The Battle of Sekigahara: History’s Greatest Samurai Battle

The Battle of Sekigahara

The Battle of Sekigahara was history’s greatest samurai battle. It was also the most vital and greatest battle at that time. It only lasted seven hours but deaths recorded went over 30,000.

During the battle, the loyalist forces, despite their great numbers and superior formations, lost. The Battle of Sekigahara was considered as the war that ended the Sengoku period. It was also when Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated Ishida Mitsunari’s coalition. Three years after the battle, Ieyasu established the Tokugawa Shogunate.

The Battle of Sekigahara

The Rich Background of the Battle

In the year 1598, Toyotomi Hideyoshi had fallen ill. Due to this, he gathered five of the most powerful Daimyo of that time: Tokugawa Ieyasu, Maeda Toshiie, Uesugi Kagekatsu, Mori Terumoto, and Ukita Hideie. He ordered them to function as regents for Hideyori, his 5-year old heir.

Of all the Daimyo, it was Ieyasu who was most powerful. He had an income that was twice of Uesugi and Mori’s. Aside from the Daimyo, Hideyoshi also called on five administrators namely Ishida Mitsunari, Asano Nagamasa, Maeda Geni, Natsuka Masaie, and Mashida Nagamori. They were given the task of managing the state’s daily affairs.

After the death of Hideyoshi in August of the year 1598, Tokugawa began pushing his changes in influencing the other regents. Over time, he attempted to acquire more power which led Ishida Mitsunari to confront him. This led to Ishida challenging Tokugawa’s power as the most powerful regent present.

The power struggle separated the country into two portions, resulting in the culmination of the greatest and most known Samurai battle in the Japanese warring history, the Battle of Sekigahara. This battle was not well planned. There were troops continuously arriving as early as five in the morning. There were even barricades of bamboo raised in specific areas. The barricades allowed arquebusiers to have a safer spot from where to fire; notably, this was before Ishida Mitsunari’s spot.

The Rich Background of the Battle

Troop Deployment of the Eastern and Western Forces

The Battle of Sekigahara is unique due to having the greatest number of troops in the country. On the side of Tokugawa, he had about 85,000 men. Ishida and his group had about 90,000. Some of those who fought for the Eastern Forces (Tokugawa) included Kuroda Nagamasa, Kato Yoshiaki, Hosokawa Tadaoki, Honda Tadakatsu, Ii Naomasa, and Fukushima Masanori.

The Western Forces of Ishida Mitsunari included formidable warriors such as Shima Sakon, Ukita Hideie, Shimazu Yoshihiro, Otani Yoshitsugu, and Konishi Yukinaga. Those positioned at the top of Mt. Matsuo were Kobayakawa Hideaki and his men. Behind Tokugawa, specifically on Mt. Nangu, waited for the allied troops of Ankokuji Ekei, Mori Terumoto, and Chosokabe Morichika – all of them were led by Kikkawa Hiroie.

There were a few major Daimyo of the Western Army who defected or failed in sending out their attacks during the battle. This led to the assured victory of the Eastern Army. It can be said that the essential roles in these defections were due to Kobayakawa Hideaki. If he had not betrayed the Western Army, then Tokugawa and his unit would have been destroyed completely.

Troop Deployment of the Eastern and Western Forces

How did the Battle of Sekigahara Begin?

The struggle was on a little mountain valley located in Central Japan. The politics that led to the battle can be exhibited via a few name transitions by the plot of a novel called Shogun, that has a rather vague historical basis.

During the war, the fog was heavy. Yet on the 21st of October in the year 1600, the fog lifted from the battlegrounds, allowing the battle to begin. Here, each commander had a number of men around 60,000. The Teppo-tai or matchlock gunners under Tokugawa, caused a great deal of damage as the battle commenced. Gunners coming from Mitsunari’s group also returned the shots which filled the entire valley with smoke.

Around 10 in the morning, Tokugawa’s forces slowly pushed back despite all the efforts made. It was the chance for Mitsunari’s troops, signaling for Kobayakawa, along with his 15,000 men, to attack.

Unfortunately, no attack occurred; instead, Hideaki’s troops refused to attack their erstwhile allies and sat on the sidelines. They waited until Tokugawa’s units struck by directing his gunners to fire on the Mori.

