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  1. #1

    Saruman's military strategy

    When Saruman won passage of the Fords of Isen, he apparently sent his army straight to Helm's Deep. Instead, he should have attacked Edoras, Rohan's capital, and bypassed Helm's Deep-- which even he knew was a very strong fortress. Edoras was not that much further, and supply of the army was not a problem in the Westfold. I think Saruman made a strategic blunder here.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by gasconade View Post
    When Saruman won passage of the Fords of Isen, he apparently sent his army straight to Helm's Deep. Instead, he should have attacked Edoras, Rohan's capital, and bypassed Helm's Deep-- which even he knew was a very strong fortress. Edoras was not that much further, and supply of the army was not a problem in the Westfold. I think Saruman made a strategic blunder here.
    Edoras was empty by that point, the fact that Saruman was quite aware of. He also knew that the Rohirrim forces at the Fords were scattered, not destroyed. In fact he did make the only smart move available to him - destroy the main (and the only organized) opposing force.
    His blunder was in incorrectly estimating the timetable (Hornburg siege took too long) and completely overlooking Fangorn.

    Had Saruman's forces marched to Edoras, the King would've had time to reassemble the scattered muster of Westemnet (what Gandalf did in a very short time) and assail Saruman's forces on the plains giving the Rohirrim every advantage.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Egorvlad View Post
    Edoras was empty by that point, the fact that Saruman was quite aware of. He also knew that the Rohirrim forces at the Fords were scattered, not destroyed. In fact he did make the only smart move available to him - destroy the main (and the only organized) opposing force.
    His blunder was in incorrectly estimating the timetable (Hornburg siege took too long) and completely overlooking Fangorn.

    Had Saruman's forces marched to Edoras, the King would've had time to reassemble the scattered muster of Westemnet (what Gandalf did in a very short time) and assail Saruman's forces on the plains giving the Rohirrim every advantage.
    Excellent point Egorvlad - in bypassing the Hornburg to destroy Edoras, Saruman would have left his forces vulnerable to a counter-attack from behind with a better organized Rohirric force. And you have to ask yourself the question: would you rather have the decisive battle of the war for Rohan fought on the plains somewhere with the decided advantage that Rohan's cavalry provides at that point, or engage in a siege battle with a smaller enemy force holed up in a keep? I don't think Saruman chose his strategy poorly in this regard. If he had won the battle at HD, it likely would have been the knockout punch for Rohan.
    "I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend," Faramir in TTT by JRRT.

  4. #4
    Exactly. You never leave an enemy behind your lines that can still fight. And that is exactly when Saruman would have done if he had marched on Edoras. He made a mistake of course but it was not in that part of his strategy at least. Rather it was, as Egorvlad mentioned, that he left Fangorn and the Ents out of his plans. That and he underestimated the Rohirrim.

  5. #5
    All due respect, but I would have taken the knock-out blow and went for Edoras. All the rats were in a cage, locked up in Helm's Deep. That was the White Hand's mistake.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by gasconade View Post
    All due respect, but I would have taken the knock-out blow and went for Edoras. All the rats were in a cage, locked up in Helm's Deep. That was the White Hand's mistake.
    Empty city is worthless. Ask Bonaparte.
    And the cage is only as good as the lock. What would be holding Theoden in the Deep if Saruman's forces just marched past? And again, what would prevent him from joining forces with Erkenbrand and the muster of Westfold in this scenario?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by gasconade View Post
    All due respect, but I would have taken the knock-out blow and went for Edoras.
    How is taking an abandonded city the knock-out blow? A great symbolic victory, sure. But not a knock-out blow when your enemy's army is still intact, the King and his closest allies are all still living, and their citizens are safely evacuated to Dunharrow.
    "I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend," Faramir in TTT by JRRT.

  8. #8
    I think those who say he should have gone for Helms Deep are right, no point destroying an empty Edoras that's just pointless and no tactical value apart from symbolic. But, he should have held HD under siege, not tried to break its almost impenetrable defences. Starve them out, and deal with Gandalf and others when they return up, instead of being trapped between two forces. Siege and starve them out ftw

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by gonnaplaynow View Post
    I think those who say he should have gone for Helms Deep are right, no point destroying an empty Edoras that's just pointless and no tactical value apart from symbolic. But, he should have held HD under siege, not tried to break its almost impenetrable defences. Starve them out, and deal with Gandalf and others when they return up, instead of being trapped between two forces. Siege and starve them out ftw
    Starving them out would just take even longer, giving Gandalf & co. more time to muster the Rohirrim along with the Ents and Huorns? I think "deal with Gandalf and the others" is much more problematic than you make it sound. Also, with such a huge army it probably wouldn't be much of a problem to see the army from afar, so I doubt the army would be able to surprise Gandalf and others.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Meluihel View Post
    Exactly. You never leave an enemy behind your lines that can still fight. And that is exactly when Saruman would have done if he had marched on Edoras. He made a mistake of course but it was not in that part of his strategy at least. Rather it was, as Egorvlad mentioned, that he left Fangorn and the Ents out of his plans. That and he underestimated the Rohirrim.
    Quite right. Although I think it is important to note that Saruman’s original strategy involved sidelining Theoden through Grima’s corrupting influence to prevent Rohan from mustering any sort of viable defense at all, something that was working quite well until Gandalf showed up…

