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Old 12-14-2003, 09:11 PM   #121
Nilpaurion Felagund
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Wait for Rumil. He'll be here with new material.
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Old 12-18-2003, 10:30 AM   #122
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I wish I'd found this thread sooner, so I'll just have to put in a couple of quick thoughts on a few things.

Going back to Dol Guldur, I never thought of it as a fortress a la Barad Dur or Minas Morgul, but just a creepy tower in the woods (Orthanc-like, I guess). I don't think Sauron really surrounded himself with an army of orcs in his "Necromancer" guise (the debate on what Necromancer meant is in a thread somewhere, I remember). I always thought of it as the classic evil wizard's tower, in the middle of a scary forest, where nobody in their right minds would bother it. I always thought the White Council just came, pretty much by themselves, and used their combined "power" (magic) to make drive Sauron out (his spirit would then slip away--wouldn't need to ride or run, because it's a spirit). I see the wizards, etc, approaching with staves upraised and whatever nasty creatures Sauron has around him, and Sauron himself, just abandoning the dark tower in fear. I don't think there would be much resistence or any conventional battle, but that's just how I saw it.

In general, I wouldn't draw too many conclusions between Tolkien's mythology-based battle accounts and military history. Orcs certainly didn't know Spanish squares, to start with. [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img] Tactics in Tolkien are confined to charges and heroic actions. A comparable era would be anglo-saxon, dark ages england, with shield walls and not much more organization beyond, "kings bodyguard around the king, the rest of you lot, spread out and look mean." Armies didn't get all that organized until the late 15th C anyway, really. In this kind of legendary battle, the presence of a king at the front would mean a hero who would hold back the enemy with his incredible valour (not that Kings didn't fight from the front even in the 15th C), so as well as inspiring his troops, his mere presence would frighten the enemy. There's a completely different set of "rules" that apply here...

Think about the Battle of Five Armies. Thorin and co.'s charge from the gate; 12 Dwarves forcing the Orcs to recoil? Damn straight, because this is fantasy, not reality. Eagle's causing terror, panic and disruption to orc ranks? Yep, and throwing them off cliffs, too. One giant bear winning the whole battle? Absolutely. Tactical organization? Not really.

But that's just what I think. I wouldn't want to stop any of you from having some fun with it! Maybe I took the easy way out because my military history is a bit rusty at this point... [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]
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Old 12-18-2003, 10:42 AM   #123
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Why do I never realise when there's more than one page! LOL! Sorry about my massively out-of-date post, there.

You guys have a great project going. I can't help making few comments...

About FingofintheBold's post, Sept 4th: 10*10*6,000=600,000 (ten times more than ten times their match) not 60,000 . That's a lot of orcs... [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img]

About Moria: I don't think Balin's men provoked the Balrog, because it seems to operate separately from the orcs, who I think just gathered (to the beat of drums in the deep!) for a while, and eventually wore down the out-numbered forces of the Dwarves. I don't think Dain was every really mad at Balin, either, he just couldn't afford to give his expedition more support--Balin knew that he was out on a limb, too, I'm sure. The Balrog was drawn to the presence of the ring and Gandalf, maybe--something more worth his attention!

As for the orcs ambushing Gollum's guards: I always figured it was a small raiding party that got lucky. Did they actually capture Gollum or just allow him to get away? I'll have to read up on that...

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 11:58 AM December 18, 2003: Message edited by: Dain ]
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Old 12-22-2003, 04:22 PM   #124
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Hi all and welcome to Dain!

As is obvious, I've managed to do very little on this thread in the past month or two, apologies for that, but work, a trip to Italy, the flu and Christmas have all conspired to keep me off the Downs. I expect to be offline well into January too.

In the meantime, please feel free to discuss whatever interests you on the 'Battles' subject. I plan to return sometime in the New Year with the first Battle of the Fords of the Isen, so if anyone has interesting points of view on the Rohirrim and Ssruman's forces, please post them!

Have a Happy Yule!
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Old 01-18-2004, 10:10 PM   #125
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I've decided on preemptive self-defense(a great word from last year... ) and post this before Rumil's wonderful in-depth look on...The First Battle of the Fords of Isen.

Because of Saruman's position, a double envelopment of the Fords of the Fords could be achieved with ease. The problem of his assault was improper disposition of his massive resources. For once the Fords are captured, it would have been impossible for the Navy-less Rohirrim to send reinforcements for the western garrison. Thus, the western army would be safe from any flank or rear attack.

The eastern army is another story. Since it is inside the boundary of Rohan, a force could be sent against it from anywhere, except along the line of the river. If the Rohirrim mustered enough force, they could encircle the troops sent on the east shore(by the forces from the Fords and the newcomers), then destroy the western division with an overwhelming concentration of men.

Had Saruman properly disposed of his forces(with a larger eastern army), he could have repelled Elfhelm's charge, or at least held it off long enough to destroy Théodred's beleaguered men at the Fords.

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Old 01-13-2005, 01:17 AM   #126
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Hi all,

as you can see by my last post, its been a while since this thread was up and running. I didn't guess that when I promised to be back in January that in fact it would be Jan 2005 ! I'm afraid that work and computer problems have meant that I've only lurked and made the odd post last year. Anyway, to those of you who don't remember, this thread started as a means to discuss each of the battles of the LoTR and Hobbit, see page 1 for details.

Our next battle on the list is the First Battle of the Fords of the Isen, 25th February 3019. This is an exceptionally well detailed battle (for Tolkien), covered in Unfinished Tales, as usual though there are some unclear aspects.

The battle was fought between the Rohirrim and the forces of Saruman, this was a prelude to the full-scale invasion of Rohan and was, apparently, fought with one aim in mind -

Quote:
Saruman had given special orders that Theodred should at all costs be slain
Why so? Well with Theoden sick and under the sway of Grima Wormtongue, Saruman believed that the only two leaders left in Rohan who could endanger his invasion plans were Theodred, the King's son, and Eomer, his nephew. Killing Theodred and discrediting Eomer would paralyse the forces of Rohan, as Wormtongue would then give the orders, potentially allowing Saruman an easy victory.

Understanding the terrain that this battle was fought over is crucial, I suggest that a quick look at the LoTR map will help! The river Isen flowed south from Isengard across the Gap of Rohan. The major crossing place was at the Fords of the Isen, where it became broad and shallow and was split in two by an eyot (small island). However, the river was also bridged at Isengard, so Sarumans forces could advance down the west or east as the fancy took them. Running east-west was the great North Road, which crossed at the fords. As the river banks were steep, the road passed through a narrow cuttting on either side of the river. On the west bank were two earthen forts which the Rohirrim held as a bridgehead and guard against the raids of Dunlendings. A road ran north on the west bank to Isengard and terrain here was open. North of the crossing on the east bank was a low ridge, then rough ground. A number of miles south on the east bank was a small hill.

The weather also had a large part to play, the day was misty, though clearing towards dusk, this allowed Saruman to deploy his orcs without the handicap of bright sunlight and also covered the movements of his troops.

Now for the opposing forces. Theodred and Grimbold had 12 eoreds, (approximately 1440 at 120 men per eored). There was also a force of the levies of Westfold on foot (maybe 800 ??) . Later Elfhelm arrived with a further 4 eored (approx 480). The eored consisted of mounted chain-mail armoured men with shields, lances and swords with light helms, similar to Norman knights. One eored was comprised of mounted bowmen ie. horse-archers. The levies were (judging by Helm's Deep) mostly spearmen, with a small number of bowmen. Probably a proportion were unarmoured, relying only on their shields.

