Battle of Nagashino
The Battle of Nagashino took place on June 28, 1575, in Nagashino castle located in Shitarabara, province of Mikawa between Oda and Tokugawa and the Takeda clan. Takeda Katsuyori, the leader of Takeda clan, known for his strong cavalry forces, aimed to capture the Nagashino castle. Oda Nobunaga, on the other hand, is well known for his impressive war tactics. He defended Nagashino well.
This is a very notable battle as it pushed forward the evolution of Japanese warfare. There are a lot of war elements present here: a combination of traditional spear, bow, and sword, as well as the more advanced arquebus and volley-firing weapons. It makes it truly fascinating to not just hear about but definitely to be seen and watched as well. This is the reason why it is adapted in a 1980 film.
This battle is famously known as the Battle of Shitaragahara.
Takeda Katsuyori and His motive
Takeda Katsuyori was the son of the late famous Daimyo and military leader Takeda Shingen. His father has a history of opposing the power of Oda Nobunaga and his ally, Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was even in a battle spree apprehending Tokugawa-controlled territories before he died from a terminal illness in the year 1573.
Katsuyori aims to gain control over all nation by seizing the capital which is Kyoto. But before he can do that, he needs to successfully march against the territories of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga first, starting with the province of Mikawa. He saw a chance to continue the mission his father has started come May of 1575. Oga Yashiro, a Tokugawa official, betrays his leader and offered to open the gates of Okazaki castle (capital of Mikawa) for Takeda and his troops.
By May 30 of that year, Katsuyori marched towards Okazaki with half of Takeda army of over 15,000 troops. This is because half of his army was busy fighting against the Uesugi clan in the north. He received a news that their plan was discovered when he was in the province. Ultimately, Yashiro was captured and decapitated.
But this didn’t stop him.
The Reroute to Nagashino
Katsuyori pushed forward and went south, attacking Yoshida Castle. But Tokugawa was able to anticipate his plan and strengthened his troops with 6,000 men. Katsuyori, not willing to fight this stronghold, retreated towards Toyokawa River and arrived at Nagashino Castle on the 14th of June.
He saw that he got a chance in this place. Nagashino castle had a small number of defenders, guarded by only 500 troops. The attack started on the 15th of June and lasted until the 22nd of June when Katsuyori went for the starvation tactic for the defenders to come out and surrender.
The Hero of the Battle
Nagashino castle defenders decided they need to call for aid. That’s when a Samurai named Torii Sune’emon, a low ranked Ashigaru (foot-soldier), came into the picture and successfully carried out the message to Ozakazi where Ieyasu and Oda were, to ask for assistance. But sadly, Takeda troops captured Torii Sune’emon while on his way back to Nagashino to deliver good news.
To spare his life, Katsuyori suggests informing his comrades that no aid was coming. While Sune’emon was tied with straw ropes in a spread-eagled position hanged in a wooden cross, he bravely shouted to his fellowmen up at the castle watching him that Ieyasu’s troops are coming to the rescue and that they should hold their stance a little longer.
Takeda Katsuyori quickly put him to death.
When the Most Awaited Back Up Arrived
Basic Intelligence support was already present during this time, where scouts and onlookers would report the opponent’s formation and composition. Due to Ieyasu’s counterintelligence, they were able to plot a strategic plan to relinquish Takeda.
The two parties met in Shitaragahara, southwest of Nagashino Castle. The Oda and Tokugawa troops are in the Mount Gambo terrain. They built a loose wall between their front line troops and the Rengogawa River, which is 100 meters from them. This is to break the strong cavalry charge of the Takeda. It was high enough preventing horses from jumping over it. This also covers Oda’s arquebusiers, ready for counterattacks.
On the other hand, after learning Oda and Tokugawa’s troop movements, also through intelligence reports, Katsuyori left his 3,000 troops in Nagashino to continue the siege. The rest of his 12,000 troops are divided into four groups with 3,000 each. The groups are in the woodlines that are 200 to 400 meters away from the enemies forces in Shitaragahara. He kept the other 3,000 troops as reserves.
The 30,000 strong troops of Oda joins the 8,000 troops of Tokugawa. 3,000 of which are arquebusiers. On the other side, Takeda has 15,000 troops with him and one-third of them are the famed cavalrymen of Takeda.
When it comes to weaponry, both parties are equal. Only they have different strengths: Oda with his arquebusiers and spear-carrying Ashigaru while Takeda with his battle-tested cavalry.
How the Battle Transpired
Katsuyori signaled the initial attack, and his three units lashed out of the woodlines simultaneously. The Rengogawa River slowed down the attack making the arquebusiers of the Oda troops fire at close range through a volley fire system.
During the heated battle in Shitaragahara, 3,000 Oda troops raided the Takeda troops at the back and successfully attacked the siege forces. They were able to rescue the defenders of Nagashino castle.
Back to the main battle, it was a long struggle of Takeda cavalry troops charging and Oda troops retaliating with gunfire. Until the Northern part, the outermost troops of Oda retreats, causing Takeda to run and attack further but only to be frustrated as another unit of Oda came and hit them.
While violent hand-to-hand combat ensued in the South, as it was free from woods and fences. During this time, Katsuyori was able to charge even his reserves and to no avail still losing further to his enemies.
Many of Takeda Samurai died. But Takeda Katsuyori was able to escape back to his home province.
The Battle Concluded
The total battle casualties were: 10,000 out of 15,000 troops of Takeda and 6,000 out of 38,000 troops of Oda and Tokugawa. Sealing the victory over Takeda’s group, the Oda and Tokugawa tandem was able to strengthen their campaign in destroying Takeda’s claim for power.
They were able to succeed and fully eliminate the Takeda clan in the year 1582. This, through Oda Nobunaga’s strong leadership, eventually consolidated his power and further expanded in the west.