“Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don’t ever believe any different.” (ACOK, Sansa IV)
Editorial Note: The first two sections (“Tywin and the Lannisters On the Eve of Civil War” and “The Outbreak of War”) are primarily summaries of the events leading up to the War of the Five Kings. If you don’t want to re-read that which you are already familiar with, I encourage you to skip on ahead to the section entitled “Tywin Goes to War.” There, I’ll pick up on the command and battle analysis.
Tywin and the Lannisters On the Eve of Civil War
“I warn you, the wolf and lion will soon be at each other’s throats, whether we will it or no.” (AGOT, Arya III)
The Targaryens were all but extinct. Tywin had seen to it with his brutal sack of King’s Landing and his orders to his knights to murder Elia Martell and her two children. But with Robert Baratheon’s ascension to the Iron Throne, Tywin’s national position was uncertain. Robert Baratheon named Jon Arryn instead of Tywin Lannister to the position of Hand of the King. Meanwhile, Robert Baratheon’s closest friend and confidant, Eddard Stark, despised Tywin for his brutal sack of King’s Landing.
But instead of simply swearing fealty to the new king and retreating back to Casterly Rock, Tywin sought to consolidate Lannister power in Westeros. A marriage alliance was proposed between Robert Baratheon and Tywin’s daughter Cersei Lannister. Jon Arryn, the more pragmatic of Robert’s advisors, orchestrated this marriage union in an attempt to forestall any conflict between House Lannister and House Baratheon. Jon Arryn believed that this would be a political masterstroke which would unite the East and West. Tywin saw this as a means of furthering his family’s station. Any sons born of this union would become heirs to the Iron Throne. And so, Robert married Cersei Lannister.
To probably the (very mild) delight of Tywin Lannister, the marriage produced 3 children: Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen. Not only were they heirs to the throne, they also looked like Lannisters. And though Tywin’s immediate power was slightly diminished from administering the kingdom, the births of the children reinforced Tywin’s objective of preserving the Lannister family legacy for generations to come. Everything seemingly was going swimmingly for Tywin, but all was not well.
First, the Targaryens were not all dead. Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen had taken from Dragonstone to Essos. And they had powerful, secret allies still in Westeros. The Master of Whispers, Lord Varys, was one such supporter (I’m ignoring Aegon VI and the Blackfyres for the moment). Additionally, key players had moved into positions of power who did not value national and regional stability. One such player was Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish. Appointed to the position of Master of Coin, Littlefinger ostensibly served the realm, but in reality, he served his own purposes.
Most importantly, the children that Cersei bore were not of Robert’s blood. Instead, they were the product of incest between Tywin’s children: Cersei and Jaime. Lord Stannis Baratheon, Robert’s brother, discovered this and brought his concerns to Jon Arryn. Jon Arryn was convinced that the allegations were true. But before Jon Arryn could bring the accusation before Robert Baratheon, he was poisoned and died. Needing a new Hand, Robert named Eddard Stark to the position of Hand of the King. As you’ll recall, Ned hated Tywin. The feeling was likely mutual. Tywin was the ultimate pragmatist while Eddard was a man of firm principle. While Tywin saw the Sack of King’s Landing as necessary to secure his family’s fortunes, Eddard reacted with horror and considered Tywin a “viper.” And now this man was to serve Robert Baratheon as Hand.
And more than simply administering the kingdom, Eddard’s other (and perhaps primary) motivation was to determine who killed Jon Arryn. But before Eddard could leave Winterfell to assume his duties, his son Bran, was tossed from a window by Jaime Lannister after observing him and Cersei in coitus. Later, Catelyn Stark, Eddard’s husband, came to the conclusion that the Lannisters was responsible after an assassin attempted to murder Bran with a Valyrian dagger while he was in a coma.
Conflict was inevitable.