No numbers are mentioned for Sarumans force, though it definitely outnumbered the Rohirrim. On the west side was a large force, this had a vanguard, a force of pikemen (men presumably), wolfriders and orcs. The eastern force was smaller, consisting of Dunlending cavalry, wolfriders, two batallions of Uruk Hai and a large company of armoured men and/or halforcs weilding great axes. I'd imagine that this force was in the region of 3000 strong, while the western force was greater in numbers, maybe 4 to 5000 ?? Saruman's troops carried the symbol of the white hand on their shields.

Theodred was Mashal of the Westmark, and as such was responsible for holding the fords to protect Rohan. He was expecting an invasion by Saruman but not so soon. His scouts reported forces massing on the western side of the river, so he took a powerful force of cavalry (his guard eored, 7 more eoreds and the horse archer eored, in all about 1080 men) to attack them. At the fords he left the levies split between the east and west banks and 3 eored (approx 360).

Theodred rode north about 20 miles, he easily routed Sarumans vanguard - these may have been lightly equipped Dunlending horsemen, wolfriders or simply snagas on foot. He seems to have been impetuous in pursuit, probably leading his guard eored in advance of the rest of his troops. Then he encountered the main force, this consisited of pikemen holding trenches, presumably a ditch and bank type field fortification. Horses are far too sensible to charge into pike blocks over ditches, so, unsurprisingly, Theodred's initial attack was repulsed. He was then in danger of being outflanked by wolfriders etc on his western flank but was able to repel these as his main body of troops arrived. Realising that he could not hope to penetrate the fortification with cavalry, he ordered a retreat to the fords, this was given greater urgency as the mist had cleared for a moment allowing him to spot Saruman's force advancing down the eastern bank of the Isen. Therefore if he didn't get back swiftly he could have been cut off.

When Theodred reached the fords, having been harassed all the way back (Grimbold commanded the rearguard), dusk was drawing in. 50 dismounted cavalry were left on the west bank with the levies in the forts under Grimbold. Theodred and his guard occupied the eyot, while he sent the majority of the cavalry back to the east bank.

Then disaster struck the Rohirrim. Apparently nobody expected Saruman's forces to come down the east bank, and no warning was given of the arrival of Saruman's elite force. This eastern force smashed into the Rohirrim, routed and dipersed them southwards. How was this powerful detachment of Rohirrim, (approx 1200 cavalry and a few hundred foot) defeated so easily? I think the key is in the terrain. The road led from the ford up a narrow cutting, forcing the cavalry to march in a thin column, perhaps only 2 to 4 men wide. The attack was perfectly timed to catch these men as they were in the most vulnerable formation, charged from the side by Dunlending horse, wolfriders (which scared the horses) and Uruk-Hai, they had no chance.

The western end of the ford seems to have held off the attacks of the western force. However, on the east an elite company of heavily armoured men and halforcs weilding battleaxes charged onto the eyot. These may have been around 200 or more strong and surrounded Theodred on a knoll at the centre of the eyot. Although Grimbold charged to the rescue, it was too late as his leader had been struck down.

By now things were looking bad for the Rohirrim, their commander had been killed, two thirds of the army routed and they were surrounded and outnumbered. Elfhelm now arrived to save the day, accompanied by a white standard. He had only 4 eored (about 480 cavalry), but now it was the turn of Saruman's eastern force to be charged while out of formation, many of them had pursued southwards, while the rest were attempting to assault the eyot. Therefore, with their backs to the enemy, the eastern force were routed and the axemen wiped out. Sending two eored into the pursuit, Elfhelm fought his way onto the eyot, in vain striving to save Theodred,

Quote:
They stooped to lift the body, and found that Theodred still breathed; but he lived only long enough to speak his last words: Let me lie here - to keep the Fords till Eomer comes!
Meanwhile the routed Rohirrim had fled south until, coming to a hill, they prepared to make a last stand. Surprisingly, at a horn signal, the uruk-hai drew off and disappeared into the night. Likewise at the western end of the ford, Saruman's troops drew off. They had failed in their military objective to take the fords, but had succeeded in their political objective to kill Theodred. From Saruman's point of view this was a reasonable outcome, surely the Rohirrim would now be bereft of effective leadership and their king incapable of resisting the invasion. He might not hold the fords, but had showed that they could easily be outflanked, the forces of the White Hand would be back, and in overwhelming numbers to make sure of that! Sadly this was a lesson that Grimbold had not fully appreciated yet.

From the Rohirrim point of view, the battle, while not entirely lost, was a disaster. Their commander was dead, the majority of their forces scattered and their horses lost or exhausted. Tactically they had made errors and been severely mauled. However, strategically, the delay imposed on Saruman had saved Rohan. If Saruman had taken the fords, re-inforced, and invaded Rohan immediately, all would have been lost. Little was he to know that in little more than a week's time Theoden would be re-invigorated, Eomer re-instated and the morale of the Rohirrim boosted by the activities of a certain meddling fool and his three companions, and even in his worst dreams he could not imagine that two hobbits would precipitate the destruction of his army and citadel !

Well there you have it - any thoughts on the composition of Saruman's forces, the tactical mistakes on both sides and the wider significance of the battle? Nilpaurion Felagund suggested above that Saruman should have sent his main strength down the eastern side. I'd tend to agree and also believe that no Rohirrim should have been sent to the western bank. I still can't believe that Grimbold fell into the same trap in the second battle, though we'll discuss that later!
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Old 01-13-2005, 11:55 PM   #127
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Pipe Welcome back, Rumil!

So good to see you again!

Anywhen, I have to read the materials again; I forgot most of the details about this battle. But I'll be back.

Vy ze vay, Rumil, do you know where a good detail map of the area concerned could be found? My previous post was made from mere guesswork about the terrain.
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Old 01-14-2005, 05:23 AM   #128
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Shield Mae Govannon Rumil!

Good to see you are back Ru, and with a brilliant analysis of this battle and the geography too.

The thing which initially struck me about this clash was that despite the festering schemes and subterfuge of Saruman and Grima, the Rohirrim were still able to offer and put up a vigorous level of mobilisation when the need arose. Given the four years or so of dotage that Théoden endured prior to the attack, credit for this must lay primarily with Théodred and Éomer, though the other Captains of the Rohirrim that get a mention, Grimbold, Elfhelm and Erkenbrand also come across as being highly motivated, well trained and more than able to act upon their own initiative.