    (EDIT)And unlike the movies, I'm not sure that Saruman knew that Theoden had been roused before the Battle of HD began, as Grima basically started out from Edoras a few hours before Theoden and his army did, and didn't arrive at Orthanc until after the Ents were already there. Saruman didn't really have a chance to alter his strategy at that point. (/EDIT)
    Last edited by Wilros; Dec 13 2013 at 03:18 PM. Reason: Clarification after re-reading JRRT's work
    "I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend," Faramir in TTT by JRRT.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Elrantiri View Post
    Starving them out would just take even longer, giving Gandalf & co. more time to muster the Rohirrim along with the Ents and Huorns? I think "deal with Gandalf and the others" is much more problematic than you make it sound. Also, with such a huge army it probably wouldn't be much of a problem to see the army from afar, so I doubt the army would be able to surprise Gandalf and others.
    Yes, but he tried the direct assault and it failed miserably his army got wiped. Breaking a siege is a lot harder. That was his best option IMO, though ofc forgetting the Ents was the biggest mistake. He should have recruited lots of Woodpeckers and woodworms

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by gonnaplaynow View Post
    Yes, but he tried the direct assault and it failed miserably his army got wiped. Breaking a siege is a lot harder.
    A lot harder than what? His army only made it to Helms Deep and fought for a night before Gandalf & co. were mustered, I don't see what else they'd be able do in this timeframe before being overrun by Ents + Rohirrim. At least by sieging the Hornburg he had a shot at killing Theoden, Eomer and Aragorn, taking out the leaders of Men and thus striking a heavy blow against them.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by gonnaplaynow View Post
    Yes, but he tried the direct assault and it failed miserably his army got wiped. Breaking a siege is a lot harder. That was his best option IMO, though ofc forgetting the Ents was the biggest mistake. He should have recruited lots of Woodpeckers and woodworms
    Oh the siege itself went just fine. The walls were breached, the Deep overrun and the last glorious sortie of the Riders would've choked in their own blood.
    Again, Saruman's mistakes were the timing and the Ents. But for these two factors the military strength of Rohan would've been wiped out.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Wilros View Post
    Quite right. Although I think it is important to note that Saruman’s original strategy involved sidelining Theoden through Grima’s corrupting influence to prevent Rohan from mustering any sort of viable defense at all, something that was working quite well until Gandalf showed up…

    (EDIT)And unlike the movies, I'm not sure that Saruman knew that Theoden had been roused before the Battle of HD began, as Grima basically started out from Edoras a few hours before Theoden and his army did, and didn't arrive at Orthanc until after the Ents were already there. Saruman didn't really have a chance to alter his strategy at that point. (/EDIT)
    Yes that is a very good point. And I agree about Grima as well. Saruman expected to find a Helm's Deep much less defended than it actually was.

    Quote Originally Posted by Egorvlad View Post
    Oh the siege itself went just fine. The walls were breached, the Deep overrun and the last glorious sortie of the Riders would've choked in their own blood.
    Again, Saruman's mistakes were the timing and the Ents. But for these two factors the military strength of Rohan would've been wiped out.
    Yes and no. Remember that it was the Rohirrim, with the aid of Gandalf, that drove the orcs back. The wood played no part in the battle itself, only afterward did it destroy the orcs that had escaped. The Rohirrim won the battle themselves. The wood showing up or not does not change that, the only thing it changes is what happened after. They played their part of course and so they deserve part of the credit, for the overall victory against Saruman not for the Battle of Helm's Deep itself. In the end it took both parties. The Rohirrim drove the orcs back from Helm's Deep and the Ents made sure Saruman could not use them on another throw. As well as taking out Isenguard itself too.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Meluihel View Post
    Yes that is a very good point. And I agree about Grima as well. Saruman expected to find a Helm's Deep much less defended than it actually was.
    Originally yes, and that may explain the army strength miscalculation throwing Erkenbrand into the mix. The plan to clear out Hornburg was certainly in effect from the start. Saruman knew it was the only strategically strong fortress in Rohan, and he also knew it had always been a default fallback position.
    But Saruman had many eyes, spies, and not the least of all - a palantir. So he was aware of the situation with Theoden and the muster of Edoras by March 2 for sure. He was not in a position to influence the situation further of course after that (Isengard was destroyed by the next day), but the only battle plan available to him was already in motion anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Meluihel View Post
    Yes and no. Remember that it was the Rohirrim, with the aid of Gandalf, that drove the orcs back. The wood played no part in the battle itself, only afterward did it destroy the orcs that had escaped. The Rohirrim won the battle themselves. The wood showing up or not does not change that, the only thing it changes is what happened after. They played their part of course and so they deserve part of the credit, for the overall victory against Saruman not for the Battle of Helm's Deep itself. In the end it took both parties. The Rohirrim drove the orcs back from Helm's Deep and the Ents made sure Saruman could not use them on another throw. As well as taking out Isenguard itself too.
    Indeed, it was only a combination of all these factors and great timing on the part of Gandalf and Erkenbrand that saved the day. But as to the ability of his army to take Hornburg, Saruman calculated everything quite prefectly. Had Erkenbrand tarried for another hour or so the defenders would've been wiped out. Theoden's last ride was an act of desperation after all.