The Outbreak of War
“This man came a guest into my house, and there conspired to murder my son, a boy of seven,” she proclaimed to the room at large, pointing. Ser Rodrik moved to her side, his sword in hand. “In the name of King Robert and the good lords you serve, I call upon you to seize him and help me return him to Winterfell to await the king’s justice.” (AGOT, Catelyn V)
There was no one catalyst for war. From rising inter-regional tensions to Stark-Lannister-Baratheon familial disputes to the orchestration of players who had other agendas, we can’t safely point to the a single plot point which started the war. But if I had to choose a place where the tension transitions from word and thought to action, it’s at the Inn of the Crossroads.
There, Catelyn Stark and Rodrik Cassel rested after delivering information to Eddard in King’s Landing that Bran was pushed from the window by Jaime or Cersei Lannister. Before journeying to the Inn, Catelyn had delivered information to Eddard that Bran was likely thrown from the window in Winterfell. There, she also discovered more information from Petyr Baelish that the dagger that been used in Bran’s attempted murder belonged to none other than Tyrion Lannister, the second son of Tywin Lannister.
As they rested at the inn, none other than the suspect himself walked into the Inn on his return journey from the Wall to King’s Landing. Tyrion Lannister recognized Catelyn Stark, and there, Catelyn made her famous speech to her father’s (Lord Hoster Tully) bannermen to seize Tyrion and bring him to Winterfell to await the king’s justice.
Tywin Goes to War
“The honor of our House was at stake. I had no choice but to ride. No man sheds Lannister blood with impunity.” (AGOT, Tyrion VII)
Tywin, to put it mildly, was upset at the seizure of his son Tyrion. And though Tywin had a… complicated relationship with his son, the fact that a Lannister, and his own progeny no less had been seized was an immediate casus belli. If you’ll recall from Part 1, Tywin believed in family first and foremost. If it came down to his family and legacy or his nation, Tywin would firmly side with his family, even the one son whom he despised.
Very little is known of Tywin’s actions prior to this stage of the game, but I have a theory. Tywin Lannister was already preparing for war. A man of superb intellect, I imagine that he was marshaling forces prior to this incident for what he suspected would be the outbreak of war with the Starks and possibly the Baratheons as well. The evidence for this theory lies in the fact that (and we’ll get to this later), Tywin has a large army in the field near the outset of hostilities. He divided his force into two large armies totaling nearly 40,000 soldiers. In an age where ravens and riders were the means of sending communication, I don’t see how Tywin is able to quickly assemble an army very shortly after Tyrion’s capture and march on the Riverlands. Furthermore, some sort of logistical framework would have had to have been planned and instituted to feed and supply two large armies. Gregor’s foraging alone would not have been enough to supply such a large army.
To me, a majority of the army and the logistics would have had to be assembled already. I also think that his statement later on to Tyrion was meant to absolve himself of aggression in the eyes of his banner lords.
“By my lights, it was you who started this,” Lord Tywin replied. (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
In my opinion, Tyrion’s capture served as a convenient excuse for a war that Tywin was always going to wage. At the same time, Tywin would certainly go to war to defend the family name and honor.
Tywin’s Initial Plan
But an army without a plan is, to misuse a famous quote, a sword without a hilt. And fortunately for the Lannisters, Tywin had a plan and an ingenious one at that. If Tyrion were to be returned, Tywin needed a bargaining chip. Simply seizing lands and castles wouldn’t do. Instead, a person would be needed to make the exchange. Tywin would need to capture someone who the Starks valued as a prisoner worthy enough to be exchanged for his son. Most of the candidates were well outside of his grasp. Robb was in Winterfell. Catelyn in the Eyrie with Tyrion. But one person was within his grasp. Lord Eddard Stark was in King’s Landing operating as the Hand of the King.
The difficulty in seizing Ned Stark lay in the city itself. It was held by King Robert Baratheon, Eddard’s best friend. Moreover, Tywin could not openly wage warfare and not expect severe reprisals from the Starks and Baratheons. But Tywin had a plan.