The pretext to Sarumans offensive is exactly as Rumil pointed out:
Quote:
this was a prelude to the full-scale invasion of Rohan and was, apparently, fought with one aim in mind -
Saruman had given special orders that Theodred should at all costs be slain
To this end he deployed a special "company of men or orc-men...ferocious, mail-clad, and armed with axes." I wonder what race this company actually was? Tolkien describes them rather ambiguously as great orc-men in one breath then great axemen in the next, and he holds them distinct from the Uruks who charged down the eastern bank. At any rate these fiendish axe-wielders were successful in that they killed Théodred, but failed in their secondary objective of returning his body to Saruman as "Elfhelm himself...sprang up towards the knoll; and there he found Grimbold fighting two great axemen for possession of Théodreds body. One Elfhelm at once slew, and the other fell before Grimbold."
Then as Rumil states
Quote:
Surprisingly, at a horn signal, the uruk-hai drew off and disappeared into the night. Likewise at the western end of the ford, Saruman's troops drew off. They had failed in their military objective to take the fords, but had succeeded in their political objective to kill Theodred. From Saruman's point of view this was a reasonable outcome
Reasonable for Saruman in the short term, but in the grand scheme of things it must surely go down as a disasterously missed opportunity for the Wizard. Rohan may well have fallen entirely had the Isengarders pressed on in full force instead of retreating under the assumption that killing the Kings Heir was enough to demoralise the proud Eorlingas.
For the Rohirrim however, I feel the opposite view holds for the outcome. In the short term they were badly beaten, and the loss of Théodred was great, yet if anything their resolve was hardened and their military structure remained intact as Erkenbrand immediately assumed command of the West-mark. All-in-all they were far from defeated, as they never actually withdrew from the west bank or the Fords of Isen, and more importantly still - they never lost hope.
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Old 01-14-2005, 07:15 AM   #129
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This is quite an interesting thread. As to maps covering areas of battles in Middle-earth, The Atlas of Middle-earth , by K. W. Fonstad, is useful.

The numbers in Saruman's army are interesting, and perhaps somewhat
inconsistent. It does seem probable that there were 6,000 + in the Battles of the Fords of Isen. So perhaps his withdrawal after killing Theodred was necessary to
regroup and reorganize, since he had just 10,000 + at Helm's Deep. And why
would a Rohirric rout in far western Rohan necessarily have been decisive, given that the basis of a 10, 000 + Rohan force still presumably existed in central and eastern Rohan, and you would think that a considerable portion could have been mustered in the Edoras/Dunharrow area.

Also, a military error is not necessarily the same as a mistake. An example is the failure of General Ewell at Gettysburg to attack Culp's Hill on July 1st. An attack might have taken it, but given the general situation as he knew it
he was probably right to regroup and attack the next day. Similarly, Saruman
and/or his commander (not elephant-man orc ) may have felt it both prudent and militarily correct to withdraw and regroup, although of course that did turn out to be an error.
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Old 01-14-2005, 11:20 AM   #130
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Hi Tuor, you asked:
Quote:
why would a Rohirric rout in far western Rohan necessarily have been decisive, given that the basis of a 10, 000 + Rohan force still presumably existed in central and eastern Rohan, and you would think that a considerable portion could have been mustered in the Edoras/Dunharrow area.
I see your point, but I was just extending the premise that JRRT lays out in U.T, before the account of the battle he says:
Quote:
Saruman made the mistake, fatal as it proved, of not immediately throwing in more forces and proceeding at once to a massive invasion of Westfold; though the valour of Grimbold and Elfhelm contributed to his delay. If the invasion of Westfold had begun five days earlier, there can be little doubt that the reinforcements from Edoras would never have come near Helm's Deep, but would have been surrounded and overwhelmed in the open plain; if indeed Edoras had not itself been attacked and captured before the arrival of Gandalf.
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Old 01-14-2005, 06:03 PM   #131
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Hi all,

Thanks for the welcome back ! (and to Saucepan Man on another thread)

Nilpaurion Felagund, I think you hit the nail exactly on the head in your description of this battle as a double envelopment. On maps, the one in the book itself shows the general layout, but for specifics like the hills and rough ground I've used the accounts of 1st and 2nd Isen in UT and for the narrow cutting, the account of Theoden et al crossing the river in LoTR.

As to the axemen, as Numenorean said, 'Men or orc-men' and 'axemen' are the phrases used. I'd guess that both 'races' might be included in this unit, as orc-men or halforcs are also mentioned at Helm's Deep and there is the halforc-esque charcter in Bree who was spying for Saruman. Perhaps this elite unit comprised the taller, more man-like halforcs if you know what I mean! They seem to have been Saruman's most fearsome fighters.

As Tuor said, its only with the benefit of hindsight that we can spot most 'errors'. The Rohirrim evidently expected Saruman to attack at a later date. I wonder if that was his original plan and he brought forward the date of the main invasion when he realised that hobbits were around, potentially carrying the ring. Maybe it would have suited him better if Wormtongue had a few months to confuse the war effort of Rohan without Theodred and Eomer able to interfere?

Saruman's numbers and the mobilisation of Rohan are linked subjects brought up by both Numenorean and Tuor. I'd agree that Erkenbrand, Grimbold and Elfhelm were courageous leaders but I doubt if they had sufficient political authority to defy Wormtongue's commands. Therefore Theodred and Eomer were Saruman's main initial targets, either for character assassination or real assassination!

On the numbers of Saruman's troops, the numbers I've come up with here are no more than guesses really. If I recall, the only real evidence we have for Saruman's main army is from Merry or Pippin, who descibe it as 10,000 at the least. Therefore I see two possibilities-

Maybe the hobbits greatly underestimated Saruman's force. This is apparently a very easy mistake to make, though usually numbers tend to be over-estimated when you compare eyewitness accounts with paylists etc for historical battles. Untrained observers (unlike Ghan-buri-Ghan) are often 10-fold out in their reckoning. Imagine trying to guess the number of spectators at a football match if you didn't know the capacity of the stadium! Also 'at least 10,000' seems quite a casual statement. Maybe some contingents of the army (eg. the Dunlendings) didn't meet up with the army until later?

Alternatively, perhaps Saruman only had 10,000 troops, give or take a few thousand. In that case, he was really exceptionally bold in launching an invasion of Rohan when numerically outnumbered by the Rohirrim about 2 to 1, and qualitatively outnumbered by lots more, as a knight of Rohan was ceratinly superior in combat to a bunch of snagas. (Rohan had 10 to 12,000 cavalry plus a number of local levies on foot, which may have totalled nearly 10,000 according to one reference in HoME). The only way he could hope to win in that case would be to demoralise and confuse the Rohirrim, which was going qiute nicely through Wormtongue, then to strike at the main centres of Rohan, Helm's Deep and Edoras, before a general mobilisation of Rohan took place. In this scenario, Wormtongue's interfering would be absolutely crucial. What a strange thought to have the good guys outnumbering the bad guys in one of Tolkien's battles!!

Just thought I'd add a link in to an old thread with some Battles of the Isen discussion, and lots of nice info from Bill Ferny mostly on Page 2 - where is the old horse thief these days anyway?

Visualising Middle Earth

PS. Ignore all the rubbish I was talking about panzerstecher swords!

By the way, Saruman seems to have a big reconnaisance advantage in these battles - the palantir and the crebain perhaps?
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Old 01-14-2005, 08:27 PM   #132
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Boots For want of some armor the battle was lost...

One wonders why the orcs of Isengard were so stingy with their armor with regard to the Dunlendings. Well, let me rephrase that, them being orcs and all did not make them the most generous of creatures. One wonders why Saruman did not command his orcish smiths to make some armor for the Dunlendings or have them teach the Dunlendings some tricks of the trade. One of the principal weaknesses of the hillmen was their lack of armor, where in other ways they were superior fighters to the orcs. Arming them properly would seem natural. It doesn't seem that Saruman lacked the resources to do so. (Or at least I don't recall any indication of such a lack of resources).

