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Assault Moat Cailin

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You do not have dragons.  Pretend you're Jon Connington leading the forces loyal to Griff/Aegon.  You have 50k Westeros swords.   Of the 50k, about 5k are trained knights.  To this, add 10k made up of the Golden Company, for a total of 60k.  You do not have a navy and will have none to speak of anytime soon.  The north is in rebellion.  You need to attack north and take Winterfell.  How do you get past Moat Cailin? 

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Posted (edited)

The fortress GRRM describes in Dance doesn't even seem that imposing to be honest. 

Surely a battering ram with mantlets and infantry and archer support with shields could reach the Gatehouse Tower's doors and breach them. The other two towers don't even seem to lend themselves to making an effective sally, I mean at the end of the day there's a road leading directly to the gatehouse and King Robert took his wheelhouse all the way from King's Landing to Winterfell and back, it's practically inviting siege engines to be rolled up. Send your knights and men at arms with the best armour on foot to lessen the risks even more. 

Unless they can stop that siege engine with anything but arrows they'll be ineffectual. GRRM's basically described a road that is a kill zone but what do you do when they just surround themselves with shields and shielded siege engines and roll up the road. The other towers are fine, they'd be a bitch to attack but they also can't easily send men out to attack the men on the causeway on foot. Ultimately I think i'd simply try to breach the Northern passage, march the vanguard through and start preparing more siege equipment to capture the two more difficult towers on the Northern side. They might even just surrender once that has happened. 

Fortresses need to be better than being in a good position to shoot arrows at people. 

Honestly I think we need a more in depth description of the Moat. 

Edited by Trigger Warning

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Just shut off the south of the Neck with your forces and wait for the North to starve and freeze to death during the winter

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Posted (edited)

@Trigger Warning
Moat Cailin isn't tough to take because of its towers or walls, Moat Cailin is strong because of the land all around it. The show actually did a pretty good depiction of what it's supposed to look like... sort of. You can't haul siege engines or big forces anywhere near it because the ground will simply swallow it up. It's a marshland with only one narrow road going through it, and I doubt a battering ram would fit on it. I would also assume it's too far in for any catapult to reach it, either. If it hasn't fallen to anyone in ten thousand years, it's not gonna fall to Jon Connington now. 

This scenario is pretty bleak, tbh. The only way I can see it happening in a realistic sense is with ships. So if I were JonCon, I'd start buildin' those ASAP, so a smaller force can go around and attack from the north. If that's absolutely impossible to do and I had no other choice, then the next best thing is a long and boring siege to starve them out. The Ironborn that Victarion left there were ready to topple over by the time Reek got to them, and they had been there for less than a year. Those Summer Island archers the GC has can come in handy too. Once they start to weaken over time, send in small siege turtles with good fighters to take them out.

I thought about some crazy wildfire plans, like one of those horse-drawn turtles carrying some sort of secret wildfire payload that will go up once they start shooting it with burning arrows.. but I doubt it'd work. That whole place is damp stone, no wood. Nothing's gonna burn.

Edited by Renly's Banana

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Just stay out of the way. The North is not worth invading and 50k are anything but a drop of water in the ocean when compared to vastness, coldness and hard headedness of the North.

Once the IT is secured and all Southern regions had bent the knee then you'll have the necessary ships and army to try such crazy expedition. Hopefully a show of power (100k by plenty of ships) + Sansa and Edmure at your side would be enough to force the Northerners to bend the knee in a peaceful way. 

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I wouldn't, depending on the numbers. Assaulting Moat Cailin is practically suicide unless you're a Stark attempting to retake it. The causeway might just be wide enough to get a battering ram up it (and I can't stress the word 'might' enough here, it's a pretty narrow road) but even if it is, there's no way you're getting more than one ring of men around it. An attacking army is going to be pelted by arrows from all three towers the second they're in range and if you manage to make it to the gatehouse tower, you're still stuck on a narrow road, passing through and equally narrow gate, likely right into a circle of pikes on the other side of aforementioned gate. Numbers mean nothing, you aren't taking it, even with sixty thousand men.

