The Kyūshū Sekigahara Campaign

Tachibana Muneshige official artwork from Samurai Warriors 4

The Kyūshū Sekigahara Campaign were a series of sieges fought mainly between the Tachibana clan of Kyūshū, who sided with the Western Army, and various generals from the Eastern Army. This campaign tends to get pushed to the side when talking about the Sekigahara Campaign as a whole, but the battles that were fought in the Kyūshū Sekigahara Campaign were either fought around the same time as Sekigahara, which was fought on October 21, 1600, or they were fought after the famous battle.

Before the Campaign

The Tachibana clan were one of many clans that were affected by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Kyūshū Campaign, which took place in 1586. The defeated Tachibana joined Hideyoshi as he pressed on into Kyūshū, taking advantage of Hideyoshi’s massive numbers to defeat their old rivals, the Shimazu clan. It was after the Kyūshū Campaign that the Tachibana became an independent clan, separating from the Ōtomo clan who they originally served. Hideyoshi gave them their clan’s castle back, Tachibana Castle, and the Tachibana would participate in the Korean Campaigns. Seeing how the Tachibana clan blossomed under Toyotomi rule, it is not hard to see why the Tachibana sided with the Western Army when problems began to arise after the Taikō’s death in September 1598.

When it comes to Sekigahara, the taking of castles became extremely important. As we have seen in the Tōhoku Sekigahara Campaigns, the Siege of Ueda and other various battles that were fought leading up to Sekigahara, almost all of them have been sieges to a castle. The Kyūshū Sekigahara Campaign was no different. Ōtsu Castle was situated outside of Kyōto and it was in the hands of the Eastern Army. Ishida Mitsunari, the de facto head of the Western Army, wanted this castle under his control.(1) The Tachibana and Mōri clans were called to take this castle. This is the start of the Kyūshū Sekigahara Campaign.

The Siege of Ōtsu Castle, 1600

Ōtsu Castle as it appears in Samurai Warriors 3

Forces: Eastern Army (Kyōgoku) vs. Western Army (Mōri, Tachibana, Mashita and Tsukushi)

Numbers: 15,000 (Western) vs. 3,000 (Eastern)

Casualties: Unknown

On October 13, 1600, an army of 15,000 lead by Mōri Motoyasu, Tachibana Muneshige and Tsukushi Hirokado began besieging Ōtsu Castle, which was being held by Kyōgoku Takatsugu. Since the castle sat near water, a naval force was also sent out to block any approaches that came from the lake.(2) While armies were setting up for a siege, the local population set up for a picnic. The people of Kyōto from all walks of life either got up on their rooftops or went to nearby mountains to watch the siege unfold in real time.(3)

The defenders of Ōtsu Castle, which were about 3,000 strong, managed to hold out for six days. To try to break the enemy’s resolve, Takatsugu used a tactic that was used in the Siege of Hataya in the north.(4) He sent one of his ninja to go to the Mōri’s main camp and steal one of their banners and display it above the castle walls. Much like in the Siege of Hataya, this tactic of psychological warfare backfired.(5)

Tachibana Muneshige saw the Mōri banners on Ōtsu the next morning and believed that the Mōri had managed to take over the enemy castle and that his army was falling terribly behind. The desperation of the Tachibana troops added with the rage-filled and humiliated Mōri troops created a force to be reckoned with. The fighting became more aggressive and the Western Army forces even began raining cannonballs onto Ōtsu Castle from Mount Nagara where they had set up cannons.(6) The next day, the castle defenders surrendered Ōtsu Castle, however, the day of the great assault on the castle was the same day as Sekigahara. While Takatsugu lost Ōtsu, his efforts kept the Kyūshū fighters from reaching the main battle.(7) With the siege ending up being a failure for the Western Army, Tachibana Muneshige went back to Kyūshū to his castle of Yanagawa.(8)

The Siege of Udo, 1600

Katō Kiyomasa official artwork from Samurai Warriors 4

Forces: Eastern Army (Katō Kiyomasa) vs. Western Army (Konishi Yukinaga)

Numbers: Unknown

Casualties: Unknown

Not much is known about this siege, but it was fought on the island of Kyūshū while Tachibana Muneshige was at Ōtsu.(9) The famous Toyotomi general and veteran of the Korean Campaign, Katō Kiyomasa was in charge of the part of the Sekigahara Campaign that went into the island of Kyūshū. Udo was one of the castles that was attacked by the Eastern Army and is famous because the defender was an old rival of Kiyomasa’s: Konishi Yukinaga. Not much is known about how this battle went down, but we do know that the end result was an Eastern Army victory and Udo Castle falling to Kiyomasa.(10)

The Siege of Yanagawa, 1600

A model of Yanagawa Castle

Forces: Eastern Army (Katō, Kuroda and Nabeshima) vs. Western Army (Tachibana)

Numbers: Unknown

Casualties: Unknown

The siege of Yanagawa is the last battle of the Sekigahara Campaign as a whole and the end of the Kyūshū Sekigahara Campaign. After Katō Kiyomasa had taken Udo Castle, he met up with Kuroda Kanbei and Nabeshima Katsushige and laid siege to Yanagawa. Again, we know very little about the battle tactics in this battle, at least in English sources, but what is known is that Tachibana Muneshige’s ex-wife, Tachibana Ginchiyo, became a defender of the castle when the forces of the Eastern Army laid siege to Yanagawa.(11)

It is unknown what happens next but after Ginchiyo’s show of force, Kiyomasa and Kanbei, who were once comrades-in-arms with Muneshige in Korea, proposed an idea. The Eastern Army was looking to take on the Shimazu clan who had sided with the Western Army and were on their way back from Sekigahara. Knowing that the Tachibana and Shimazu were old rivals, they proposed that Muneshige surrender peacefully and they will combine their forces to take on the Shimazu. Muneshige agreed. Unfortunately for Muneshige, when Tokugawa Ieyasu heard of this plan, he put a stop to any more advances into Kyūshū.(12) Thus was the end of the Sekigahara Campaign.

The Aftermath

Though the surrender did not lead to the desired advance on the Shimazu, Tachibana Muneshige was pardoned by Tokugawa Ieyasu after the Sekigahara Campaign ended. Tachibana Castle was under control of Katō Kiyomasa and he sent supplies to Ginchiyo, who lived very briefly after the war in a small village. Muneshige would go on to fight in Ōsaka for the Tokugawa and he also sided with the Tokugawa again at the Shimabara Rebellion in 1637.(13) They were one of the few clans who sided with Ishida Mitsunari and the Western Army who came out of the conflict in good standing with the future leaders of Japan. 

Much like the other theaters of the Sekigahara Campaign, the Kyūshū Sekigahara Campaign does not get a lot of attention. We have very little information on what happened at some of these sieges, only knowing who attacked who and who it fell to in the end. Books are continuing to be published on this subject and perhaps we will be able to find out more about these battles in the future, but until that day comes, these battles will continue to be overlooked by historians and casual researchers who study this era.

Sources

  1. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 44
  2. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 44
  3. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 47
  4. For information on the Siege of Hataya, please visit the Tōhoku Sekigahara Campaign.
  5. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 47
  6. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 47
  7. Bryant, Anthony J. Sekigahara 1600: The final struggle for power (2009), p. 47
  8. Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Women 1184-1877 (2014), p. 50
  9. Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Women 1184-1877 (2014), p. 50
  10. Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai Sourcebook (2000), p. 252
  11. Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Women 1184-1877 (2014), p. 52
  12. Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Women 1184-1877 (2014), p. 52
  13. “Tachibana Muneshige”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tachibana_Muneshige, last visited 9/8/2021