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The Tōhoku Sekigahara Campaign

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Hasedō as it appears in Samurai Warriors 4.

 

The Tōhoku Sekigahara Campaign are the series of sieges fought in the northern part of the main island of Honshū between the Eastern and Western Armies. The Uesugi clan sided with the Western Army and the Date and Mogami clans sided with the Eastern Army. The entirety of the Tōhoku Sekigahara Campaign was fought in four sieges: Shiroishi, Hataya, Kaminoyama, and Hasedō.

 

Before the Campaign

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi died in 1598, the country that had once knew peace was now facing turmoil once again. Tokugawa Ieyasu set his sights on control of the country, while Ishida Mitsunari fought to keep the land united under the Toyotomi. This began to divide the country, making other daimyos choose who to follow. Tensions got extremely high after the death of Toyotomi Hideyori’s godfather, Maeda Toshiiie, passed away the following year, giving Ieyasu an opening. He began taking over the Toyotomi clan just as Hideyoshi did after Nobunaga’s assassination in 1582. The problems that led to the Tōhoku Campaign started when reports were coming into Ieyasu that the Uesugi clan was preparing for war. Furious, Ieyasu sent a letter to Uesugi Kagekatsu, demanding that he come to Kyōto to explain himself. Instead, he got a response written by Naoe Kanetsugu, known as the Naoe-jo.

The letter explained that Uesugi Kagekatsu would not come to Kyōto and stated that Ieyasu’s statements about Uesugi militarization were nothing but rumors. Before Hideyoshi passed away, the Uesugi clan was given the province of Aizu for gold mines in Echigo. The Uesugi were in the process of building up their new lands, which was seen as militarization by Ieyasu. Kanetsugu calls Ieyasu out for his slander, and in return, Ieyasu declared war on the Uesugi. Ieyasu got support from those in the neighboring lands in the north, such as Date Masamune and his uncle, Mogami Yoshiaki and they moved to attack Shiroishi Castle. This was the beginning of the Tōhoku Sekigahara Campaign.

The Battles

The Siege of Shiroishi, 1600

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Shiroshi Castle today.

 

Forces: Date-Mogami (Eastern) vs. Uesugi (Western)

Causalities: Unknown

Shiroishi Castle was the first siege in the Tōhoku Sekigahara Campaign. The castle lies just south of Sendai, the Date clan’s stronghold, and was being held by a retainer of the Uesugi clan. Date Masamune made the first move against the Uesugi clan by gathering his forces and headed south to lay siege to Shiroishi Castle. The castle fell to the Eastern Army, prompting the Uesugi to rally their forces to attack the Date-Mogami alliance. Naoe Kanetsugu would be the leader of the Uesugi army.

 

 

The Siege of Hataya, 1600

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The lands where Hataya Castle once stood.

 

Forces: Date-Mogami (Eastern) vs. Uesugi (Western)

Casualties: Unknown

Numbers: 300 (Eastern) vs. 20,000 (Western)

 

The siege of Hataya Castle was the second siege of the Tōhoku Campaign. Naoe Kanetsugu took an army of 20,000 from Yonezawa and began to advance towards Yamagata Castle, Mogami Yoshiaki’s castle. Naoe Kanetsugu split his forces up between 20,000 for the main force and the second force 4,000, under the command of Honmura Chikamori headed to Kaminoyama Castle. The first stop on that advance was Hataya Castle, commanded Eguchi Gohei with only 300 men. During the defense, Gohei had a shinobi went into the Uesugi main camp and took the sashimono from a guard and placed it above the front gate of the castle, a strategy of psychological warfare. The strategy did not work, however, as the castle fell to the Uesugi.

 

The Siege of Kaminoyama, 1600

 

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Kaminoyama Castle today.

 

Forces: Date-Mogami (Eastern) vs. Uesugi (Western)

Causalities: Unknown

 

While Naoe Kanetsugu was laying siege to Hataya Castle, Honmura Chikamori took his forces to Kaminoyama Castle. The castle was held by Satoni Minbu, a retainer of the Mogami clan. Little is known about what happened here, but what is known is that the castle fell to Eastern Army, at the cost of the death of Honmura Chikamori.

 

The Siege of Hasedō, 1600

 

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The lands where Hasedō Castle once stood.

 

Forces: Date-Mogami (Eastern) vs. Uesugi (Western)

Causalities: 623 (Eastern) vs. 1,580 (Western)

Numbers: 10,000 (7,000 Mogami/3,000 Date) vs. 25,000-30,000

 

The siege of Hasedō Castle is the most famous battle of the Tōhoku Sekigahara Campaign, and it is also the final siege of the campaign. The siege was the last stop for the Uesugi before Yamagata Castle, the main goal for the Uesugi clan. Naoe Kanetsugu waited a couple of days before laying siege to Hasedō for his second force to join him. Afterwards, Naoe Kanetsugu laid siege to the castle for fourteen days, and the castle managed to hold its ground. The castle was finally relieved by Date forces, causing Naoe Kanetsugu to declare an all-out attack on Hasedō. Kasuga Mototada was the vanguard, and charged the castle, but was forced to retreat due to heavy harquebus fire. An army from the castle charged forth and then began attacking the retreating forces. This led to an almost full retreat of the Naoe forces. A small force remained behind to continuing laying siege to the castle but the battle would be cut short.

On November 5, 1600, a messenger from Yonezawa reported to Naoe Kanetsugu that the Western Army was defeated at Sekigahara and Ishida Mitsunari had been captured, and he was told to withdraw back to Yonezawa. Naoe Kanetsugu called a full retreat, with Maeda Keiji protecting the retreating army. Date Masamune got the same information around the same time and proceeded to follow the retreating army all the way to Aizu. After arriving, the news of the defeat was confirmed: their efforts had been for naught.

 

The Aftermath

The Uesugi clan fared well considering their situation after the campaign. While most clans were destroyed or placed in exile, the Uesugi clan unconditionally surrendered and pledged their allegiance to Ieyasu. The Uesugi ended up changing their name to Shigemitsu. Their lands were reduced to the just the fief of Yonezawa with only an income of 60,000 koku. They were required to prove their worth, fighting against former allies at the Ōsaka Campaign in 1614.

The Date clan were rewarded extremely for their service. They were given lands that were promised by Ieyasu to produce one million koku, however, it only produced 640,000 koku, most went to feed the people of Edo. Date Masamune relocated to Sendai in 1604 and turned it into a prosperous city. He would also fight against the remanence of the Toyotomi during the Ōsaka Campaign.

Peace came to the land once again, and both clans remained prominent in Japanese history. For the Date, it was because of their power that they held after the war. In the case of the Uesugi, the credit for their survival went to Naoe Kanetsugu, who was the driving force behind their success.