The Battle of Minatogawa - 5th July 1336



Shogun Ashikaga Takauji - head of the Ashikaga Clan

Japan was in a period of internal power struggles in the wake of the Mongol Invasion in the late 1200's. The Ashikaga Clan began challenging the old Imperial Order and this eventually spilled over into civil war known as the Nanboku-Cho Wars.


Initial engagements between the two factions favoured the Imperial forces loyal to Emperor Go-Daigo and by February 1336 the Ashikaga Clan was on the defensive, and the loyal Imperial general, Natta Yoshisada set about gathering forces to finish off the threat. However as Yoshisada launched hi offensive, previously loyal samurai, Akamatsu Norimura decalred support for the Ashikaga cause, forcing Yoshisada to divert hi attention and forces to besiege Norimura's Shirohata Castle. This delay in pursing Ashikaga gave him time to muster new forces, persuading more clan leaders to his cause and assemble a new and bigger army to counterattack the Emperor's army.

Another samurai clan leader devoutly loyal to the Emperor was Kusunoki Masashige, he counselled the Emperor to make peace with the Ashikaga but his suggestion was dismissed, with both the Emperor and Yoshisada claiming the Ashikaga army was now ready to be finally crushed once and for all. However, in April 1336 the newly reinforced Ashikaga forces won a victory at Tatarahama, capturing the island of Kyushu. By the summer Ashikaga's army was gathering even more strength and they began to advanve towards the Imperial capital, Kyoto.

Again the loyal subject, Masashige, counselled the Emperor suggesting their army was not able to beat Ashikaga and should instead leave Kyoto and take refuge in the heights of Mount Hiei from where they could launch guerilla style raids on Ashikaga's supply routes until such time they were strong enough to face them again in open battle. Appalled at the thought of abandoning the capital city, Emperor Go-Daigo ordered the still over confidant Yoshisada to face Ashikaga's army in battle and that Masashige and his clan should be the vanguard. Loyal to the end, Kusunoki Masashige obeyed, along with his brother, Masasue, but not before sending his 10 year old son, Masatsura, back to the family stronghold having made him promise to always be loyal to the Emperor and to carry on the family name.


Initial deployment - Battle of Minatogawa

ORDERS OF BATTLE - suggested scale 1 figure = 25 men

IMPERIAL ARMY

Vanguard

Kusunoki Masashige - Sub-Commander - Excellent tactician, Inspirational Leader, veteran, elite

Samurai Masashige Clan (700 men) - 28 figures - Open order armoured infantry, elite, veteran, longbow and 2 handed sword

Left Wing

Nitta Yoshisada - Commander-in-Chief - Over confident, veteran, elite

Mounted Samurai (400 men) - 16 figures - Heavy cavalry, armoured, elite, veteran, lance, 2 handed sword

Samurai (400 men) - 16 figures - Open order armoured infantry, elite, veteran, longbow and 2 handed sword

Centre

Odate - Sub-Commander - Average, veteran, steady

Samurai (600 men) - 24 figures - Open order armoured infantry, elite, steady, longbow and 2 handed sword

Right Wing (rear)

Wakiya - Sub-Commander - Average, veteran, steady

Mounted Samurai (200 men) - 8 figures - Heavy cavalry, armoured, elite, veteran, lance, 2 handed sword

Ashigaru (800 men in 2 units) - 2 x 16 figures - Medium infantry, light armour, trained, steady, halberd


ASHIKAGA ARMY

Shiba Clan

Shiba - Sub-Commander - Good, veteran, elite

Mounted Samurai (250 men) - 10 figures - Heavy cavalry, armoured, elite, veteran, lance, 2 handed sword

Samurai (250 men) - 10 figures - Open order armoured infantry, elite, veteran, longbow and 2 handed sword

Ashigaru (500 men) - 20 figures - Medium infantry, light armour, trained, steady, halberd

Tadayoshi Clan

Ashikaga Tadayoshi _ Sub-Commander - Excellent, veteran, elite

Mounted Samurai (1000 men) - 40 figures - Heavy cavalry, armoured, elite, veteran, lance, 2 handed sword

Samurai (500 men) - 20 figures - Open order armoured infantry, elite, veteran, longbow and 2 handed sword

Ashigaru (1500 men) - 60 figures - Medium infantry, light armour, trained, steady, halberd

Shoni Clan

Shoni - Sub-Commander - Good, veteran, elite

Mounted Samurai (250 men) - 10 figures - Heavy cavalry, armoured, elite, veteran, lance, 2 handed sword

Samurai (500 men) - 20 figures - Open order armoured infantry, elite, veteran, longbow and 2 handed sword

Ashigaru (750 men) - 30 figures - Medium infantry, light armour, trained, steady, halberd

Ashikaga Clan

Ashikaga Takauji - Commander-in-Chief - Inspirational, excellent, veteran, elite

Mounted Samurai (250 men) - 10 figures - Heavy cavalry, armoured, elite, veteran, lance, 2 handed sword

Samurai (500 men) - 20 figures - Open order armoured infantry, elite, veteran, longbow and 2 handed sword

Ashigaru (750 men) - 30 figures - Medium infantry, light armour, trained, steady, halberd

Hoskawa Clan

Hoskawa - Sub-Commander - Excellent, veteran, elite

Mounted Samurai (1500 men) - 60 figures - Heavy cavalry, armoured, elite, veteran, lance, 2 handed sword

Samurai (500 men) - 20 figures - Open order armoured infantry, elite, veteran, longbow and 2 handed sword

Ashigaru (2000 men) - 80 figures - Medium infantry, light armour, trained, steady, halberd


THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED


The Imperial army positioned themselves in what they felt was strong defensive position. Lacking any naval forces, they formed up along the coast and facing the river, Minato-Gawa with Masashige on the far river bank as a vanguard, his rear protected by the rest of the army.

Ashikaga's plan was a three pronged attack and it is difficult to recall any other battle in history where everything fell into place and worked as this plan did from the start.

Tadayoshi advanced first towards Masashinge, drawing him forward which allowed both Shiba and Shoni on the flanks to begin an encirclement.

Meanwhile Hosokawa who commanded almost half the army in ships off the coast, sailed beyond the Imperial army tp the mouth of the Ikuta-Gawa where he disembarked some 4,000 men behind the Imperial army and attacked their flank. Wakiya's men fought briefly, but then began to flee, the panic spreading along the coast line as Hosokawa's men advanced. Yoshisada attempted to a defence and turned his men and advanced to meet Hosokawa, but in doing so left an undefended gap on the shoreline, where Ashikaga Takauji now landed his men, totally unopposed. Yoshisada, now fearing encirclement, fled the field with his men. The only Imperial forces now left on the field were those of Kusunoki Masashige, the samurai clan leader who had advised against the battle, but still honoured and obeyed his Emperor and agreed to fight.

It was a blazing hot summer's day and as the sun beat down on the armoured samurai they repeatedly beat back attack after attack by the now overwhelming numbers of Ashikaga's army, several hundred men fighting several thousand. For over six hours the totally surrounded men of Masashinge kept fighting against all odds. Finally, suffering from multiple wounds, Masashinge ordered his remaining men to do the thing of honour, and as their attackers momentarily withdrew to regroup for another attack, Kusunoki Masahinge, next to his brother and with his loyal men, all knelt and simultaneously committed harikari (suicide by disembowelment). The battle was over.

Ironically, Yoshisada and the Emperor then fled the capital for Mount Hiei.





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