Siege of Ueda, 1600

Ueda Castle

Forces: Sanada (Western Army) vs. Tokugawa (Eastern Army)

Numbers: 2,000 (Sanada)/38,000 (Tokugawa)

Casualties: Unknown

The Siege of Ueda was a battle that took place just days before the Battle of Sekigahara, which took place on October 21, 1600. The battle was fought between the Sanada clan, at least the part of the clan that sided with the Western Army and the Tokugawa led by Tokugawa Hidetada, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s third son. This battle could have changed the tide of the Battle of Sekigahara had it not been for Kobayakawa Hideaki’s betrayal to the Eastern Army.

Before the Siege

In September 1598, Toyotomi Hideyoshi passed away, leaving only a five year old, Hideyori, behind as his heir. Tensions began to rise with those who were left in charge of the Toyotomi clan. Daimyō began taking sides, with some siding with Ishida Mitsunari or Tokugawa Ieyasu. Not only did division happen within the country, but within some clans as well. The most famous clan division was within the Sanada clan.

Not long after the death of Oda Nobunaga, the Sanada clan found themselves at war with the Tokugawa after they betrayed them and joined the Uesugi clan, which put them under the service of the Toyotomi clan. Sanada Masayuki, the head of the clan, had a rocky relationship with Ieyasu, but not so much of one to marry his son, Sanada Nobuyuki, off to Ieyasu’s adopted daughter, Komatsuhime (sometimes known as Inahime), which tied the Sanada clan to the Tokugawa clan. Not only that, but Sanada Yukimura married Chikurin-in, who was an adopted daughter of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, which also tied the Sanada clan to the Toyotomi.(1) While this put the Sanada clan in good standing, it would eventually lead to the divide in the Sanada due to their split allegiances.

When problems began brewing in 1598, Sanada Masayuki knew what he had to do. Nobuyuki, who was tied to the Tokugawa clan by marriage remained with his new family, siding with the Eastern Army. Masayuki and Yukimura on the other hand remained with the Toyotomi clan, serving the Western Army the best they could from their home castle of Ueda. This was done in order to ensure the survival of the Sanada clan at the end of the Sekigahara Campaign.(2) This was a gamble considering that the survival of the Sanada clan relied on either Yukimura or Nobuyuki being alive at the end of battles, which is always an uncertainty in war.

Ueda Castle was not even a target for the Eastern Army during the Sekigahara Campaign. While the main force of Ieyasu’s Army took the Tōkaidō Road to get to Sekigahara, Tokugawa Hidetada and his army of 38,000 took the Nakasendō Road to head to Sekigahara, and Ueda Castle happened to be on that road. Instead of bypassing the castle and taking the army to Sekigahara, Hidetada decided that he would try to overrun the Sanada stronghold.(3)

Before this siege took place, Masayuki and Yukimura stopped at Numata Castle, where Komatsuhime was residing. Masayuki told her that he would like to see his grandchildren, but she met him at the gate in full armor and told him that though Masayuki was her father-in-law, due to the circumstances, she would not allow him into the castle to see them.(4)Masayuki and Yukimura left and rested at Shōkaku-ji, but while there, they were surprised when Komatsuhime showed up with her children, honoring Masayuki’s wish.(5)

The Siege

Ueda Castle in Spring

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of details available to us for how this siege went down. We do that the Tokugawa Army began laying siege to the castle on October 12, 1600.(6) It is unknown why Hidetada decided to make the detour to Ueda. Perhaps he thought he would be able to overrun the castle, which was only defended with 2,000 men verses his army of 38,000. Perhaps he thought by using the division within the Sanada clan, he might get Sanada to surrender by using Nobuyuki as a messenger.(7) None of these things panned out for Hidetada as the father and son duo did not budge. Masayuki even coordinated with Komatsuhime to remove the members of the Sanada family that were civilians and brought them to Numata Castle.(8) All that is known about this siege is that the Sanada defenders fought fiercely against their attackers.(9) Realizing that the castle was not going to fall and fearing that they had wasted too much time, Hidetada abandoned the siege on October 16, 1600, resuming their march to Sekigahara.(10) It seemed to the Sanada in the Western Army that they had won.