Admittedly, the orcish armor was not the best, but in such cases some armor is better than none at all.
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Old 01-14-2005, 09:02 PM   #133
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About the number of Saruman's forces:
While it seems reasonable to think the hobbits understated the numbers (I'd picture 50,000 plus) the 10,000+ figure seems, in the context, fairly authoratative. And it's interesting to note how others fasten on that 10,000
Merry estimate (the movies and also Forstad's atlas). Furthermore, a good case can be made for Saruman having c. 10,000 or so: the limited pool of dunlendings
to draw on, the limited geographical extent of Isengard, the need to keep a form
of secrecy (remember Gandalf being bamboozled). If so, then Saruman did, as
noted above, play a remarkably dangerous game, but , as Gandalf observed,
Sauman's one real chance was to get the Ring. With that, and a strong base and devoted and highly trained army centered on Isengard, he was in a strong position, otherwise---he's toast

I really find UT fascinating, especially, the Battles of the Fords of Isen. So, if
as JRRT opines, Rohan's defense failed conceptually, what should it have done. Given that perhaps the generally preeminent role of cavalry in history is scouting and harassing the enemy, interdicting enemy movement, etc., should Theodred have positioned early warning forces both near Isengard and about the area of the fords, with infantry preparing Helm's Deep?
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Old 01-14-2005, 09:12 PM   #134
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Question

Quick question. Wasn't it the forces bound for Helm's Deep that Merry and Pippin observed? I thought that the Battles of the Fords of Isen had taken place some time before.
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Old 01-15-2005, 12:26 AM   #135
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The first one had, the second one hadn't.

I find the most curious comment in the account regards the band of Uruk-hai that chased Theodred's riders to the south after the onslaught. The Uruks vanished in the middle of the night and Tolkien made the comment that "It was not until later that they discovered whither the Uruks had gone."

I may be overlooking something very obvious (which is probably most likely) but I can't quite figure out what he means by this. I do have a pet theory though.

A look at the timeline shows that it is possible that this was none other than Mauhur's "lads" who then marched north to meet up with Ugluk. Although how Ugluk knew they were there is a matter for some speculation. It was probably in the plans, but that seems like an overly complex plan relying heavily on happenstance. Of course, then we get to the puzzle of trying to figure out Ugluk's movements, which is a pretty futile exercise. But, then again, it is just a pet theory.

Anyway, a few other general observations.

I find it very curious that Theodred's scouts knew of the Isengarder troop concentrations but failed to discover the prepared positions. That points to some sloppy reconnaissance.

I am still puzzled as to why the eastern garrison broke so easily. The garrison that Theodred had left behind had not moved and should have been in a position to receive an attack.

Also, those riders of Theodred who were driven to the south that I mentioned above had some rudiments of hardiness because not only did they return to the fords after being driven off, they returned expecting to find the enemy in position and they intended to fight!
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Old 01-15-2005, 09:57 AM   #136
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Hi again,

lots of interesting points here, I agree with Kuruharan that Saruman could have equipped the Dunlendings with armour. I've always seen the Dunlendings as similar to the 'Barbarians' who fought the Early Imperial Romans, ie Britons, Gauls, Germans and Dacians. Mostly these warriors were unarmoured, though their cheifs and cavalry certainly wore armour and they had the technology to make decent chain mail, probably its a question of economics as chainmail is time consuming and expensive to make. Maybe there's a cultural aspect too. Strangely the wearing of hats amongst the Dacians was a mark of nobility, perhaps armour was only reserved for the Dunlending nobles and not allowed to the 'commoners'? Another thing is that the armour point is based on one of Christopher Tolkien's 'Author's notes', not sure how canonical this makes them, maybe one of the 'canonicity-heads' could comment? Nice point too on the mysterious fate of the missing batallion of Uruk-Hai, Mauhur's lads sound like good candidates. will have to read up before we move onto Eomer's battle.


Ah, Saucepan Man, you're quite right, I wasn't making myself completely clear, in the second post I was considering the total size of all Saruman's forces, as the hobbits saw them leaving Isengard on the way to the Second Battle of the Isen and Helm's Deep. Tuor, I also found that Gandalf had asked Treebeard for help with 10,000 or so orcs, meaning the forces at Helm's Deep. You can usually trust Gandalf for this sort of thing, but maybe he wasn't counting the men and wolves here? Anyway I guess this will be expanded upon over the next two subjects.

I'd agree that the scouting abilities of Rohirrim appear really poor in this battle, no doubt the mist contributed, was this maybe a 'device' instigated by Saruman?

On the eastern force, I can only speculate that the 3 eoreds and the levies were stationed south-east of the ford and were carried away by the rout of Theodred's cavalry returning over the ford, who were surprsed and caught in the flank. As you say, after the pursuing Isengarders drew off, these forces showed their courage by their willingness to return to the fight. I guess the cavalry mostly survived the fighting, but the levy foot might well have been sadly massacred.

As to what the Rohirrim could have done, I guess the first thing is to 'get there fastest with the mostest', they had a powerful army and if it had all ben mobilised and perhaps caught Saruman's forces on the plains of Rohan, I doubt that Saruman could have won, even if he did have significantly more than 10,000 troops. Shows you how important Wormtongue was!
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Old 01-15-2005, 11:11 AM   #137
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Sting wow

I'd have to do some serious thinking to provide a plausable reply to this exceptional thread.
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Old 01-15-2005, 12:28 PM   #138
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Shield Dunlending Ethnicity

The Dunlendings are not the simple, unevolved barbarians portrayed commonly. If you read closely, Tolkien hints that they are descended from Black Numenoreans, the Dunedain sailed from Numenor early in its history to establish colonies in Middle-Earth. This is just a way that Tolkien shows that even the most noble of races can decline and fall.
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Old 01-16-2005, 12:00 PM   #139
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Quote:
The Dunlendings are not the simple, unevolved barbarians portrayed commonly. If you read closely, Tolkien hints that they are descended from Black Numenoreans, the Dunedain sailed from Numenor early in its history to establish colonies in Middle-Earth. This is just a way that Tolkien shows that even the most noble of races can decline and fall.
Um, no.

They were the remnants of the old race of Men that had once lived in the valleys of Ered Nimrais. They were related to the Dead of Dunharrow and the Breelanders. Note what it says of them in Appendix F under “Of Men.”
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Old 02-15-2005, 08:52 AM   #140
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumil
... I'd agree that the scouting abilities of Rohirrim appear really poor in this battle, no doubt the mist contributed, was this maybe a 'device' instigated by Saruman?

On the eastern force, I can only speculate that the 3 eoreds and the levies were stationed south-east of the ford and were carried away by the rout of Theodred's cavalry returning over the ford, who were surprsed and caught in the flank. As you say, after the pursuing Isengarders drew off, these forces showed their courage by their willingness to return to the fight. I guess the cavalry mostly survived the fighting, but the levy foot might well have been sadly massacred.

As to what the Rohirrim could have done, I guess the first thing is to 'get there fastest with the mostest', they had a powerful army and if it had all ben mobilised and perhaps caught Saruman's forces on the plains of Rohan, I doubt that Saruman could have won, even if he did have significantly more than 10,000 troops. Shows you how important Wormtongue was!
I think the Rohirrim's overall tactic was flawed from the beginning. Did they not realize Sarumann could send forces down the east side of the river from Isengard? This in itself makes the Fords somewhat indefensable. Of course this was never a problem in history, with Sarumann at one time friendly, and before that, Isengard was a fortress of Gondor.

