Battle of Osgiliath (disambiguation)
The battle was a prelude to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Prior to this, Sauron had regained all his military stength and was prepared to attack Middle-earth. He first planned to attack his most powerful enemy, the land of Gondor, where "the hammer will fall hardest". But in order to destroy Gondor's capital, Minas Tirith, he first needed to capture Osgiliath, a 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.
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. This lull in the Mordor-offensive was probably caused by Sauron not sending more troops to Osgiliath, but instead massing them within Mordor for a killing-blow months later. During this break in heavy fighting Boromir left Gondor to seek consul 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 proper began (although Isengard had been fighting before this and Sauron had been pursing 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 II ordered Faramir to lead a force to reinforce them. However, Mordor was prepared. Months beforehand, the Orcs in East Osgiliath had been secetly contructing massive numbers of boats and rafts, and swelled by reinforcements they swarmed across the River Anduin to the Gondorian 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. 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": a far greater host that had massed at the Black Gate joined them at Osgiliath, and the combined forces now entired 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.
Osigiliath now completely in the hands of Mordor, the vast army of Sauron marched from the city and surrouned Minas Tirith, beginning the siege of Gondor and leading directly into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
For cinematic purposes, the movie-version of The Return of the King by Peter Jackson condensed the battle. (In the book, Denethor did not order Faramir on a suicidal cavalry charge against Osgiliath, although Faramir did regard the order to go to help defend Osgiliath ill-advised and certain to result in death.)