The narrowness of the causeway makes using siege towers, catapults or any other sort of siege engine (except the slim possibility of a ram) completely impossible. Your numbers are made useless because that road forcing them to go through maybe ten to twenty abreast at best. Your archers would be firing upwards will theirs are firing down, so they have the advantage there. Then there's the small problem of the Crannogmen and their poisoned arrows and Viet Cong tactics wreaking havoc on your men from the second you enter the neck, spreading death and disease throughout your army.

No; even with sixty thousand men I wouldn't try it unless Moat Cailin had a garrison of about five hundred and the rest of the North were on the other side of the country. Even then you'd take ridiculous amount of casualties for fighting against a ruin and such a small force.

The best way to take the North would be to use as many ships you can get to land as many troops as possible on the north bank of the saltspear and have them take the Moat from the North, allowing the rest of my army to move through unopposed (and again, the Crannog's would bleed us for every step anyway)

Frankly I'd just leave them to their own devices. Forcibly subjugating them is just asking for trouble. The North hardly ever plays a part in southern wars or politics, they don't produce much in the way of food, gold or really anything else. They produce enough to support themselves, really. Whatever tax lost from not taking the North, Aegon can add on to the Lannister's in punishment for the Sack, for the death of his 'mother' and 'sister', for what they've done to Westeros and for not kneeling when Aegon first landed. It would be more beneficial to leave them to do as they wished and stay on good terms with them; maybe a marriage alliance down the road and a trade agreement. 

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Posted (edited)

I don't think it would be possible to take Moat Cailin from the South.

Eddard Stark thought 200 determined archers could hold it comfortably against an army.

An army marching up the narrow causeway which would take about 2 weeks would be constantly harassed by cranogmen, it would be very difficult for your army to rest and to supply the army and any time someone leaves the narrow causeway there are lizard-lions, quicksand, snakes and all the time insects are driving people insane. 

By the time the army has arrived at Moat Cailin it would be bled, sick, very very tired, hungry, demoralized, scared and they would be up against the 3 imposing towers. The troops would have no siege equipment and to take the towers the troops would have to wade through waiste deep black muck full of quicksand, suckholes, snakes, lizard-lions, scale the slime coverd towers and all the while the towers are pelting the army with 1200 arrows a minute.

Imagine yourself http://awoiaf.westeros.org/images/1/17/Reek_Moat_Cailin_MarcSimonetti.jpg

It is impossible but the best way to take it would be to send the well armed, trained and motivated knights riding (no need to have a large force of levies) through the neck full speed to avoid attrition and dismount before attacking the towers with pre-made nifty battering rams and ladders. 

Maybe set fire to the swamp with wildfire.

Edited by Coolbeard the Exile

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I did a summer building houses. I recall how difficult it was at a particular site to move the heavy equipment because of rain making a muddy, mucky, mess of everything. We laid a bunch of scrap wood down in paths to create a floor outside. Made a little road for the wheels on the heavy equipment to roll and stay above the mud.

So if I wanted to negate the marsh, and use a traditional siege tower approach, I expect I would cut down a hundred trees and start laying them 2-deep into the marsh on either side of the road. Turn that thin road into a 4 lane highway, and run your siege up the gut. Takes maybe a week to prep.

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5 minutes ago, shadows and dust said:

I did a summer building houses. I recall how difficult it was at a particular site to move the heavy equipment because of rain making a muddy, mucky, mess of everything. We laid a bunch of scrap wood down in paths to create a floor outside. Made a little road for the wheels on the heavy equipment to roll and stay above the mud.

So if I wanted to negate the marsh, and use a traditional siege tower approach, I expect I would cut down a hundred trees and start laying them 2-deep into the marsh on either side of the road. Turn that thin road into a 4 lane highway, and run your siege up the gut. Takes maybe a week to prep.

Problem here is transporting the tree's. Getting them into position would be a lot harder than carrying scrap wood. Plus, where would you get the tree's from? The nearest major woodland is in the southern riverlands and the tree's in the Neck are not accessible for you.

