Where did Jon take the wildlings
Why did Stannis win the win against Wildling?
Not really a story hole. They forget the strategic, nurturing, and material advantages that Stannis and his knights enjoyed over the ill-equipped, ill-disciplined rabble of Mance Rayder.
King Beyond the Wall didn't bring 1,000 warriors with him. He brought in 100,000. Of course, the showrunners weren't able to show 100,000 warriors, and it would have cost a lot in CGI if they'd created the effect digitally. HBO thinks a lot before showing dragons and tries to limit their looks as much as possible, since there is a cost involved in creating a CGI of one to three dragons. Now imagine the cost of 100,000 warriors.
Below is the force breakdown for Battle of Castle Black:
- 100,000 warriors burdened with women (except spear women), children and their supplies. Mostly infantry with the exception of a few riders. They were poorly armed with weapons made of bones, bronze, and stones. They had no armor or experience in facing charges from knights.
- Giants and mammoths
- ~ 100 Defenders of the Night's Watch safe behind the icy fortress called Wall. They also had the advantage of high ground. Not to mention, unlike their enemy, they were educated, trained, and disciplined. They had steel weapons and possibly armor.
- ~ 2800 Baratheon cavalry and knights fully armored and assembled 1 . Trained and experienced in warfare. They had steel weapons and armor.
Mance had devised a clever strategy to attack Castle Black from behind and open the gates for his soldiers without fighting with defenders on the wall.
The plan was particularly clever because it would be a surprise attack. Due to the courage of a night watchman, Jon Snow, the benefit of surprise was lost and Night's Watch became aware of the Wildling plans. They successfully defended their castle against a rear attack by the Wildling under Magnar von Thenn, Styr.
As it happens, however, Mance's numerical superiority soon took its toll on defenders, who were overwhelmed and exhausted due to the lack of replacements or reinforcements.
Then Stannis Baratheon came in.
Wildlings had made a critical mistake. They did not expect any help from the kings of Westeros and therefore only expected attacks from the wall. This resulted in them leaving their eastern flank unguarded.
Stannis rode off Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. He hit wildlings, many of whom were still asleep or just getting up. He successfully broke wildling lines (or whatever happened to them). Wildlings were utterly surprised and had no experience stopping a charge of thousands of mounted knights armed with steel swords and armor. Baratheon men cut them like knives go through cheese.
Wildlings should have stayed calm and formed a line of shields with spears to stop the knights, but they didn't know that because they had no formal military training or strategy. They only fought with brute force and that was their only plan.
Stannis, however, doubled the surprise and panic when his second column hit the wildlings from behind through the forest and wildlings ran for their lives.
The movement of the Baratheon Army, shown below, during a pincer attack enveloping the wildlings:
Once an army starts running, its number no longer matters. They are only flesh to their pursuers.
You didn't ask about Books' perspective, but it will help you understand the battle better than show it.
Here's how Jon described the fight in ASOS:
The free people still had the numbers, but the attackers had steel armor and heavy horses . During the thickest part of the fight, Jon saw Mance standing high in his stirrups. His red and black cloak and raven-winged helmet made it easy for him to choose. He had raised his sword and men gathered around him when a knight's wedge with a lance, sword and long ax struck them. Mance's mare rose to her hind legs and kicked, and a spear passed through her chest. Then the steel tide flooded him.
It's done, Jon thought, they're breaking.The wildlings ran and threw down their weapons, Hornfoot men and cave dwellers and thens ran in bronze sheds. Mance was gone, someone was waving Harma's head on a pole, Tormund's lines were broken.
This is what Ser Thoren Smallwood had to say about Wildling numbers in ACOK:
"The numbers would be very much against us," Ser Ottyn protested. “Craster said he gathered a great host. Many thousands. Without a Qhorin we're only two hundred. "
"Send two hundred wolves against ten thousand sheep, ser, and see what happens", Smallwood said confidently.
Stannis Baratheon should have prevailed that day because:
- His armed forces were better equipped.
- His armed forces were better trained.
- He had a successful wrapping strategy.
- His forces were all mounted and armored.
- His armed forces took advantage of surprise.
- His forces enjoyed speed and operational maneuverability.
- His enemies could not break the charge.
- His enemies had no effective weapons to break into the Baratheon armor.
- His enemies did not build trenches and stakes to protect their camp from possible attack.
- Key Wildling chiefs who were key lieutenants of King Beyond the Wall were not present at the action. Styr was killed, Tormund was captured, Orell was also killed in his human form before the battle of Castle Black.
Even if Wildlings had been able to fend off the Baratheon indictment a few times (despite their strategic and material inability to do so). Baratheons didn't have to break against the same force over and over again. They were all riders. They could strike, fall back, walk around and meet the wildlings elsewhere and wreak havoc in wildling lines all over the front. Wildlings would have to deploy and redeploy their best men all over the front, which would take a long time since they were almost entirely infantry. Until they were stationed on a new front, the Baratheons could simply tear themselves away and strike elsewhere, giving the Freefolk a happy chase. The result would only have been a victory for Baratheons and a defeat for the Free.
If the battle had taken place between a regular army from the south and 2,800 Baratheons, the outcome would have been very different. The southern army would have dismantled the Baratheon cavalry with spears and then slaughtered them because of the lack of supporting infantry in the Baratheon ranks. But the battle did not take place between the southern states. It was between the Southerns and the Notherners (Wildlings) who were completely unprepared to stop the heavy cavalry and panicked at the first sight of the Baratheon standards.
Quote from Ned Stark:
In battles, discipline beats nine out of ten numbers.
1. Based on a number of cavalry squares visible on the screen, evenly spaced between the two pincers.Stannis said four episodes earlier in "The Laws of Gods and Men" that he still has about 4,000 men in total;others must have been left behind at Dragonstone and hauled the Eastwatch baggage train overland, had no horses, etc.
Rand al'Thor ♦
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