Very few sided with Stannis originally, and effectively none had sided with Joffrey. With their armies destroyed, they could not offer resistance as combined Lannister-Tyrell armies overran the Stormlands. Stannis himself, however, safe from immediate assault due to the island location of Dragonstone, remained defiant and refused to surrender.
Based on information from previous episodes, it is known that Stannis's fleet numbers 200 ships, including 30 sellsail vessels commanded by Salladhor Saan. They outnumber the royal fleet by 10:1, indicating that the royal fleet in Blackwater Bay consists of just 20 ships. Only one - the ship filled with wildfire and leaking it into the bay - takes part in the battle, the other nineteen having been sent out of the area on Tyrion's order.
Stannis's army consists of his own forces from Dragonstone and the surrounding islands, augmented by an army of Stormlands troops that formerly followed Renly. However, it is known that most of the 100,000 troops under Renly did not join Stannis, with House Tyrell's contingent withdrawing. In the TV series, no figure is given for how many troops withdrew and how many stayed with Stannis. Matthos Seaworth states that Stannis's troops outnumber the defenders of King's Landing 5-1, the only precise numbers that are known is that King's Landing has at least 2,000 golden cloaks and a few hundred Lannister soldiers.
Most of Stannis's host has been destroyed in the battle, leaving him with 4,000 men and 32 ships.
Also, it is known that Tywin Lannister's army in the Riverlands consisted of more than 30,000 troops, it is unknown how many forces he left behind with Gregor Clegane to continue the fight and how many he took south to the capital. As for the Tyrells, Lady Olenna has sent 12,000 infantry, 1,800 mounted lancers and 2,000 "support men" in support of the crown.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Battle of the Blackwater unfolds somewhat differently than in the TV series, although the general sequence of events is similar. The battle is the culmination and climax of the second novel in the series, A Clash of Kings.
In the novels, Renly's death was followed by Stannis seizing control of Storm's End, the ancestral Baratheon castle. Most of the lords of the Stormlands and a few of the Reach (House Florent in particular) joined Stannis' cause, but the bulk of the Reach's lords regrouped at Bitterbridge. Stannis assumed that the Tyrells would swear to his cause, but the knights he sent to parley with the Tyrell forces were imprisoned. Stannis sent his fleet into Blackwater Bay and his army by land northwards through the Kingswood. In the Kingswood, Stannis's army was harassed and delayed by Tyrion's hill tribes, particularly the Stone Crows under Shagga, whom he had deployed as skirmishers.
Stannis gave his brother-in-law, Ser Imry Florent, the command over the fleet as the Lord High Captain, not to Davos. Stannis and Ser Imry have made several serious mistakes, which might have tipped the odds in favor of the Lannisters:
- After Ser Cortnay Penrose, the castellan of Storm's End, refused to yield the castle, Stannis decided to stay one day there in order to send the second shadow demon to kill the castellan. Davos urged Stannis to strike immediately for King's Landing, claiming that he could later conquer Storm's End. Stannis refused to listen to Davos, not because he feared that Penrose would join the Lannisters and attack his rear, but because he thought that if he left the castle untaken - people would think he was defeated there. Thus Stannis wasted precious time at Storm's End, allowing Tywin to arrive at the critical moment with the Tyrells' reinforcements.
- Ser Imry rejected Davos's advice to send scouts upriver and see what awaited them. Had he listened to Davos, the scouts might have noticed the trap Tyrion set for Stannis's fleet.
- Ser Imry placed Sallador Saan's ships in the rear. Davos believed that it was a mistake, for Saan was a resourceful old pirate, and his crews were born seamen, fearless in a fight; they were wasted in the rear.
- Stannis's ships flew the banners with the fiery heart. Davos thought they should have been flying the crowned stag, Robert’s sigil, because the city would rejoice to see it, while the stranger’s standard served only to set people against Stannis.