Gregor Clegane had returned from King’s Landing. Tywin instructed Gregor to don plain armor and begin conducting raids in the Riverlands. This “banditry” would incur a military response from the King. And who better to lead the party than the Hand of the King, who was sworn to uphold the king’s justice.
“He planned for Lord Eddard to come west himself to deal with Gregor Clegane. If he had he would have been killed, or taken prisoner and traded for the Imp, who was your lady mother’s captive at the time.” (ASOS, Arya III)
Unfortunately, as the old adage goes, no plan survives first contact in battle. Before Eddard could even hear about Gregor’s raids in the Riverlands, he was set on by Jaime Lannister and his men in King’s Landing in retaliation for Tyrion’s capture by Catelyn Stark. In the course of the street battle, Eddard was badly injured when a horse fell on him and broke his leg. Jaime did not know about his father’s plan prior to this confrontation with Eddard, but his actions threw Tywin’s plan off. Instead of leading the party himself, Eddard was forced to appoint Lord Beric Dondarrion to lead the party. Following his appointment, Beric and a small party departed King’s Landing. When he reached the Mummer’s Ford, he and his party were ambushed and destroyed by Gregor Clegane.
As an footnote, it’s interesting that Ned misinterprets Tywin’s plan. Here’s how he thinks about it:
And that may be precisely what Lord Tywin wants, Ned thought to himself, to bleed off strength from Riverrun, goad the boy into scattering his swords. His wife’s brother was young, and more gallant than wise. He would try to hold every inch of his soil, to defend every man, woman, and child who named him lord, and Tywin Lannister was shrewd enough to know that. (AGOT, Eddard XI)
That said, Gregor’s actions do have the unintentional (but beneficial to Tywin) second order effect of just that: spreading Edmure’s force out and sapping his strength before the main army makes its entry into the Riverlands. As we’ll see, this will play a great role in the coming Riverlands Campaign and Tywin’s second plan.
Before we jump into Tywin’s second plan, let’s briefly meet Tywin’s chief lieutenants and their responsibilities in the upcoming campaign.
1. Ser Gregor Clegane
“No other Knight in the realm inspires such terror in our enemies.” (ASOS, Tyrion VI)
Ser Gregor Clegane was an infamous knight sworn to House Lannister. During the Sack of King’s Landing, he raped Elia Martell and murdered her and her children. Standing approximately 7 feet, 10 inches and weighing approximately 420 pounds, Gregor was both cruel and massive. He was tasked initially by Tywin to ambush and capture Ned Stark. Instead, he ended up ambushing and killing Lord Beric Dondarrion. Following his successful ambush, Gregor rejoined Tywin’s host and served as commander of Tywin’s vanguard.
2. Ser Kevan Lannister
The gods shaped him to be a follower, not a leader. (ADWD, Tyrion VI)
Ser Kevan Lannister was the second son of Tytos Lannister and brother to Tywin. During Tywin’s lifetime, Kevan was a follower. But he was not unintelligent. Rather, he was a good “second-in-command” and assumed that rule for the upcoming Riverlands Campaign. During the Riverlands campaign, he commanded a large contingent of cavalry in Tywin’s army.
3. Ser Jaime Lannister
“There are no men like me. There’s only me.” (ACOK, Catelyn VII)
Ser Jaime Lannister was the first son of Tywin Lannister and a member of the King’s Guard. He was an experienced, veteran soldier and commander having fought against the Kingswood Brotherhood in his youth. As a member of the Kingsguard, he killed Aerys II. Despite this, he maintained his white cloak under Robert Baratheon. Following his skirmish with Eddard Stark, he fled back to Casterly Rock where he was given command of half of Tywin’s Army.
The Campaign Plan
Having failed to draw Eddard Stark out of King’s Landing, good news came at last. King Robert Baratheon died. Eddard Stark attempted to overthrow Joffrey as king and instead became a prisoner of the Cersei’s in King’s Landing. Tywin finally had a prisoner to exchange Tyrion with, but he wasn’t about to call off his campaign now, especially now that he was in a position of superiority over whatever opposing force might lie between him and the conquest of the Riverlands.