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Posted (edited)

27 minutes ago, Adam Yozza said:

Problem here is transporting the tree's. Getting them into position would be a lot harder than carrying scrap wood. Plus, where would you get the tree's from? The nearest major woodland is in the southern riverlands and the tree's in the Neck are not accessible for you.

I guess I'm assuming a major woodland is not needed for 100 trees. I'm not asking for a huge forest, and it's not as though the entire area South of MC is a paved metropolis. Most siege engines are built nearby with growth on hand. If I didn't have a plethora of trees available, I'm supplementing my supply using house materials, gates, fences, bricks, stones... heck give me enough dirt and I'll have a usable walkway until the next rainfall. The point is, I'm not marching single file down that murder path, and I'm not rolling siege engines into a swamp. My hypothetical assault would be widening the road via sinking heavy, sturdy, materials into the marsh beside the road. Good points though.

Edited by shadows and dust

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9 minutes ago, shadows and dust said:

I guess I'm assuming a major woodland is not needed for 100 trees. I'm not asking for a huge forest, and it's not as though the entire area South of MC is a paved metropolis. Most siege engines are built nearby with growth on hand. If I didn't have a plethora of trees available, I'm supplementing my supply using house materials, gates, fences, bricks, stones... heck give me enough dirt and I'll have a usable walkway until the next rainfall. The point is, I'm not marching single file down that murder path, and I'm not rolling siege engines into a swamp. My hypothetical assault would be widening the road via sinking heavy, sturdy, materials into the marsh beside the road. Good points though.

Oh don't get me wrong it's a frankly brilliant idea and if it worked you'd probably be hailed as one of the greatest commanders in Westeros. As I said, I personally would either use the sea to outflank it or just not bother because like you said, that road would just be the worst and I'm not wasting lives on it either.

I'm sure there are plenty of tree's between the Neck and the Whispering Wood, but the closest place that we KNOW there are is the Whispering Wood. Still, marching along the Kingsroad from the Trident to the Neck you'd probably find enough. Moving them still remains the issue, but if a way around that could be found then you're good; although I wouldn't recommend using dirt; the bottom of the marsh is quicksand and while a tree may hold long enough to be used, I don't have the same faith in some piled dirt.

But aside from a few flaws that could be worked around with a bit of creativity it's a great plan. So well done. 

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Find roughly 100 men in my army with the skills and disposition to sneak in. This is probably a suicide mission, so they'd need to be down for that as well (maybe set up extensive rewards for their families, I'm not sure). Have them infiltrate in waves, waiting to strike until as men of them are inside as possible.

Meanwhile, get the best engineers and siege experts in my army to outfit smaller-than-normal batterings rams, which will be light enough to not sink while being carried. At the signal (a large fire being lit inside the Moat), my men on the inside begin attacking en made, while my small rams approach the gate.

I realize this does not have a high probability of success, but I'm risking proportionally a very small number of my troop, and even if it fails will weaken them.

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9 hours ago, Renly's Banana said:

@Trigger Warning
Moat Cailin isn't tough to take because of its towers or walls, Moat Cailin is strong because of the land all around it. The show actually did a pretty good depiction of what it's supposed to look like... sort of. You can't haul siege engines or big forces anywhere near it because the ground will simply swallow it up. It's a marshland with only one narrow road going through it, and I doubt a battering ram would fit on it. I would also assume it's too far in for any catapult to reach it, either. If it hasn't fallen to anyone in ten thousand years, it's not gonna fall to Jon Connington now. 

This scenario is pretty bleak, tbh. The only way I can see it happening in a realistic sense is with ships. So if I were JonCon, I'd start buildin' those ASAP, so a smaller force can go around and attack from the north. If that's absolutely impossible to do and I had no other choice, then the next best thing is a long and boring siege to starve them out. The Ironborn that Victarion left there were ready to topple over by the time Reek got to them, and they had been there for less than a year. Those Summer Island archers the GC has can come in handy too. Once they start to weaken over time, send in small siege turtles with good fighters to take them out.

I thought about some crazy wildfire plans, like one of those horse-drawn turtles carrying some sort of secret wildfire payload that will go up once they start shooting it with burning arrows.. but I doubt it'd work. That whole place is damp stone, no wood. Nothing's gonna burn.


