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Timeline Event

Battle against the Wainriders at the Morannon

Event Type: Military/Strategic

Age: 3rd Age - The Kings

Dates: July 12, 1944 ~ July 13, 1944

Description:

The second battle of the final war in Gondor's Wars with the Wainriders; see that entry for a description of the enemy and a timeline of the wars:

Ondoher ... had the wisdom to divide his forces into a northern army and a southern. ... The northern army was commanded by King Ondoher himself. ...

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 2, Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan: The Northmen and the Wainriders

King Ondoher had purposed to lead his host north through Ithilien and deploy it on the Dagorlad, a field of ill omen for the enemies of Gondor [1]. ... But the news of the northern assault did not reach Ondoher until the morning of the twelfth day of Cermië, by which time the enemy was already drawing near, whereas the army of Gondor had been moving more slowly than it would if Ondoher had received earlier warning, and its vanguard had not yet reached the Gates of Mordor. The main force was leading with the King and his Guards, followed by the soldiers of the Right Wing and the Left Wing which would take up their places when they passed out of Ithilien and approached the Dagorlad. There they expected the assault to come from the North or North-east, as it had before in the Battle of the Plains and in the victory of Calimehtar on the Dagorlad.

But it was not so. The Wainriders had mustered a great host by the southern shores of the inland Sea of Rhûn, strengthened by men of their kinsfolk in Rhovanion and from their new allies in Khand. When all was ready they set out for Gondor from the East, moving with all the speed they could along the line of the Ered Lithui, where their approach was not observed until too late. So it came to pass that the head of the army of Gondor had only drawn level with the Gates of Mordor (the Morannon) when a great dust borne on a wind from the East announced the oncoming of the enemy vanguard [2]. This was composed not only of the war-chariots of the Wainriders but also of a force of cavalry far greater than any that had been expected. Ondoher had only time to turn and face the assault with his right flank close to the Morannon, and to send word to Minohtar, Captain of the Right Wing behind, to cover his left flank as swiftly as he could, when the chariots and horsemen crashed into his disordered line. Of the confusion of the disaster that followed few clear reports were ever brought to Gondor.

Ondoher was utterly unprepared to meet a charge of horse men and chariots in great weight. With his Guard and his banner he had hastily taken up a position on a low knoll, but this was of no avail [3]. The main charge was hurled against his banner, and it was captured, his Guard was almost annihilated, an he himself was slain and his son Artamir at his side. The bodies were never recovered. The assault of the enemy passed over them and about both sides of the knoll, driving deep into the disordered ranks of Gondor, hurling them back in confusion upon those behind, and scattering and pursuing many others westward into the Dead Marshes.

Minohtar took command. He was a man both valiant and warwise. The first fury of the onslaught was spent, with far less loss and greater success than the enemy had looked for. The cavalry and chariots now withdrew, for the main host of the Wainriders was approaching. In such time as he had Minohtar raising his own banner, rallied the remaining men of the Centre and those of his own command that were at hand. He at once sent messengers to Adrahil of Dol Amroth, the Captain of the Left Wing, commanding him to withdraw with all the speed he could both his own command and those at the rear of the Right Wing who had not yet been engaged. With these forces he was to take up a defensive position between Cair Andros (which was manned) and the mountains of Ephel Dúath, where owing to the great eastward loop of the Anduin the land was at its narrowest, to cover as long as he could the approaches to Minas Tirith. Minohtar himself, to allow time for this retreat, would form a rearguard and attempt to stem the advance of the main host of the Wainriders. Adrahil should at once send messengers to find Eärnil, if they could, and inform him of the disaster of the Morannon and of the position of the retreating Northern Army.

When the main host of the Wainriders advanced to the attack it was then two hours after noon, and Minohtar had withdrawn his line to the head of the great North Road of Ithilien, half a mile beyond the point where it turned east to the Watch-towers of the Morannon. The first triumph of the Wainriders was now the beginning of their undoing. Ignorant of the numbers and ordering of the defending army they had launched their first onslaught too soon, before the greater part of that army had time out of the narrow land of Ithilien, and the charge of their chariots and cavalry had met with a success far swifter and more overwhelming than they had expected. Their main onslaught was then too long delayed, and they could no longer use their greater numbers with full effect according to the tactics they had intended, being accustomed to warfare in open lands. It may well be supposed that elated by the fall of the King and the rout of a large part of the opposing Centre, they believed that they had already overthrown the defending army, and that their own main army had little more to do than advance to the invasion and occupation of Gondor. If that were so, they were deceived.

The Wainriders came on in little order, still exultant and singing songs of victory, seeing as yet no signs of any defenders to oppose them, until they found that the road into Gondor turned south into a narrow land of trees under the shadow of the dark Ephel Dúath, where an army could march, or ride, in good order only down a great highway. Before them it ran on through a deep cutting...

Here the text abruptly breaks off, and the notes and jottings for its continuation are for the most part illegible. It is possible to make out, however, that men of the Éothéod fought with Ondoher; and also that Ondoher's second son Faramir ... went to the war in disguise, and was slain. ...

The concluding passage of the fully-written text gives the impression that the host of the Wainriders were about to receive a check to their exaltation and elation as they came down the highway into the deep cutting; but the notes at the end show that they were not long held up by the rearguard defence of Minohtar. "The Wainriders poured relentlessly into Ithilien," and [Minohtar] was slain by an arrow. ... The chief commander of the Wainriders then called a halt to the advance, and held a feast.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 2, Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan: The Northmen and the Wainriders

Notes
1.
At that time the forts upon the line of the Anduin north of Sarn Gebir that had been built by Narmacil I were still in repair and manned by sufficient soldiers from Calenardhon to prevent any attempt of an enemy to cross the river at the Undeeps [the great westward bends of the Anduin east of Fangorn Forest].

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 2, Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan: The Northmen and the Wainriders

2. An isolated note associated with the text remarks that at this period the Morannon was still in the control of Gondor, and the two Watchtowers east and west of it ... were still manned. The road through Ithilien was still in full repair as far as the Morannon; and there it met a road going north ... and another going east along the line of Ered Lithui. [Neither of these roads is marked on the maps to the Lord of the Rings.] The eastward road extended to a point north of the site of Barad-dûr; it had never been completed further, and what had been made was now long neglected. Nonetheless its first fifty miles, which had once been fully constructed, greatly speeded the Wainriders' approach.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 2, Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan: Notes, Note 15

3. Historians surmised that it was the same hill as that upon which King Elessar made his stand in the last battle against Sauron with which the Third Age ended. But if so it was still only a natural upswelling that offered little obstacle to horsemen and had not yet been piled up by the labour of Orcs. [Author's note.] -- The passages in The Return of the King ... here referred to tell that "Aragorn now set the host in such array as could best be contrived, and they were drawn up on two great hills of blasted stone and earth that Orcs had piled in years of labour," and that Aragorn with Gandalf stood on the one while the banners of Rohan and Dol Amroth were raised on the other.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 2, Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan: Notes, Note 16

[Note: the date is estimated based upon the message arriving on the "twelfth day of Cermië" (July), and Minohtar's death on the 13th.]

Contributors:
Elena Tiriel 7.18.04

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