There was one troubling aspect though. Robb Stark, the son of Eddard Stark, called his banners and was marching south. Still though, this was not too troubling to Tywin yet. For one, if the Northerners were to confront Tywin, they would have to pass through the Twins. Tywin thought this unlikely.
“Frey only takes the field when the scent of victory is in the air, and all he smells now is ruin.” (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
And so, Tywin and his whole host marched northeast up the Goldroad towards the Golden Tooth. Just prior to reaching the Golden Tooth, Tywin split his army into two. Jaime was ordered to continue up the Goldroad while Tywin marched east towards Pinkmaiden and then northeast towards Harrenhal and the Kingsroad.
The plan seems straightforward to me. By dividing his army into two, he could threaten the River Lords on two fronts. The River Lords would be forced to divide their already smaller army into smaller contingents to contend with the Lannister advances into the Riverlands. Meanwhile, Tywin’s movement east of Riverrun would screen Jaime’s invasion of the heart of the Riverlands from any potential relief that the North would provide. In positioning his army at the Lord Harroway’s Tower, Tywin would also block a key intersection where the River Road and the Kings Road meet. Tywin made a calculated gamble that the Freys would not allow the Northern host to pass through the Twins. And if Tywin was correct, then Robb’s only avenue of approach to relieve Jaime’s army at Riverrun was to march south down the Kingsroad and then west along the River Road.
It was a good plan, but there are immediate problems. For one, the plan failed to account for the banner lords and advisers who served with Robb Stark, and the fact that Ser Brynden Tully, one of the greatest knights of the Seven Kingdoms, rode with and advised Robb. Second, the Freys might not deny the Northern army use of its bridge. Third, it was somewhat arrogant. Tywin assumed Robb Stark would make a poor commander on account of his youth and inexperience.
“No sword is strong until it’s been tempered,” Lord Tywin declared. “The Stark boy is a child. No doubt he likes the sound of warhorns well enough, and the sight of his banners fluttering in the wind, but in the end it comes down to butcher’s work. I doubt he has the stomach for it.” (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
And that’s a major problem for Tywin: he’s not self-reflective. If you’ll recall from the first part, Tywin Lannister was a boy of sixteen years when he violently put down the Reynes and Tarbecks in the Westerlands. Perhaps he should have given the boy a little more credit or at least took him seriously as he does possess an army of equal size to Tywin’s army after he divides it with Jaime.
But the biggest problem with the plan is the assumptions made and the lack of contingency planning if those assumptions proved incorrect. Just take Tywin’s assumption that the Freys wouldn’t act. It’s certainly not a hare-brained assumption. Lord Walder Frey was late to the Battle the Trident after all, but what was the plan if the Northerners indeed passed through the Twins? There didn’t seem to be any type of contingency planning. And this is where Tywin’s command reputation takes an enormous dive in my book. He made way too many assumptions and his arrogance prevented him from seeing any other outcome than one where the Riverlands bend the knee and the North retreats.
The Invasion Commences
But to the Lannisters, the plan went exceedingly well at the outset. Jaime took approximately 15,000 soldiers and moved up the Goldroad to the Golden Tooth. Tywin took about 20,000 soldiers and moved towards the Green Fork.
At the Golden Tooth, Jaime Lannister encountered Lord Vance and Piper below the fortress itself. Tywin relates what happened next.
“Your brother has been covering himself with glory,” his father said. “He smashed the Lords Vance and Piper at the Golden Tooth…” (AGOT, Tyrion VII)
I’ve argued previously that Jaime most likely used mobility to destroy the force below the Golden Tooth. All the while, Tywin advanced northeast towards the intersection of the Kingsroad and the River Road to block any potential Northern movement into the heart of the Riverlands.
