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Battle of Osgiliath

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Note: Material on this page largely concerns information depicted in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy, some of which may be missing from or may even contradict Tolkien's writings.

Battle of Osgiliath
Osgiliath-faramir-reinf
The calvary of Gondor charging the Orc strong points in Osgiliath in Peter Jackson's The Return of the King
Conflict: War of the Ring
Date: June 20, TA 3018 - March 12, TA 3019
Place: The ruins of Osgiliath
Outcome: Victory for Sauron, gaining the crossing of the Anduin River
Combatants
Gondor Mordor
Commanders
Faramir
Gandalf
Imrahil
Madril(Film only)
Witch-king of Angmar
Gothmog
Strength
Book: 1500 Gondorian soldiers
500 Ithilien Rangers
300 Knights of Dol Amroth

Film: 1500 Gondorian soldiers

Book: 10,000 Orcs
2500-5000 Haradrim
1000 Minas Morgul Cavalry
A few Trolls, Wargs and possibly a Mumakil[Source?]
9 Nazgul

Film: 15,000 Orcs
9 Nazgul

Casualties
Book: 500 soldiers killed, others including Faramir wounded

Film: 1500 Gondorian soldiers killed[Source?]

Book: 5000 Orcs
500 Haradrim
100 Morgul Riders
1 Warg Rider
1 or 2 Trolls[Source?]

Film: Unknown

War of the Ring

Balin's TombDurin's TowerAmon HenFords of IsenNear FangornCair AndrosHornburgIsengardIthilienOsgiliathDaleLórienMirkwoodPelennor FieldsBlack GateDol GuldurBywater


"Horsemen of the enemy swept up. The lines of fire became flowing torrents, file upon file of Orcs bearing flames, and wild Southron men with red banners, shouting with harsh tongues, surging up, overtaking the retreat."
The Return of The King, "The Siege of Gondor"

The Battle of Osgiliath was a battle during the War of the Ring, and a prelude to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

History

Prelude

Prior to this, Sauron had regained all his military strength and was prepared to attack Middle-earth. He first planned to attack his most powerful enemy, the land of Gondor, where "the hammer stroke will fall hardest", but in order to destroy Gondor's capital, Minas Tirith, he first needed to capture Osgiliath, a ruined fortress-city strategically positioned on the river. Fords across the river were located in Osgiliath (half of the city was located on each side of the river) that were the only path a large army could cross the Anduin for hundreds of miles up or downstream (from Cair Andros to Pelargir). If captured, Sauron could freely move his main army across the river and to the primary target of his strategy in the war, Minas Tirith.[Source?]

The Battle

The battle to control the ruins of Osgiliath had actually been fought, on and off, for over a century since the fall of Ithilien to Mordor. A renewed offensive by Mordor to take the city had begun several years prior to the Quest of Mount Doom (several years before TA 3018), and was fought continuously after that point with occasional lulls. The forces of Gondor, led by their captain-general Boromir, engaged in fierce urban warfare during this long siege. Under Boromir's command the enemy was pushed out of the half of the city on the west bank of the river, and on a strike force including Boromir and his younger brother Faramir was able to destroy the last bridge in the city that connected the two banks of the river. This prevented Mordor's army from making an easy crossing, although the fords remained. Sauron not sending more troops to Osgiliath, but instead massing them within Mordor for a killing-blow months later probably caused this lull in the Mordor-offensive. During this break in heavy fighting, Boromir left Gondor to seek counsel at Rivendell; he would never return.

During this time, Faramir led several Ranger attacks deep into Mordor-occupied Ithilien, ambushing enemy armies moving to the Black Gate; Frodo and Sam stumbled into one such attack.

When the Great Signal from Mordor went up and another answered from Minas Morgul, the War of the Ring properly began, even though Isengard had been fighting before this and Sauron had been pursuing his other fronts. Thus, the Battle of Osgiliath was the first battle of the war in a strict sense.

While there were men defending the west side of Osgiliath, the Steward Denethor ordered Faramir to lead a force to reinforce them. Faramir regarded the order ill advised and certain to result in death, but complied.

However, Mordor was prepared. Months beforehand, the Orcs in East Osgiliath had been secretly constructing massive numbers of boats and rafts, and swelled with reinforcements from Harad they swarmed across the River Anduin to the Gondor positions on the other bank. After long and heavy fighting, the garrison under Faramir and his troops were forced to flee back to Minas Tirith, behind the Rammas Echor. Faramir himself was badly wounded in the retreat, when a poisoned Southron arrow pierced him; more severe damage was done by the Black breath of the Nazgûl. When the retreat was sure to be a disaster, the knights of the Dol Amroth sortie led by Imrahil arrived; the pursuing hordes were driven back and the garrison reached the city safely.

In the meantime, the Orcs made makeshift repairs to several destroyed bridges. The main combined army of Mordor then arrived, formed from those that Frodo saw leaving Minas Morgul, but this was "but one and not the greatest of the hosts that Mordor now sent forth": for on their way from The Morgul Vale, the orcs the Minas Morgul cavalry led by the Witch-king of Angmar had been joined with the Haradrim from the south, and a far greater host that had massed at the Black Gate joined them at Osgiliath, and the combined forces now entered the western bank of Osgiliath. More also came from the fords at Cair Andros, which was recently captured, but they would not reach Minas Tirith until later.[Source?]

Aftermath

Osigiliath now completely in the hands of Mordor, the vast army of Sauron marched from the city and surrounded Minas Tirith, beginning the siege of Gondor and leading directly into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.[Source?]

Portrayal in Adaptations

The Return of the King

For cinematic purposes, the movie version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by Peter Jackson condensed the battle and made Gondor look much weaker and unfit to fight to add to the cinematic drama and add sense of desperation. The Orcs crossed the river at night in boats, and immediately join battle with Faramir's men, slaying the Gondorians easily and brutally defeating them in battle (as opposed to the book were they fought valiantly). By morning, the Men of Gondor lost almost 350 of their men and then abandon the city and retreat in a miserable failure. The Nazgûl riding on top of their Fellbeasts killed 50 more soldiers, but Gandalf rescues them. In Minas Tirith, Denethor orders Faramir to retake Osgiliath. Faramir leads a cavalry company of the 100 remaining men and tries to retake Osgiliath, but runs into a shower of arrows from the orcs. The whole company is killed except Faramir, who is dragged back to Minas Tirith by his horse, unconscious with two arrows in him.

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