Aftermath

Parade at the Ueda Sanada Festival

When the Battle of Sekigahara began in the morning hours of October 21, 1600, the Eastern Army slightly outnumbered the Western Army, however, the Western Army did have a better position on the battlefield. Hidetada’s delayed arrival meant a lack of men and other resources and supplies they would need to ultimately secure a victory. With the betrayal of Kobayakawa Hideaki to the Eastern Army, this turned the tide of the battle and ultimately led to victory for Ieyasu and the Eastern Army. Hidetada’s army arrived after the battle had ended and Ieyasu was so furious at his son’s late arrival that he would not see Hidetada right away.(11)

Sanada Masayuki and Sanada Yukimura were originally sentenced to death after the Battle of Sekigahara, but Sanada Nobuyuki and his father-in-law, Honda Tadakatsu, pleaded for their lives to be spared. They managed to win over Ieyasu and Masayuki and Yukimura were sent into exile at Mount Koya.(12) Komatsuhime would bring supplies to the exiled men every now and again.(13) Masayuki would die in exile due to illness in 1611, while Yukimura would escape and fight for the Toyotomi one last time in the Sieges of Ōsaka Castle, finally dying on the field of battle on June 3, 1615.(14)

Sanada Nobuyuki was able to keep the Sanada clan alive after the Battle of Sekigahara since he served the Eastern Army well. He was given the Sanada family castle of Ueda only to be told to destroy it. He would comply with the demand after he had settled into the nearby castle of Matsuhiro. The castle would not be rebuilt until 1622.(15) Nobuyuki lived an extremely long life, passing away on November 12, 1658 at the age of ninety-two.(16)

The Siege at Ueda could have been a costly battle for the Eastern Army. Had Hidetada gone straight on to Sekigahara, we would not be talking about the siege of Ueda today and Sekigahara would might have been a lot different as well. In what ways, I cannot say. The Siege of Ueda is not studied enough by Japanese historians for there is a lot of information that is lacking. What were Masayuki’s reasons for siding with the Toyotomi? What happened at the siege if anything? Why did Hidetada decide to take on the Sanada at Ueda? There are a lot of unanswered questions from this siege and maybe some of these answers can be found in Japanese sources. Until the day comes when I can read Japanese and find out if there is anything missing, this is all we have on one of the most influential sieges during the whole of the Sekigahara Campaign.

Sources

  1. “Ueda Castle”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ueda_Castle, last visited 9/1/2021
  2. “Sanada Masayuki”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanada_Masayuki, last visited 9/1/2021
  3. “Ueda Castle (Nagano Prefecture)”. https://samurai-world.com/ueda-castle/, last visited 9/1/2021
  4. Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Women 1184-1877 (2014), pp. 48-49
  5. “Komatsuhime”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komatsuhime, last visited 9/1/2021
  6. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 90
  7. “The Battle of Ueda”. https://www.japanese-wiki-corpus.org/history/The%20Battle%20of%20Ueda.html, last visited 9/1/2021
  8. Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Women 1184-1877 (2014), pp. 49-50
  9. Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai Sourcebook (2000), pp. 250-251
  10. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 90
  11. Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Women 1184-1877 (2014), p. 50
  12. “The Battle of Ueda”. https://www.japanese-wiki-corpus.org/history/The%20Battle%20of%20Ueda.html, last visited 9/1/2021
  13. “Komatsuhime”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komatsuhime, last visited 9/1/2021
  14. “Sanada Yukimura”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanada_Yukimura, last visited 9/1/2021
  15. “Ueda Castle (Nagano Prefecture)”. https://samurai-world.com/ueda-castle/, last visited 9/1/2021
  16. “Sanada Nobuyuki”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanada_Nobuyuki, last visited 9/1/2021