On the second Battle of the Fords, I think a solid command structure was missing, due in part to Theoden's state of mind, and the death of Theodred in the first battle. Both Battle of the Isen were solid victories for Sarumann.
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Old 02-15-2005, 10:28 AM   #141
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Regarding the Dunlendings:

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. . . many of the forest-dwellers of the shorelands south of the Ered Luin, especially in Minhiriath, were as later historians recognized the kin of the Folk of Haleth; but they became bitter enemies of the Numenoreans, because of their ruthless treatment and their devastation of the forests, and this hatred remained unappeased in their descendants, causing them to join with the enemies of Numenor. In the Third Age their survivors were the people known in Rohan as the Dunlendings ("Of Dwarves and Men", HoMe XII).
So they are neither barbarians nor Numenoreans, but descendants of those of the second house of the Edain who did not go to Numenor.
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Old 02-15-2005, 11:02 AM   #142
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Quote:
neither barbarians...but descendants of those of the second house of the Edain
These two are not mutually exclusive.
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Old 02-15-2005, 11:07 AM   #143
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Good points people! Excellent discussion going on here. Since I'm quite a novice in military affairs, I'll stay in the wings and continue reading as these fine posts come pouring in.

My compliments to Rumil for resurrecting this great thread!
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Old 02-16-2005, 10:13 AM   #144
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Here's a little thought I have. I do hope Kuruharan and other knowlegeable military enthusiaists can expound or maybe even expostulate on it.

Strategic Comment

Cavalry of Rohan

It is in my view that despite being big men on big horses (that itself is subjective), the Rohirrim soldiers were light cavalry men on the lines of Khazar, Sarmatian and Scynthian light horsemen as well as the Sicilian cavalry during the Hellenistic era. The ways in which they were deployed as well as the weapons they used closely resembled the recorded doctrine of the three people as well as other riders from central asia and the Iranian plateau.

Heavy cavalry on the other hand had been used exclusively as a shock weapon on the battlefields to drive fear into the enemy through sheer momentum and size and hopefully generate a rout. Thessalian and later Macedonian heavy cavalry were antiquity's prime examples of lance mounted men trained to charge and overwhelm the enemy in a critical moment. The extreme example of the heavy cavalry would be the eastern cataphracts and their heavily armored successors. In any case heavy cavalry was the least flexible and most difficult branch of the mounted arm to command due to their impetuosity and low stamina.

Mongolian heavy cavalry was an exception but I do not think Tolkien based the Rohirrim on them. The battle of the Fords of Isen and the Rohirrim journey to Gondor were carried out at great speeds and the riders were battle-ready when they arrived at the battlefield - another characteristic trademark of the light horse men.

Force structure of Rohan and Its Inherent Deficiencies

If we are in agree that the generally the force structure of Rohan was based on the light cavalry with perhaps some exceptions such generals' bodyguard's etc, than the army of rohan would greatly resemble that of the Sarmatians and Scynthians.

The difference is that the two historical people were generally semi-nomadic. They lived within fixed regions but aside from burial mounts, they had no permanent settlements, as such their armies were centered on versatility and mobility as according to their lifestyle. Rohan on the other had permanent settlements that required defending (Settlement of westfold, Meduseld and Helmsdeep etc). Generally when there are fixed objectives to defend, an immoblie force is needed. Not immobile as in totally stationary but rather, a force centered on the ability to withstand impact without shifting rather than high mobility. Infantry is the most versatile branch of the armed forces and itself can be divided into heavy and light types.

Heavy infantry are classified as infantry that is able to withstand shock and deliver some shock of its own. Greek hoplites and roman legionnaires are good examples of heavy infantry as well as Swiss pikemen from medieval ages. In Tolkien's world the heavy infantry non-par excellence was the Gondorian infantry. Light infantry on the other hand were skirmishers, missile troops and lighter armored foot soldiers whose main feature is versatility and flexibility.

Of the two types, heavy infantry offers higher survivability on the open battlefield (the presence of other arms such as artillery and cavalry provide of course) whereas light infantry should not be deployed without other branches of the army out in the open but are more economical in fortifying settlement defences.

This brings us back to Rohan. Despite its achievements with the light cavalry arm, it is essential an unstable force devoid of an effective infantry. There were infantry militias of course, but they lack the staying power of well-trained heavy infantry and would be at best second rate light infantry. History has shown such outfits as totally ineffective on the battlefield and the weaklink of the army against a capable foe.

The most effective armies of antiquity from Philip's Macedonian war machine to Surenas' Parthian war host operated on the principles of combined arms. It was the job of the heavy infantry to hold while the cavalry pushed. The artillery had the vital task of effecting the above maneuvers with their awesome (hopefully) firepower. None of the three could perform well without the other. Without infantry, the enemy would flow with the push. Without cavalry, the enemy would simply pull and without effective artillery, hold and push may not occur.

The fact that the Rohirrim was lacking both infantry and artillery and possessed only light cavalry goes to show how deficient the army was. It was their fortune that Tolkien decided not pit them against an army with an Alexander or his immediate successors in his fable.

Campaign Comment

First battle of The Fords of Isen

(I shall be using Rumil's Excellent post and information for a stage by stage commentary. He has done such a fine job.)

We know Theodred mustered the troops of his own household and went forth to Isengard while Elfhelm remained for the continuing muster other available troops. This would leave Theodred with over 1400 light horsemen and over 800 militia light infantry of dubious quality for his "invasion force".

What was his primarily objective? Was it to destroy the army of isengard itself during its lax pax state of readiness? Or to lay siege and capture Isengard?"

We do not know except to speculate the the first objective was most probable and that it was Theodred's intention to preemptively assault Saruman and deal him a crippling blow. That it self is impossible since we know the great strength of the latter's army and the fact that the Rohirrim were lacking in infantry and artillery (the hold and push effect comes into play here). Even if possessing supreme skill and courage, the little force would simply dash itself to pieces in the initial charge.

Throughout the entire cause of the battle, the Rohirrim have displayed an incredible ineptitude in reconnaissance and information gathering. This was unlikely in light cavalry since scouting was one of their chief missions. It was either the Rohirrim cavalry like Gallic cavalry were of low quality and at best mediocre or to give Tolkien's prized horsemen a benefit of a doubt, Theodred knew his force was too small and hence arrayed his riders in close ranks, placing a higher premium on force security and battle-readiness over intelligence. If that was the case why did he still commence his mission? Either way, he had committed the ultimate fatal error of going into battle blind.

After scattering the mounted force of his enemy (most probably a scouting force), Theodred rode on in pursuit until he encountered enemy pikemen and ground fortifications in a narrow defile. The battlefield was then clearly an infantryman's battle. If the Rohirrim had a band of tough light infantry like Macedonian Hypasists on call, they could have been sent to clear the trenches and make way for heavy infantry. However Theodred had none of those. What he had was an outfit on unsuitable terrain against unsuitable defences and enemies. A defeat is expected.

When Theodred drew his forces back and decided to make a stand at the fords, he made the ultimate tactical blunder - committing unsuitable forces to unsuitable terrain fighting in an unsuitable manner. The Fords of Isen on either bank and on the island offered little protection for his light infantry militia of dubious quality. As commented before, I believe that only heavy infantry could hold open ground on their own indefinitely. Erkenbrand's militia were not heavy infantry and for them to hold a static line and recieve shock is tantamount to suicide. Theodred must have also ordered some cavaliers to dismount and fight as infantry. Ditto. As for the rest of the riders, they were positioned near to the static line at the east bank to act as missile troops most likely. This is a tactical error - the worth in cavalry is fundamentally maneuver and mobility. By placing them in such close vicinity as the static line, the riders have had their attributes greatly reduced.