Following Jaime’s successful attack below the Golden Tooth, he continued northeast towards Riverrun itself. There, he crushed the last mobilized army mobilized this side of the Twins and in the process took Edmure Tully, heir of Riverrun, captive. Tywin Lannister positioned his army just south of the Green Fork to await the Northern Host if it showed up.
To make matters even better for Tywin, Tyrion Lannister showed up in Tywin’s Camp, unharmed. The Stark bargaining chip was now safely back in the hands of the Lannisters. The war to bring the rebel River Lords could commence without concern for who met their end at a Lannister blade.
Prelude to Battle
But at the very moment when Tywin was about to achieve complete victory in the Riverlands, something happened. The first inkling that something went wrong came when Tywin’s assumption about the Freys proved incorrect.
“Ser Addam’s outriders say the Stark host has moved south from the Twins,” his father reported as his trencher was filled with slices of pork. “Lord Frey’s levies have joined them. They are likely no more than a day’s march north of us.” (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
So much for his father’s certainty that Lord Walder would not bestir himself. (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
“The Stark boy stole a march on us,” Bronn said. “He crept down the kingsroad in the night, and now his host is less than a mile north of here, forming up in battle array.” (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
Still though, Tywin had a clear plan to defeat the Northerners. Essentially, to boil down Tywin’s battle plan, he assumed that Robb Stark would lead the force, and if he did, that he would act rashly and engage Tywin’s most aggressive force. He would fix Robb’s army in that spot and maneuver on him with his heavy horse.
Lord Tywin drained his cup, his face expressionless. “I put the least disciplined men on the left, yes. I anticipated that they would break. Robb Stark is a green boy, more like to be brave than wise. I’d hoped that if he saw our left collapse, he might plunge into the gap, eager for a rout. Once he was fully committed, Ser Kevan’s pikes would wheel and take him in the flank, driving him into the river while I brought up the reserve.” (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
To accomplish this task, Tywin delineated his army’s area’s of responsibility and tasks. I’ll quote in length how Tywin divided his army.
1. The Center
The primary task of the center of Tywin’s army was to fix the Northern Host in place. They were the classic “anvil” in Tywin’s hammer and anvil tactic. When the Northerners attacked the Lannister left wing, they were to wheel against the Northern host and push them back towards the Green Fork.
His uncle would lead the center. Ser Kevan had raised his standards above the kingsroad. Quivers hanging from their belts, the foot archers arrayed themselves into three long lines, to east and west of the road, and stood calmly stringing their bows. Between them, pikemen formed squares; behind were rank on rank of men-at-arms with spear and sword and axe. Three hundred heavy horse surrounded Ser Kevan and the lords bannermen Lefford, Lydden, and Serrett with all their sworn retainers. (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
2. The Right Wing
The right wing would be the primary maneuver element of Tywin’s army. Their task was to maneuver on and turn the Northern left flank. They would serve as the hammer of Tywin’s army.
The right wing was all cavalry, some four thousand men, heavy with the weight of their armor. More than three quarters of the knights were there, massed together like a great steel fist. Ser Addam Marbrand had the command. (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
3. The Left Wing
The left wing had a secondary but crucial task. They were ordered to create havoc on the Northern right flank and lure them into a heedless attack when they collapsed. With the Northern host fighting against Tyrion, his Mountain Clans and Gregor Clegane’s vanguard, the center would fix, the right would maneuver.
The van was massing on the left. He saw the standard first, three black dogs on a yellow field. Ser Gregor sat beneath it, mounted on the biggest horse Tyrion had ever seen.