  16. #16
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    You guys forget elf-helm timing, he literally saved Rohan. Also Saruman tactics failed because he became the enemy of Sauron preventing reinforcements which would have made a difference in his campaign.

    Saruman like Sauron are the worst tacticians in Middle Earth.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Al. View Post
    You guys forget elf-helm timing, he literally saved Rohan. Also Saruman tactics failed because he became the enemy of Sauron preventing reinforcements which would have made a difference in his campaign.

    Saruman like Sauron are the worst tacticians in Middle Earth.
    Yea. I think they base their assumptions on how their foes would act too much on how they would themselves act in the situation.

    But if Sauron had sent reinforcements to aid Saruman, the most he could have done would be to send the Nazgûl. (they could really have a very big impact, but weren't they busy elsewhere at the moment?)

  18. #18
    Too much faith in brute force. Although Saruman did a try with the spy-thing and the ringwraiths have a good amount of negative moral impact.

    Whilst our protagonists seem to go all-in with spies and sabotage, with warfare only as second-priority and a diversion

    (save Sauron going Annatar and his trip to Nûmenor)

  19. #19
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    But if Sauron had sent reinforcements to aid Saruman, the most he could have done would be to send the Nazgûl. (they could really have a very big impact, but weren't they busy elsewhere at the moment?)
    Yep the Nazgul were busy, He could also send some orcs from Mordor in my opinion he had troops to spare at the time Rohan was attacked.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Al. View Post
    Yep the Nazgul were busy, He could also send some orcs from Mordor in my opinion he had troops to spare at the time Rohan was attacked.
    U mean send ships north and then let them march west to the Gap of Rohan? I have a feeling it would take quite a time unless he firstly would conquer Gondor.

  21. #21
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    How did one thousand Rohirrim reinforcements on foot manage to beat back so many thousands and thousands of orcs, uruk-hai, and dunlendings I wonder?
    [center][img]http://s21.postimg.org/fkjfdnggn/Ethelond_Sig.jpg[/img][/center]

  22. #22
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    Maybe Saruman just wanted the shiny shinys in the Glittering caves! Lots of peoples wants shiny stuff!
    Today is a good day for Pie.

    Do not meddle in the affairs of Burglars, for they are subtle and quick to shank you.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by ChampionSword View Post
    How did one thousand Rohirrim reinforcements on foot manage to beat back so many thousands and thousands of orcs, uruk-hai, and dunlendings I wonder?
    Let's see. The Rohirrim strength at Hornburg was about 2.000, Erkenbrand arrived with roughly a 1.000. Saruman's army at the siege was more than 10.000, conceivably up to 15.000.
    The attackers were whittled somewhat during the night. Theoden's final sortie was a morale attack as much as anything. It managed to break the enemy lines and the main force actually ran. Unassisted, the riders would've been overwhelmed eventually of course once the first shock was over. But Gandalf's reinforcements arrived just in time to surprise and flank an already panicking force multiplying the chaos and preventing any attempts to rally and reform. The arrival of the forest was the final straw presenting a presumed cutoff of any escape or even a room to maneuver.

    In essence an organized force always has an immense advantage against a random horde, especially a panicking horde.

  24. #24
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    Saruman is an example of the classic: Overconfident Captain in Sun Tzu the Art of War.

    He never used the resources of the lands he occupied, he rushed in, went for strongholds were his numerical advantage doesn't count for anything, that and his ability to make Sauron his enemy for a time, literally consted him his life. Possibly Saruman is even worst tactician than Sauron but maybe they are equally bad at tactics.

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by EddieMuerto View Post
    U mean send ships north and then let them march west to the Gap of Rohan? I have a feeling it would take quite a time unless he firstly would conquer Gondor.
    You mean the army of Mordor orcs that was actually marching towards Rohan and forced Theoden and his army to travel thrugh Druadan forest on their way to fight at Minas Tirith?

    The cavalry of Rohan was fully assembled and on the move to aid Gondor, 10,000 riders, and they saw an army of Mordor orcs coming towards them, an army large enough that they gave up on the idea of using the main road between Rohan and Gondor and used a long forgotten road through a forest instead. An army or orcs large enough that attempting to fight them head on would delay Theoden and his calavry for too long and suffer too many losses before they arrived at Minas Tirith.

    Was that the army you were talking about?
    Therina - Hobbit Guard Rongo - Hobbit Warden
    Frood - Man Minstrel Garmun - Man Captain
    Zorosi - Dwarf Champ Froodaroon - Elf Hunter
    Southern Defenders - Arkenstone (formerly Elendilmir)

 

 
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