It is in my opinion that Theodred should have traded space for time and mobility for shock. His main advantage over his enemy was mobility and he should have made full use of it. A withdrawal eastwards followed by a razed down policy could keep his enemy in check. Also when the time came the Rohirrim could adopt Sun Tzu's dictum of pinning down the enemy front with an ordinary force while outflanking with an extraordinary force. In that maneuver the center of gravity and objective of the maneuver would be the enemy's point of weakness, the one would would cause the total psychological collapse of the enemy - easily the Isen fords again.
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Old 02-16-2005, 02:08 PM   #145
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I think you are on to something here. However, I might take it a step farther.

Quote:
Rohan on the other had permanent settlements that required defending (Settlement of westfold, Meduseld and Helmsdeep etc).
I think that the Rohirrim were semi-nomadic to a degree. Yes, they had permanent settlements, but I kind of think of them as being a people who moved about some with their horse herds. I picture them as kind of in a similar vein to the cattle drives of the American West, if you'll grant me the loose comparison.

Now, admittedly, there is really no evidence of this except the lifestyle of their kin in Rhovanion back in the day, but I kind of enjoy the picture.

Quote:
In Tolkien's world the heavy infantry non-par excellence was the Gondorian infantry.
I disagree with this. Or at least I would question what your source for this is.(Ignoring for the moment what the Gondorian army was actually like because that opens up, say it with me now, "a whole other can o' worms" about what Gondor's military and defensive structure was actually like). The statement seems to me to ignore too much.

As an example of a potential example of other heavy infantry, and I realize that I am probably going to raise some eyebrows here by bucking a long held fantasy assumption, but I don't think that just because Wood Elves lived in the woods meant that they did not have heavy infantry. I point to the large numbers of elven spearmen at the Battle of Five Armies. I think they were at least "heavyish."

And, well, then...*cough* (how to say this without seeming like a homer) what about the dwarves? However, they don't seem to have fought on the plains too much.

*EDIT* I forgot the Battle of Unnumbered Tears.

Then there were the heavily armored axe-men-orcs that Saruman used...

Quote:
The fact that the Rohirrim was lacking both infantry and artillery and possessed only light cavalry goes to show how deficient the army was.
As it is presented in the books it could certainly be a bit problematic. However, if the Rohirrim would go all out for horse archers that would change the situation a bit.

(Full disclosure time here: I should say that I personally believe that a well armed horse archer was the most effective type of fighter prior to the advent of gunpowder.)
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Old 02-16-2005, 06:55 PM   #146
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A few random observations, after a note that I hope that Rumil will eventually consider broadening the subjects to battles of the First and Second Ages(especially the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, which has some interesting parallels to problems the French and Russians had in 1914 vis-a-vis the German Empire).
-----------------------

My impression is that for JRRT the Rohirrim were the heavy cavalry of Middle-earth.
-----------------------

An interesting speculation is how skilled and numerous were the archers of the Rohirrim. In the chapter "The Uruk-hai":
Quote:
A few of the riders appeared to be bowmen, skilled at shooting from a running horse.
(note a few )
-----------------------
Given that the Dunlendings were distant relatives, it seems remarkably foolish of the Rohirrim to alienate them.
------------------------
I especially like the suggestion above of "trading space for time", which would play into both the strengths of the Rohirrim and minimize a key weakness, the need of time to mass their forces. Plus, it would move the field of action into ones more advantageous, that is, open fields or strongholds, as opposed to a fairly open ford situation. (shades of Stalin insisting on defending the extreme western borders of Russia?)
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Old 02-16-2005, 07:31 PM   #147
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Hi all,

welcome to Saurreg, what a great post! As for the first one - Methinks he doth protest too much

I was going to post 'Eomer's Battle' tonight, but thought that such in-depth discussion deserved some continuation before proceeding, so Eomer will be on soon, hopefully! (You all know me far too well to believe that I am capable of committing to a specific day, month or, occasionally, year)

Saurreg raised some excellent points on the tactics and strategy that could have been more successful for the Rohirrim, I especially liked the desciption of the 'hammer and anvil' Macedonian system. Also the criticism of the deployment at the fords, the cavalry attack on pikemen and the scouting deficiency is entirely justified in my view.

On the 'heaviness' of the Rohirrim cavalry and infantry, I'd differ in interpretation, and of course with Tolkien's battles these are almost totally subjective opinions! For the uninitiated, some explanation is probably due. 'Light' troops are usually considered as those deploying in loose skirmish formations, wearing little armour and relying more on mobility than fighting power. 'Heavy' troops, conversely, are well armoured, deploy in dense formations and are expected to perform most of the hand to hand fighting in ancient battles. Obviously, there's a whole spectrum of in-betweens and much is dependent on the psychology and culture of the armies under consideration.

I'm quite tempted by the Rohirrim as light cavalry, but I think that I'm going to stick with my concept of them as akin to Norman or Frankish knights of the eleventh to twelfth centuries. Why so? Well first of all, their equipment appears similar; lance, sword, long chainmail coat and shield, with good horse. On horses, it should be remembered that the Normans' horses were considerably smaller than the great chargers of later medieval knights, and I'd be inclined to imagine the horses of Rohan to be similar 'general purpose' horses, if you like, rather than the purpose-bred warhorse. The psychology of the Rohirrim also appears to favour the dramatic initial charge rather than the 'harass them then charge them when they're disordered' sort of tactic one might expect from lighter cavalry. I would certainly agree that they did not deploy as densely as the ancient cataphracts, nor can I find any mention of them using horse-armour (though they did have stirrups). Conversely, the long ride to Minas Tirith would imply a lighter cavalry type, which may simply argue against the use of specialist warhorses as these were notoriously difficult to keep in good condition on a march, most medieval knights rode lesser horses then tranferred to the chargers only before battle. A small proportion of the cavalry also carried bows, which could be considerd unusual for a 'Frankish knight' type, but was common amongst, for example, Byzantine heavy cavalry.

On the infantry, I'm probably influenced by the Anglo Saxon fyrd. It seems that anybody who was anybody in Rohan would have ridden a horse, so these local militias were probably drawn from the 'peasantry'. Of course this doesn't mean that they couldn't fight stoutly when the time came, but would argue against them possessing good quality armour and being able to carry out the complex maneuvers of more professional soldiers. I'd see them as forming a defensive shieldwall, 'stiffened' perhaps with local leaders and dismounted cavalry on occasion. The shieldwall may not be an aggressive attacking formation but could perhaps have provided the 'anvil' to pin the opposition, allowing the cavalry to deliver the 'hammer blow' - shades of Sun-Tzu maybe? There also seem to have been some bowmen, who I would regard as light infantry skirmishers, supporting the main infantry line.

On the whole, the Rohirrim could be compared with 'settling-down' Goths. Their early leaders had Gothic-sounding names whereas by the time of the War of the Ring they have more Anglo-Saxon names. This was an intentional philological development by JRRT and I think it represents a change from a nomad to settled culture. Rohan is certainly horse country, wide open rolling grasslands, and only four settlements are named in the book. Therefore I see the Rohirrim as in transition, some aspects nomadic, some tied to the land, as Kuruharan pointed out.

