Battle of the Honeywine
|Battle of the Honeywine
|Dance of the Dragons
|The banks of the Honeywine
|Victory for the greens
The Battle of the Honeywine was one of many battles fought during the Dance of the Dragons, the civil war between the greens of King Aegon II Targaryen and the blacks of Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen for control of the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms after the death of their father, King Viserys I Targaryen.
Given that Aegon II Targaryen's main supporters were House Hightower, the family of his mother Alicent, the greens assumed the lords and lands of the Reach would side with them. Instead, many of the major lords from the north and east of the Reach declared for Rhaenyra Targaryen and her blacks, including Houses Caswell, Rowan, and Tarly. Several of the Hightowers' own vassals declared for Rhaenyra, such as Houses Beesbury and Costayne. With the Reach divided between blacks and greens and Lord Lyonel Tyrell of Highgarden only a baby, his regent mother declared House Tyrell neutral in the civil war. Instead of quickly marching armies from the Reach to join with the other green armies in the north to overwhelm the blacks, the Hightowers and their allies had to slowly fight through the Reach itself. 
Following the early black victories in the riverlands at Harrenhal and Stone Hedge, Ser Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King, sent messages to his nephew, Lord Ormund Hightower, to deploy the large Hightower army to put down these rebellions in the Reach. Ormund assembled a great host and marched out of Oldtown, only to be quickly set upon by black forces. While they were far outnumbered by the Hightower army, the black forces faced them from multiple directions, and used harassment tactics to slow their advance. Alan Tarly and Alan Beesbury (the "Two Alans") joined forces to raid Ormund's camps day and night, kill his scouts, and set fires in his line of march. Farther south, Lord Owen Costayne came up from Three Towers to harass the Hightowers' baggage train in their rear. These hit-and-run attacks from multiple directions lasted for several months, but the Hightowers failed to pin down the rebels.
By late 129 AC, worse news reached Ormund that a large host equal in size to his own was descending from north of the Mander, led by Thaddeus Rowan, Lord of Goldengrove. (The host apparently consisted of the combined strength of the Rowans, Caswells, and other blacks in the northern Reach). Faced with enemies in front and behind, rather than advance Ormund decided to halt and camp in a defensive position along the Honeywine. He remained there for several weeks, while sending messages to King's Landing urging Aegon II and his brother Aemond Targaryen to send one of their dragons to aid them. However, Aegon II had been badly injured at the Battle of Rook's Rest, and the hot-heated Aemond decided that the greatest threat was from his uncle Daemon Targaryen at Harrenhal, so he ignored Ormund's calls for aid and took Vhagar with his remaining army north into the riverlands.
The Hightower army left Oldtown soon after the war began in the riverlands, around mid-129 AC, while Ormund halted his advance soon after the Battle of Rook's Rest in late 129 AC. Rowan's army reached the Honeywine roughly three weeks into the new year 130 AC ("a fortnight" after the Battle of the Gullet, which took place on the fifth day of 130 AC).
In the third week of the year 130 AC, Ormund Hightower's army was caught between two armies while backed against the banks of the Honeywine. From the northeast, Lord Thaddeus Rowan and Tom Flowers, the Bastard of Bitterbridge, came in with a large host of mounted knights. Ser Alan Beesbury, Lord Alan Tarly, and Lord Owen Costayne joined their smaller forces together and attacked the Hightowers from behind, cutting off their retreat south to Oldtown.
Attacked from the front and the rear, Lord Hightower's lines were starting to crumble, and defeat seemed all but a foregone conclusion. Just then, a massive shadow appeared in the sky above them, Prince Daeron Targaryen on his dragon, Tessarion. It was then that the battle turned to the favor of Aegon II's forces, and the rout was underway with heavy losses in the retreat.
Tom Flowers was killed in the battle, and Lord Owen Costayne was mortally wounded by Jon Roxton wielding the Valyrian steel sword Orphan-Maker. Both Alan Tarly and Alan Beesbury were taken captive. The only black commander who managed to escape was Thaddeus Rowan, who retreated north with the remains of his host.
The battle was a significant blow to the blacks, ending their offensive operations in the Reach. In addition to their armies being destroyed, most of the major black commanders in the Reach were either killed or captured in the battle. Thaddeus Rowan was the only exception, though he also apparently bent the knee several months later.
Following only a fortnight after the devastating Battle of the Gullet, Lord Bar Emmon suggested that the time had come for a negotiated peace. Instead, the recent tragedies pushed Rhaenyra Targaryen to make a risky strike on King's Landing itself, as Daemon's strategic plan had lured Aemond and most of the city's defenders into the riverlands.
Daeron Targaryen was hailed as a hero that day, and knighted by Lord Ormund Hightower with the Valyrian steel longsword, Vigilance. Daeron was first called "Daeron the Daring" after the battle, though Daeron modestly said Tessarion was the true hero of the battle.
The battle did, however, succeed in slowing the advance of the large Hightower army, indirectly preventing the greens in the Reach from aiding the greens to the north. The westerlands' armies were annihilated in the Battle by the Lakeshore, while the green armies from the crownlands were destroyed in the Butcher's Ball.
With young Tessarion now joining the Hightower army, none of the remaining blacks in the Reach could stand against them. Lord Ormund and Prince Daeron enforced the submission of the Rowans of Goldengrove, the Oakhearts of Old Oak, and the lords of the Shield Islands. The Hightower army spent the next months slowly advancing up the Roseroad, smashing any black forces that attempted to harass them. Daeron on Tessarion proved invaluable in scouting ahead of the main host from the air, to give them advance warning of enemy traps and ambushes.
Lord Hightower left Oldtown with 1,000 knights, 1,000 archers, 3,000 men-at-arms, and "untold thousands" of sellswords, freeriders, camp followers, and feudal levies. According to Grand Maester Munkun, the Hightower host numbered nearly 20,000 later on at the First Battle of Tumbleton, with almost a tenth of that number being composed of mounted knights. It is unclear, however, how well this reflects the size of the original Hightower host: they took significant losses before Tessarion joined them, but it is also stated that the Hightower army added forces from lords who bent the knee along the way.
It's possible that quite a substantial proportion of the Hightower host that left Oldtown were mercenaries and feudal levies that Gyldayn simply glossed over. The historian also described the Battle at Rook's Rest by saying that Aegon II and Criston Cole had about 600 knights and men-at-arms, but also "thrice as many" mercenaries. The same one-to-three ratio might hold for the Hightower army: a core of 5,000 regular soldiers, and another 15,000 mercenaries and levies. It's possible that any defeated lords pressed into joining the Hightower host along the way simply evened out with prior losses they took on the campaign.