The left of the left. To turn their flank, the Starks would need horses that could run on water. Tyrion led his men toward the riverbank. “Look,” he shouted, pointing with his axe. “The river.” A blanket of pale mist still clung to the surface of the water, the murky green current swirling past underneath. The shallows were muddy and choked with reeds. “That river is ours. Whatever happens, keep close to the water. Never lose sight of it. Let no enemy come between us and our river. If they dirty our waters, hack off their cocks and feed them to the fishes.” (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
4. The Reserve
Behind the main line, Tywin would position himself along with 5,000 soldiers of mixed foot and horse. Ideally, they would never need to be used, but in a pinch or to win the day, this force could be deployed to bolster a collapsing flank or to reinforce the center.
His lord father took his place on the hill where he had slept. Around him, the reserve assembled; a huge force, half mounted and half foot, five thousand strong. Lord Tywin almost always chose to command the reserve; he would take the high ground and watch the battle unfold below him, committing his forces when and where they were needed most. (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
Before I move too far from the order of battle, I want to point your attention to where Tywin positioned himself. From the above quote, Tywin put himself atop a hill. Why was this important? For an overall battle commander, the high ground away from the fighting was the best place that Tywin could command and control his various elements. This was a point I brought up in my analysis of Stannis Baratheon’s Siege of King’s Landing, but it is vitally important for an overall battlefield commander to influence the battle. Placing himself in the midst of the battle would severely impair his ability to command his army.
To better help visually understand the battle, some folks from Fantasy Flight Games generated this map.
The Battle of the Green Fork
“The river!” he shouted at his clansmen as they rode. “Remember, hew to the river.” (AGOT Tyrion VIII)
Gregor Clegane was the first to reach them, leading a wedge of armored veterans. Half the horses shied at the last second, breaking their charge before the row of spears. The others died, sharp steel points ripping through their chests. (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
Tactical Victory and Strategic Defeat
Ser Addam hesitated. “The Stark boy was not with them, my lord. They say he crossed at the Twins with the great part of his horse, riding hard for Riverrun.” (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)
“How could it happen?” Ser Harys Swyft wailed again. “Ser Jaime taken, the siege broken . . . this is a catastrophe!” (AGOT, Tyrion IX)
The War to Come
“Jaime has left us in a bad way. Roose Bolton and the remnants of his host are north of us. Our enemies hold the Twins and Moat Cailin. Robb Stark sits to the west, so we cannot retreat to Lannisport and the Rock unless we choose to give battle. Jaime is taken, and his army for all purposes has ceased to exist. Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion continue to plague our foraging parties. To our east we have the Arryns, Stannis Baratheon sits on Dragonstone, and in the south Highgarden and Storm’s End are calling their banners.” (AGOT, Tyrion IX)
Tywin Lannister position was now untenable. Instead of having a great advantage in the Riverlands, the destruction of Jaime’s army put Tywin in a great disadvantage. He was now outnumbered something like two to one, and he faced two armies in the field instead of one. Additionally, there was no Lannister host west of Riverrun that could stop any attempt by Robb Stark to move into the Westerlands. Tywin could only hope that the mountainous terrain and the Golden Tooth would prevent the Stark host from ravaging the Westerlands.
More troubling for Tywin was that new threats were emerging. To the far southwest, Renly Baratheon secured an alliance with the Tyrells by marrying Margaery Tyrell and threatened King’s Landing. To the southeast, Stannis Baratheon was hiring sellsails and marshalling his forces potentially to set sail for King’s Landing.
Worst of all, Tywin no longer had a prisoner of equal worth to trade for Jaime. His grandson, King Joffrey Baratheon, had made sure of that when he had Eddard Stark beheaded in King’s Landing.
And so Tywin Lannister did something that he had never done previously. He retreated. And though defeated and badly outplayed by Robb Stark, Tywin Lannister was not finished. He would fight to the bitter end to preserve the Lannister name. Because to a proud and familial Lord, the family name and honor mattered above all.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this very long analysis of Tywin Lannister. In Part 3, Tywin will continue his war against Robb Stark and encounter new enemies. He’ll also discover a new ally and learn that sometimes pen, parchment and promises do more to enhance his strategic position than swords alone. Thanks for reading!