Tyrion and Cersei initially hoped that Renly and Stannis would exhaust themselves fighting one another, buying time for their father to win a decisive victory over the Starks and then come to the relief of the city. However, with Robb Stark winning victory after victory (at Oxcross, Ashemark, the Crag, and other engagements), this was not possible, forcing Tywin to remain at Harrenhal. Indeed, Robb's armies began threatening other Westerlander strongholds, forcing Tywin to reluctantly march to meet Robb in battle or risk losing the confidence of his lords, whose homelands were now in peril. However, Edmure Tully sent a force from Riverrun to hold the fords over the Red Fork, delaying Tywin's forces long enough for him to hear that Stannis was on the march. He immediately turned his army south to the headwaters of the Blackwater Rush and built barges to transport his forces to King's Landing by river.
Hearing of the Tyrell reluctance to join Stannis, Tyrion dispatched Littlefinger to negotiate, authorizing him to offer Joffrey's hand in marriage to Margaery Tyrell. The Tyrells accepted the offer and their army moved north to the Blackwater, meeting Tywin's forces as they came down the river. At the same time, Tyrion secured the city's unusually large stocks of wildfire and also began building an immense chain across the mouth of the river.
When Stannis's fleet arrived, the royal fleet engaged it in battle and drew it into the mouth of the river. Tyrion raised the chain behind Stannis's ships to prevent their escape and then detonated barrels of wildfire located under the river mouth, causing a conflagration that consumed most of Stannis's fleet (as well as the royal fleet). However, Tyrion did not anticipate that this would create so many burned-out hulks that, after a couple of hours, Stannis's army would be able to use them as an effective bridge to reach the city. Sandor Clegane and then Tyrion himself led sallies to defend the city, Sandor fleeing after the first and Tyrion being severely wounded in the second sortie by Ser Mandon Moore of the Kingsguard. As Tyrion passed out, the joint Lannister-Tyrell army arrived and destroyed Stannis' forces. Stannis, observing from the south bank of the river, was evacuated to Dragonstone by his sworn knights with several hundred troops.
The most notable difference between the TV and book versions of the battle is the absence of the iconic chain, the raising of which makes Ser Davos realize that he's sailed into a trap. In addition, in the novel the royal fleet is present and draws Stannis's fleet into the trap. Although some ships upriver manage to escape the explosion, several royal galleys are sacrificed to the wildfire.
In the novel, Stannis also does not personally take part in the battle and remains south of the river, making it much easier for him to escape once the tide turns against his forces, though he is also dragged from battle, refusing to surrender.
Another difference is that it is actually Ser Loras's older brother, Ser Garlan Tyrell, who wears Renly's armor as he is a better fit.
In the aftermath of the battle, with their armies destroyed, the lords of the Stormlands bent the knee. The only two major holdouts which still supported Stannis instead of Joffrey were the garrison at Storm's End itself, as well as Dragonstone and the islands of the Narrow Sea which were difficult to assault due to their isolated nature (though Dragonstone and the isles sworn to it are technically part of the Crownlands, not the Stormlands).
Stannis attacked King's Landing with approximately 20,000 men. The defenders of the city numbered some 7,100 troops, consisting of 2,000 veteran gold cloaks, 4,000 newly conscripted, ill-trained, and poorly disciplined gold cloaks, 800 sellswords, and 300 knights and men-at-arms. Tywin's main army in the Riverlands consisted of some 20,000 men before clashing with Edmure Tully's forces; the size of the army he brought back to King's Landing after the Battle of the Fords, and the size of the Tyrell army went with them, is not revealed.
- ↑ "Valar Dohaeris": King's Landing is at the mouth of the Blackwater River, which flows into Blackwater Bay, and thus the battle took place where both bodies of water named "Blackwater" meet.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 "The Ghost of Harrenhal"
- ↑ "The Night Lands"
- ↑ "The Prince of Winterfell"
- ↑ "The Old Gods and the New"
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Blackwater"
- ↑ "VG Battle of the Blackwater>HBO viewers guide, season 2 map, special features - Battleground Westeros, Battle of the Blackwater entry
- ↑ "VG Battle of the Blackwater
- ↑ "Valar Dohaeris"
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 "Kissed by Fire"
- ↑ "A Man Without Honor"
- ↑ "You Win or You Die"
- ↑ "The Laws of Gods and Men"
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