If Robert can take his wheel house pulled by 40 draft horses up the the causeway then I see no reason why you can't take a battering ram up. 

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58 minutes ago, Trigger Warning said:


If Robert can take his wheel house pulled by 40 draft horses up the the causeway then I see no reason why you can't take a battering ram up. 

You probably could. But you probably wouldn't fit a ring of men around it. Also the Wheelhouse, ridiculously, was pulled by forty horses in twenty side by side pairs. Which means that all we know about the causeway is that it's wide enough for at least two horses to ride side by side. So yeah, while you can fit a ram up the causeway, you probably wouldn't be able to put more than maybe a single ring of shields around it.

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4 hours ago, Trigger Warning said:


If Robert can take his wheel house pulled by 40 draft horses up the the causeway then I see no reason why you can't take a battering ram up. 

.. I would imagine the 40 horses were in pairs of 2 in front of each other. Not all 40 side by side. The weight would be more spread out as opposed to battering rams and other huge machinery. Trying to cross through when in peacetime and nobody's constantly shooting arrows at you is also gonna be easier. 

Again, if it's something that could be done, it would have already been done.

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Posted (edited)

4 hours ago, Renly's Banana said:

.. I would imagine the 40 horses were in pairs of 2 in front of each other. Not all 40 side by side. The weight would be more spread out as opposed to battering rams and other huge machinery. Trying to cross through when in peacetime and nobody's constantly shooting arrows at you is also gonna be easier. 

Again, if it's something that could be done, it would have already been done.


Which is my point about the Moat needing a better explanation. The reality is I think GRRM thinks the idea of a killzone of towers shooting arrows with no ability to sally or nothing to stop siege engines on the main road would work better than it probably would in realty. 

I'm not stupid I know the horses wouldn't be spread out, the point is a battering ram with mantlets sufficient enough to smash in the door Theon mentions in Dance would still likely be smaller than the huge wheelhouse and probably take less of a toll on the causeway than the wheelhouse would. 

Now the fortress that the Moat used to be sounds much more formidable, perhaps that turned away host after host and as it has deteriorated it has survived more on reputation. Or the Northerners holding the Northern passage. 

50,000 men would be able to overcome the defences described in Dance, I don't see how they could not if the defenders cannot sally out to take the fight to the attackers on the causeway itself to take away their numbers advantage and halt siege engines. 

Say they make a turtle like Mance does, a modest battering ram probably smaller than Robert's wheelhouse, covered in mantlets and animal hides, how exactly are arrows alone supposed to stop that from reaching the gates? The answer is they can't. Which is why basically every functional castle in history has defences designed specifically to stop such things approaching the walls as well as sally ports to attack. If Theon had at least described a draw bridge I would have been happy. 
 

In my opinion the greatest defensive advantage of the Neck, Causeway and Moat Cailin itself is that you can sit an army on the Northern side and wait for the enemy to try and march up, strung out and ineffective. 

Edited by Trigger Warning

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How about this.  Trade some of the 60,000 armsmen for laborers and engineers.  Build a road first.  It would be cumbersome and slow work having to move dirt while doing it under a moveable roof shield but it can be done.  Slowly put down dirt under the protection of the moveable shield roof and work your way to the fortifications. 

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The North is not worth the human lives it will cost to break through Moat Cailin.  I would instead put a barricade south of Moat Cailin and prevent any of the Northerners from coming south unless they bend the knee and swear fealty first.  Those who refuse will have to stay in the north.  A few months with nothing to eat and they will be too weak to defend the fort.  Then I make my move and cross.

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1 hour ago, Lame Lothar Frey said:

The North is not worth the human lives it will cost to break through Moat Cailin.  I would instead put a barricade south of Moat Cailin and prevent any of the Northerners from coming south unless they bend the knee and swear fealty first.  Those who refuse will have to stay in the north.  A few months with nothing to eat and they will be too weak to defend the fort.  Then I make my move and cross.

You think the North doesn't produce any food?

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