I particularly liked Kuruharan's description of Wood-Elves as 'heavy-ish' and I think it illustrates a point that a well trained unit could be capable of switching battlefield tactics dependent on the situation. The elven spearmen would surely have operated as skirmishers in the forest, but could form up and act as shock troops in more open terrain if the situation demaded it. I'm tempted to think of Roman auxilia here! (btw, just to dangle some bait - LMI or LHI anyone?)
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Old 02-16-2005, 07:47 PM   #148
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Hi Tuor,

I see we cross posted a minute ago!

As for battles of the first and second ages - why don't you start a new thread? I think the 3rd age thread will turn out to be a monster, especially by the time we get to the Battle of Bywater! (I wonder how many years hence?).

Although I've read the Sil many times, I don't go back to it very often and am not as 'au fait' as I could be. If you take the lead I'm sure I'll follow on.

Meanwhile, I see we have the horse-archer reference in - I'd guess that its a difficult skill to learn so could maybe be confined to those Rohirrim brought up more in the nomad than settled tradition maybe? Of the eight (or so) eoreds that Theodred led over the Isen, one was comprised of horse archers, so that could indicate the relative proportions amongst the Rohirrim. I wonder if they were like the 'light company' of Napoleonic infantry - every batallion had some, but on special occasions they could be brigaded togther from a number of batallions where the general saw fit.
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Old 02-16-2005, 09:51 PM   #149
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuruharan
I disagree with this. Or at least I would question what your source for this is.(Ignoring for the moment what the Gondorian army was actually like because that opens up, say it with me now, "a whole other can o' worms" about what Gondor's military and defensive structure was actually like). The statement seems to me to ignore too much.
Like what, exactly? It seems (at least to my mind) that the Gondorians were quite definitely oriented towards heavy infantry.

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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
(Full disclosure time here: I should say that I personally believe that a well armed horse archer was the most effective type of fighter prior to the advent of gunpowder.)
I would disagree with this statement, and instead posit that a fully armoured knight in plate was the most effective.
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Old 02-16-2005, 10:53 PM   #150
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Like what, exactly?
Like the things I listed immediately below my statement.

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It seems (at least to my mind) that the Gondorians were quite definitely oriented towards heavy infantry.
And I tend to think the Gondorians were a more well-rounded force. I inquire regarding your source.

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I would disagree with this statement, and instead posit that a fully armoured knight in plate was the most effective.
Ahh, well fortunately this is not a matter for which we have only theoretical speculation upon which to rely. We have a grand instance of this very confrontation in history.

The Mongols shot up the heavily armored knights of Europe just as effectively as they shot up everybody else. As a matter of fact, they made the Europeans look like a bunch of blundering buffoons and the medieval European military system as a whole look (to put it gently) "incapable."

Of course, those silly Mongols did that to most everybody. Darn those well-armed horse archers.
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Old 02-17-2005, 03:16 AM   #151
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuruharan
I disagree with this. Or at least I would question what your source for this is.(Ignoring for the moment what the Gondorian army was actually like because that opens up, say it with me now, "a whole other can o' worms" about what Gondor's military and defensive structure was actually like). The statement seems to me to ignore too much.

As an example of a potential example of other heavy infantry, and I realize that I am probably going to raise some eyebrows here by bucking a long held fantasy assumption, but I don't think that just because Wood Elves lived in the woods meant that they did not have heavy infantry. I point to the large numbers of elven spearmen at the Battle of Five Armies. I think they were at least "heavyish."

And, well, then...*cough* (how to say this without seeming like a homer) what about the dwarves? However, they don't seem to have fought on the plains too much.

*EDIT* I forgot the Battle of Unnumbered Tears.

Then there were the heavily armored axe-men-orcs that Saruman used...
I based my claim on the UT whereby in notes 7 and 16 of "The Disaster Of The Gladden Fields" Note 7 stated that the Númenóreans were large of stature and when they went to war, they (the infantry) were accustomed to be fully equiped in heavy armour and weapons.

Note 16 introduced two open-field infantry arrays. The first was the Thangail which was a defensive formation used to recieve shock. The second was the Dirnath which was a wedged formation used to deliver shock over a short distance. To maneuver large bodies of men on the battlefield in the heat of battle is difficult but the fact that these people were able to implied very high training in cohesive fighting. The first formation was used to great effect in the Gladden Fields before the Númenóreans were overwhelmed by superior enemy numbers and the lack of support.

If we go by Rumil's definition in regards on the attire of heavy infantry as well as my earlier where I posted MG J.F.C Fuller's own definition of ancient heavy infantry, Gondor and its lost sister Kingdom of Arnor could thus be assumed to possess excellent heavy infantry.

Elves with long spears may be or may not be heavy infantry. In the first place we hardly knew what tactics they used and neither do we know if they were heavily armored (which also contributes to the dual shock effect). Where they able to withstand shock and did they deliver shock?

In ancient times when situations became desperate, anybody that could wield a weapon was pressed into service. Were simple craftsmen and farmers armered with hedgeforks, scythes and polearms considered heavy infantry? I do not think so.

The story of the last Alliance mentioned that Oropher and his contingent were nearly annihilated when they attacked too soon without support from the rest of the army. If we are to speculate that the armies of both Thrandruil and his father were of similar organisation, then they might imply a poor ability to withstand shock.

You might classify dwarves as heavy infantry if you must. But to say they were better than Gondorian heavy infantry is also guessing too much. I would say that given the constituent, height and reach of a standard Númenórean, Gondorian heavy infantry offers better flexibility on the battlefield. The same argument can also be applied to saruman's hybrid berserkers.
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Old 02-17-2005, 03:21 AM   #152
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Ahh, well fortunately this is not a matter for which we have only theoretical speculation upon which to rely. We have a grand instance of this very confrontation in history.
During Alexander's campaign in Bactria and Sogdiana, he did encounter a Scynthian raiding party comprising of solely horse-archers and defeated them soundly through a combination of ruse and maneuver. It is interesting to note that the linchpin of his strategy was heavy infantry.
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Old 02-17-2005, 08:59 AM   #153
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I based my claim on the UT whereby in notes 7 and 16 of "The Disaster Of The Gladden Fields" Note 7 stated that the Númenóreans were large of stature and when they went to war, they (the infantry) were accustomed to be fully equiped in heavy armour and weapons.
That is a fairly good source for extrapolation. My source for believing the Gondorians were less specialized in their military is the high quality of the Knights of Dol Amroth.

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In the first place we hardly knew what tactics they used and neither do we know if they were heavily armored (which also contributes to the dual shock effect). Where they able to withstand shock and did they deliver shock?
In the Battle of Five Armies the elven spearmen did both to some extent.

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The story of the last Alliance mentioned that Oropher and his contingent were nearly annihilated when they attacked too soon without support from the rest of the army. If we are to speculate that the armies of both Thrandruil and his father were of similar organisation, then they might imply a poor ability to withstand shock.
I don't think that proves anything about their equipment. Attacking too soon and without support is a recipe for getting cut all to pieces no matter how heavily armed your troops.

However, I do have vague recollections of some mention being made that the Wood elves were "lighter" armed than other folk. Although who they were being compared to I can't remember. I also can't remember where the reference is, so maybe I just imagined it.

