HASA Resources

Timeline Event

2nd Battle of the Fords of Isen: Overview

Event Type: Military/Strategic

Age: 3rd Age - Ring War

Date: March 2, 3019

Description:

An event in the Invasion of Westfold by Saruman; see that entry for an overview:

Table of Contents:
The Summary
The Combatants
— Attacking Forces
— Defensive Forces
The Timeline
The Prelude
The Battle
The Aftermath
Notes


The Summary
The battle in which Saruman begins to press his full-scale invasion of Rohan.

The Combatants

Attacking Forces
'Saruman has armed the wild hillmen and herd-folk of Dunland beyond the rivers....'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 7, Helm's Deep

Saruman's strength was too great.... a strong force of his best fighters, coming down by the Road from Isengard, attacked the forts on the west of the Fords. This force was... only a small part of those that he had in hand... a troop of Uruks... began to cross the Fords.... the enemy commander then threw in a battalion that had not been committed....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen

It was not yet midnight when points of red light were seen... drawing near on the west of the river. It was the vanguard of the whole remaining forces of Saruman that he was now committing to battle for the conquest of Westfold. They came on at great speed....

[Since] the Orcs were of less avail in such fighting because of their stature, fierce companies of the Dunlendish hillmen were thrown [into the battle]. But for all their hatred the Dunlendings were still afraid of the Rohirrim if they met face to face, and they were also less skilled in warfare and less well armed.1

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen

More than half of Saruman's force had actually been sent down east of Isen. They came on more slowly than the western division, for the land was rougher and without roads; and they bore no lights. But before them, swift and silent, went several troops of the dreaded wolfriders.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen


Defensive Forces
In the end Grimbold manned the western end of the Fords with the greater part of his foot-soldiers; there they were in a strong position in the earth-forts that guarded the approaches. He remained with the rest of his men, including what remained to him of Théodred's cavalry, on the east bank....

Grimbold had only a handful of archers.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen

Elfhelm however withdrew his Riders and took up his position on the line where he had wished the main defence to stand [to the east of the Isen]....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen


The Timeline
February
25
... First Battle of the Fords of Isen; Théodred son of Théoden slain....

[See: 1st Battle of the Fords of Isen]
[See: Théodred, Second Marshal of the Mark, slain]

[26]
[See: Erkenbrand assumes command of the West-mark]

March
2
... Gandalf comes to Edoras and heals Théoden. The Rohirrim ride west against Saruman.

[See: Théoden leads reinforcements west against Saruman]

Second Battle of Fords of Isen. Erkenbrand defeated.

[See: Grimbold defends the Fords]
[See: Elfhelm defends the eastern flank]

[See: Hosts of Isengard leave for Helm's Deep]
[See: Grimbold driven from the Fords]

[See: Elfhelm driven back]
[See: Grimbold retreats]

Entmoot ends in afternoon. The Ents march on Isengard and reach it at night.

[See: Destruction of Isengard by Ents: Overview]

The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, The Tale of Years: The Third Age


The Prelude
Erkenbrand of Westfold assumed command of the West-mark when news of the fall of Théodred2 reached him in the Hornburg on the next day. He sent errand-riders to Edoras... to bear to Théoden his son's last words, adding his own prayer that Éomer should be sent at once with all help that could be spared.... But Gríma... [furthered] his policy of delay. It was not until his defeat by Gandalf that any action was taken. The reinforcements with Éomer and the King himself set out in the afternoon of March the 2nd....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Appendix


The Battle
He3 came, a weary man with dinted helm and cloven shield.... 'You come at last, but too late, and with too little strength. Things have gone evilly since Théodred fell. We were driven back yesterday over the Isen with great loss; many perished at the crossing. Then at night fresh forces came over the river against our camp. All Isengard must be emptied.... We were overmastered. The shield-wall was broken.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 7, Helm's Deep


The Aftermath
[The] Second Battle of the Fords was fought and lost, and the invasion of Rohan began.

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Appendix

'Erkenbrand of Westfold has drawn off those men he could gather towards his fastness in Helm's Deep. The rest are scattered.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 7, Helm's Deep

The Riders were still in the low valley before the mouth of the Coomb, when cries and hornblasts were heard.... Swiftly a scout rode back and reported that wolf-riders were abroad in the valley, and that a host of Orcs and wild men were hurrying southward from the Fords of Isen and seemed to be making for Helm's Deep.

'We have found many of our folk lying slain as they fled thither,' said the scout. 'And we have met scattered companies, going this way and that, leaderless. What has become of Erkenbrand none seem to know. It is likely that he will be overtaken ere he can reach Helm's Gate, if he has not already perished.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 7, Helm's Deep

[Said Gandalf,] '... many fell in the battles of the Fords, but fewer than rumour made them. More were scattered than were slain; I gathered together all that I could find. Some men I sent with Grimbold of Westfold to join Erkenbrand. Some I set to make this burial. They have now followed your marshal, Elfhelm. I sent him with many Riders to Edoras. Saruman I knew had despatched his full strength against you, and his servants had turned aside from all other errands and gone to Helm's Deep: the lands seemed empty of enemies; yet I feared that wolf-riders and plunderers might ride nonetheless to Meduseld, while it was undefended. But now I think you need not fear: you will find your house to welcome your return.'

The Two Towers, LoTR Book 3, Ch 8, The Road to Isengard


Notes
1   [The Dunlendings] were without body-armour, having only among them a few hauberks gained by theft or in loot. The Rohirrim had the advantage in being supplied by the metalworkers of Gondor. In Isengard as yet only the heavy and clumsy mail of the Orcs was made, by them for their own uses. [Author's note.]

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Notes, Note 11

2   The first battle of the Fords of Isen, in which Théodred [son and heir of Théoden] was slain, was fought on the 25th of February....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Notes, Note 3

3The news was brought by the Rider named Ceorl, who returning from the Fords fell in with Gandalf, Théoden and Éomer as they rode west with reinforcements from Edoras....

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 5, The Battles of the Fords of Isen: Notes, Note 15

Contributors:
Moriel 29Apr04
Lyllyn 7May04
Elena Tiriel 9Feb05

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