Eventually, Kobayakawa commenced his attack, yet urged four other generals to defect to Tokugawa’s side. This caused the turncoats to fall on Ishida’s side, deciding the battle. By the end of it, a total of 40,000 warriors died, and Tokugawa emerged victoriously. Three years later, he became Japan’s Shogun.

How did the Battle of Sekigahara Begin?

How did the Chaos End?

The last portion of the Battle of Sekigahara was specifically on Shimazu and his unit. During the entire battle, he nor his troops did not make any move against the Eastern Forces. When Seigon was almost defeated, Shimazu orders his men to head through the center of Tokugawa’s army. This refers to as Shimazu’s Hikiguchi, breaking off in the Shimazu manner. He had about 1,500 armies during the battle. Instead of turning his back on the enemy to flee, he rushed to the center to face his opponents and let his clan members flee. Upon arriving in his land, Satsuma, there were only 80 people around.

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Battle’s Aftermath - Tokugawa’s Victory

What was the Battle’s Aftermath?

Tokugawa’s victory at the Battle of Sekigahara allowed him to take control of the entire country. He was able to set up the Tokugawa Shogunate from Edo, his home base. In the year 1603, the Emperor gave Tokugawa the Shogun title. This turned him into the absolute military commander of the country.

The battle’s aftermath led to a period of calm and peace in Japan. This was after continuous years of civil war during Japan’s warring period. It was a time of great stability wherein peace prevails for more than 250 years. This was also the period when the country regained its national pride while simultaneously allowing customs, traditional arts, and culture to flourish.

After the Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa did not lose time securing the victory that he acquired on the battlefield. His primary goal had been the home castle of Ishida. On the 22nd of October, he persisted on the campaign by leading his troops at Sawayama.

The warrior who led the attack was Kobayakawa Hideaki. A weakened Ishida Masazumi faced the attacks of Tokugawa’s forces. He was Mitsunari’s brother and was in command of the Ishida clan’s home castle. Upon seeing defeat, he eventually conceded and committed suicide. Afterward, the castle was in flames.

Battle’s Aftermath - Tokugawa’s Victory

How did Tokugawa Reward his Supporters?

How did Tokugawa Reward his Supporters?

To reward his men, Tokugawa took land from a total of ninety families, thus, equating to a total of 6.5 million Koku. A large number of confiscated revenues directly went to Tokugawa’s coffers. Yet a lot of his vassals and allies were made wealthy simply by backing his cause.

With that, he diligently began redistributing fiefs and provided more profitable domains to people who supported him. As for those who opposed him, he removed them from their positions.

As promised, he rewarded Kobayakawa for his greatness in battle. The young lord received fiefs of Mimasaka and Bizen that had total revenue of 520,000 Koku. An old vassal of Hideyoshi’s also sided with Tokugawa. He was Kato Kiyomasa who earned the reward with his old enemy’s fief.

Despite siding with Tokugawa, Kato continues to be loyal to the Toyotomi family. Yet eleven years later after paying a visit to Tokugawa, Kato suddenly fell ill and died. Although this was never proven, some suspect he wasn’t ill. They believed that Tokugawa had him poisoned since Kato posed as a threat to his new government.

A Clearer Hierarchy after the Battle 

The end of the Battle of Sekigahara also marked the beginning of a clearer hierarchy among the Daimyo. Those who were loyal to the Tokugawa clan were the Fudai Daimyo, while those who were neutral towards the new Shogun were the Tozama Daimyo.

When it comes to the rewards, the Fudai Daimyo received more than the Tozama Daimyo. Tokugawa grants more rewards to the Fudai Daimyo for being loyal. Aside from more rewards, they acquired strategically important areas, as well as positions of high office in the government.

The Tozama Daimyo, on the other hand, acquired lands as well. However, some had to hold on to what they owned since their loyalty was not secured. This distinction remained until the Edo period had ended.

Long Period of Peace

The Battle of Sekigahara was the last fight that occurred before the long period of peace that began during the Edo Period. Peace ended early due to the last battle against the Toyotomi clan. Other than that, peace was restored in the country.

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