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You might classify dwarves as heavy infantry if you must. But to say they were better than Gondorian heavy infantry is also guessing too much. I would say that given the constituent, height and reach of a standard Númenórean, Gondorian heavy infantry offers better flexibility on the battlefield.
The dwarves would also have been much stronger and much better armed. These would both have been true even in the days of the "height" of Nùmenórian power. (Note the clever pun, har har )

If the dwarves are not heavy infantry, then what are they?

I'm also not clear that the axe-men-orcs were disadvantaged in height, though they likely were in quality of armor.

Quote:
During Alexander's campaign in Bactria and Sogdiana, he did encounter a Scynthian raiding party comprising of solely horse-archers and defeated them soundly through a combination of ruse and maneuver. It is interesting to note that the linchpin of his strategy was heavy infantry.
Yes, but wasn't he using his own horse archers by that point? However, you do point out something I forgot to mention. By some monumental oversight I left out the staggeringly important fact that I meant a stirruped well-armed horse archer.

Imagine me making an oversight like that.
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Old 02-17-2005, 12:22 PM   #154
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
Ahh, well fortunately this is not a matter for which we have only theoretical speculation upon which to rely. We have a grand instance of this very confrontation in history.

The Mongols shot up the heavily armored knights of Europe just as effectively as they shot up everybody else. As a matter of fact, they made the Europeans look like a bunch of blundering buffoons and the medieval European military system as a whole look (to put it gently) "incapable."

Of course, those silly Mongols did that to most everybody. Darn those well-armed horse archers.
Ohhhhhhhhh, so you're a Mongol fan are you? Well,that explains a lot.

One crucial point I want to emphasize here is that full plate is invulnerable to arrows, whether loosed from horseback or not.

I disagree with the contention that the Mirkwood elves may have been heavy infantry on the basis that they were, I believe, primarily Silvan, and were therefore less likely to bear heavy armour and weapons than their technophile Noldor cousins.
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Old 02-17-2005, 01:59 PM   #155
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One crucial point I want to emphasize here is that full plate is invulnerable to arrows, whether loosed from horseback or not.
Sacre blu! It is?!! Then I must fly with all haste to my lord Constable d'Albret who is at this very moment arranging his troops at Agincourt!! I must most earnestly entreat his lordship to sound the onset!! He cannot possibly lose!!!
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Old 02-17-2005, 03:56 PM   #156
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan
Sacre blu! It is?!! Then I must fly with all haste to my lord Constable d'Albret who is at this very moment arranging his troops at Agincourt!! I must most earnestly entreat his lordship to sound the onset!! He cannot possibly lose!!!
Oh please. The French knights at Agincourt didn't have full plate, and besides that, the majority of their casualties were caused by suffocation in the mud, and the English dismounted knights and men-at-arms. The "invincible longbow" is a quaint English myth.
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Old 02-17-2005, 04:10 PM   #157
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Nice reference by Saurreg to descriptions of Nuemenorean heavy infantry tactics, though, of course they appear to have declined somewhat by the end of the third age.

On full plate armour, I think its not so applicable to Middle Earth, but anyway. As Kuruharan points out, plate armour of the 14th to early 15th centuries could be penetrated with comparative ease by arrows from experienced longbowmen. However, by the end of the 15th century, advances in metal working had led to the introduction of specially hardened 'blue-steel' armour, which was far more difficult to pierce with longbow arrows. This, however, was incredibly expensive stuff at the time and probably limited to only the richest knights. I believe that in one battle (name escapes me!) towards the end of the Hundred Years War, English longbowmen were comprehensively ridden over by Genoese mercenary knights equipped in this new high-tech gear.

Of course, soon enough the improved plate was being defeated by gunpowder weapons.

I don't think this sort (or maybe any sort?) of plate armour is relevant to the late Third Age period, though I seem to remember Elrond commenting on armour of ancient times, perhaps the Noldor had the trick of making it after hints and tips from Aule? Could explain some of their prowess in the First Age battles?

I don't particularly want to be drawn into any arguments about which troops or equipment were 'best' as these things generally depend on the circumstances. Perhaps Neurion's 'weapons and armour' thread would be more appropriate for this sort of thing?
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Old 02-17-2005, 04:36 PM   #158
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The French knights at Agincourt didn't have full plate
The battle was fought in 1415. If full plate was not around by then, please enlighten my bottomless ignorance as to when it was in use.

However, be careful. Too many more years into the future and you get into the Gunpowder Age, and my statement was specific to the ages before that really began exploding on the scene (even though by this point it was already in some use).

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the majority of their casualties were caused by suffocation in the mud, and the English dismounted knights and men-at-arms.
What difference does that make? Even ignoring the fact that I disagree with your statement that plate armor could not be penetrated, your contention is that the heavily armed knight was the most effective fighter in the whole era before the advent of gunpowder. This is one of many instances where the heavily armored knight just did not fare too well.

If you would like another instance, aside from Mongols, of the mailed chivalry of France (considered for some unfathomable reason to be the best, I think they just thought they were best) "not doing too well" look at the battle of Nicopolis in 1396.

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The "invincible longbow" is a quaint English myth.
Well, something certainly tilted the battlefields of the Hundred Years War in their favor against most reasonable expectations to the contrary for a considerable period of time.

*Cough* anyway, back to warfare in the Third Age of Middle earth...

Saurman's followers seem to have been of a rather plodding sort or Saruman did not encourage them to take initiative themselves. It is probably some combination of both. The Isengarders could have caused much more havoc had they reordered themselves and pressed an attack rather than drawing off in the first battle.
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Old 02-17-2005, 06:07 PM   #159
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Ohhh no, you're not getting away that easily.

I'll ignore your intended slight and try to state my case a little better

I should have perhaps said that the knight was the ultimate weapon on the medival battlefield, rather than saying the mounted knight.

Losing to the English at Agincourt was not the fault of the French knights, nor their training. To charge headlong through a muddy morass like that was simple foolishness on the part of the commanders.

Neither longbows nor crossbows could penetrate the best plate armor. Striking at a 45 degree angle, a bodkin-headed arrow or quarrel might dent or scratch armor plate, but hitting at any other angle the projectile would simply deflect.

Again, I say that the French knights did not yet have the advantage of full plate armor, as full plate only became availabe around 1450.

About the longbow tilting the balance of the hundred years war, I never said it was not an effective weapon, I merely said it was not invincible.

One contemporary record states that archers would be directed to release their arrows upward at a very high angle to try and disrupt a charge by knights. In this way, the falling arrows "might" just possibly peirce the armor plate in some instances, but in any case the primary intention was to kill the horses or cause them to become unmanageable through inflicted arrow wounds. Unhorsing them would, of course, make the knights slower, but no less deadly.

English longbowmen were primarily used to provide "suppresive fire" against the enemy, rather than attacking them straight on. Their primary function at Agincourt seems to have been to force the French kinghts to bunch up, making their charge less effective.

Also, according to John Keegan's "Face of Battle", the English archers were unable to stop the French knights in any case. What saved the English position was the stakes placed around their position.

Finally, simply stating that the heavily-armed and armored knights did not fare too well at Agincourt does not somehow prove that knights were ineffective, as you seem to be saying. In that instance the French knights lost mainly to the English knights, not to archers.
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Old 02-17-2005, 06:08 PM   #160
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rumil
I don't particularly want to be drawn into any arguments about which troops or equipment were 'best' as these things generally depend on the circumstances. Perhaps Neurion's 'weapons and armour' thread would be more appropriate for this sort of thing?
Oh crap. Sorry.
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