battle on lake peipus

anonymous asked:

Strategicly speaking, Stannis situation at the end of dance was absolutely horrible. even if he defeats Ramsay, roose still outnumbers him, and has winterfells castle walls to hide behind. logicly speaking, he doesnt really have much of a chance here. why are you guys so certain then that he will prevail in spite of all of that, rather than being defeated and have his head mounted on a spike as seems far more likely?

The situation is very tenuous for Roose, actually. He’s got about 8,000 total forces, but he only has a reliable hold on his own forces, his Frey allies, and the Karstarks who have thrown in for him. All of whom total around 5,500 in total, 1,000 cavalry, 4,500 infantry. The Ryswells and the Dustins lost men at the Red Wedding and aren’t too fond of the Freys. They’re for Roose out of hatred for Eddard Stark, but they don’t have any especial hatred of Stannis, and Lady Dustin is a shrewd individual; she’ll jump ship if Roose’s is going down. The Manderlys, we know for a fact, are actively angling to kill Roose. But it’s not just the Manderlys, the Umbers have men inside the gates with the Lockes and Tallharts. The former are sworn to Manderly and are going along with his plan, and the latter aren’t likely to forget what Ramsay did to the widow Hornwood. Then, we have their plan. Roose’s plan is to have the Karstarks betray Stannis at a critical juncture, but as we learn in the Theon sample chapter, Stannis has already discovered the scheme and is using it to his advantage. Thus, Arnolf’s planned betrayal can’t fire off, meaning that Roose’s battleplan cannot go as planned. Stannis has received a local information advantage over Roose, one an experienced commander would utilize to tremendous effect.

Contrarily, we have Stannis, who has 5,400 troops, all of whom he can rely upon. His mountain clansmen and the Umbers have been preparing the terrain, digging snares which just recently claimed the life of Aenys Frey, the Frey field commander. Notably, Aenys Frey is a middling swordsman, but a seasoned and crafty tactician, and command now falls to Hosteen Frey, called ‘Ser Stupid’ for his lackluster intellect and skill at command. Going against Stannis, one of the most experienced and savvy tacticial wizards of his age.

But troops are just people, any good analysis includes tactics and disposition of forces, and we are indeed privileged that we know much from Theon’s sample chapter. Almost immediately, we know that the disunity of command prevents Bolton’s forces from using his numerical superiority to his advantage.

“The north remembers. The Red Wedding, Lady Hornwood’s fingers, the sack of Winterfell, Deepwood Motte and Torrhen’s Square, they remember all of it.” Bran and Rickon. They were only miller’s boys. “Frey and Manderly will never combine their strengths. They will come for you, but separately. Lord Ramsay will not be far behind them. He wants his bride back. He wants his Reek.” Theon’s laugh was half a titter, half a whimper. “Lord Ramsay is the one Your Grace should fear.”   

So with Manderly already disloyal, seeking to return Rickon via Davos, Stannis must only concern himself with the Frey attack force, though he does not know this yet, Manderly himself will not commit, and is notably taking up the rear of the fight, making it easy for him to bug out when appropriate. We do hear about his plans for meeting the Freys.

“Bolton has blundered,” the king declared. “All he had to do was sit inside his castle whilst we starved. Instead he has sent some portion of his strength forth to give us battle. His knights will be horsed, ours must fight afoot. His men will be well nourished, ours go into battle with empty bellies. It makes no matter. Ser Stupid, Lord Too-Fat, the Bastard, let them come. We hold the ground, and that I mean to turn to our advantage.”         

“The ground?” said Theon. “What ground? Here? This misbegotten tower? This wretched little village? You have no high ground here, no walls to hide beyond, no natural defenses.”


Yet implies that he is developing a plan, and needs one of those things that Theon mentions. He doesn’t have the time or the engineering corps to build an artificial berm or palisades, but a natural defense is something he happens to be sitting right by.

“He’s not wrong,” grumbled Ned Woods, one of the scouts from Deepwood. Noseless Ned, he was called; frostbite had claimed the tip of his nose two winters past. Woods knew the wolfwood as well as any man alive. Even the king’s proudest lords had learned to listen when he spoke. “I know them lakes. You been on them like maggots on a corpse, hundreds o’ you. Cut so many holes in the ice it’s a bloody wonder more haven’t fallen through. Out by the island, there’s places look like a cheese the rats been at.” He shook his head. “Lakes are done. You fished them out.”

Stannis is weakening the ice to feed his army. A dangerous tactic, but not an uncommon one in winter. Yet Stannis’s northern clansmen are using bear-paws, a type of snowshoe made to stay on top of the crisp snow instead of sinking deep. Even the light garrons of the mountain clans have some specially modified bear-paws to keep their weight spread out and reduce their impact on the ground. This means that Stannis’s northern troops exert less pressure on the hollowed ice than the southron Freys. Stannis is aware of the equipment of his enemies, he states that his enemies will explicitly fight him on horseback, and he is in a position to lead the Freys out to the frozen ice where it is likely to shatter under the weight of the southron knights and their heavy warhorses. A cavalry charge tears up the ground under it, and puts a lot of pressure on the earth. If a lead rank falls through the ice, it can disrupt the cohesion of the riders behind him, causing an entire unit to founder. Stannis is luring the Freys out to the ice, to sink them in the frozen lake.

In the Battle on the Ice, the popular (and dubious) legend is that Alexander Newsky lured the Teutonic Knights onto a frozen lake, where their heavier equipment caused it to sink into Lake Peipus. This battle is the inspiration for this leg of Stannis’s campaign, just as he used the ‘Birnam Wood marches to fight you at Dunsinane Hill‘ from Macbeth to further the previous segment of the campaign at Deepwood Motte.

Okay, so Stannis wins there, big deal. How do we go from there to actually defeating and taking Winterfell? This is where Arnolf Karstark comes into the picture. There’s a popular theory that the Stannis reported dead in the Pink Letter was actually a glamored Arnolf Karstark, and maybe it is. However, I always try to stick to conventional military tactics whenever possible as I have more information about the mundane facets of war rather than the supernatural realities of Martin’s world. So instead of a glamour, he can also use conventional misinformation, and again, Arnolf Karstark is our man. With the Manderly men turning, Stannis uses them to spread the lie that he was killed, turning over Lightbringer to proof this, and says that it happened because Arnolf Karstark turned traitor just at the right time, forcing Stannis into the frozen lake (which collapsed under him). Stannis will trick Roose into thinking his plan was successful, and the Manderlys will sell the Northern families on Stannis. Meanwhile, the Umbers link up and suddenly, Roose is outnumbered and surrounded by enemies. Stannis’s main forces march around Winterfell, because as we know, Stannis’s forces can get almost close enough to touch Winterfell without being spotted.

So strategically speaking, Stannis is not in as dire straits as you think, and Roose Bolton is perched quite precariously.

Thanks for the question, Anon.

SomethingLikeALawyer, Hand of the King