Nighttime Attack on Hanamaki Castle
Date: 9/20 of Keichō 5 (1600)
Location: Hanamaki Castle in the Hienuki District of Mutsu Province
Outcome: At Hanamaki Castle, a small number of individuals under the Nanbu, some who were not soldiers, valiantly defended the main citadel against Waga forces in a nighttime attack. The arrival of reinforcements the next morning caused the attacking forces to flee in defeat.
The Nighttime Attack on Hanamaki Castle occurred on 9/20 of Keichō 5 (1600) at Hanamaki Castle in the Hienuki District of Mutsu Province. This was the initial battle in the Iwasaki Uprising and impacted the Morioka domain based at Hanamaki Castle.
In 1590, as an outcome of the Oushū Retribution by the Toyotomi clan, the Hienuki clan lost their castle and fief. Thereafter, Asano Shigeyoshi, a bushō from the Toyotomi, was stationed as the representative of the Toyotomi and as the governor of this territory. In an event known as the Waga-Hienuki Uprising, members of the Waga and Hienuki clans attempted to recover their former castles and territories, but this was suppressed by the Toyotomi army. Waga Yoshitada, the leader of the uprising, fled but was attacked and killed by local citizens. There is an alternate theory that he died during the fight against the Toyotomi army. In any event, after the end of the uprising, the territory was assigned to the Nanbu clan while Kita Nobuchika and his son, Kita Hidechika, served as chamberlains with a fief of 8,000 koku. In 1598, Hidechika died but Nobuchika continued on the assignment.
In 1600, in connection with the Battle of Sekigahara, Nanbu Toshinao, the head of the Nanbu clan, deployed for the Battle of Keichō Dewa. Taking advantage of this absence, Waga Tadachika (the second son of Waga Yoshitada), who was in hiding in Ōmori in the Isawa District of Mutsu controlled by the Date, garnered a firm promise from Date Masamune for support whereupon he secretly slipped back into his former territory to gather former retainers and peasants who were opposed to the governance of the Nanbu clan and raised arms from Futago Castle. The Waga forces planned to attack Hanamaki Castle which served as the base for the Nanbu clan to govern the Waga and Hienuki districts, but information leaked from the families of former retainers and, through rōnin, or wandering samurai, from the Kasai clan, as well as the Mita clan, Kashiyama Akisuke learned of the plan. Akisuke, similar to the Waga and Hienuki clans, had lost his territory as a result of the Oushū Retribution and became a rōnin, but aimed to use this information as a gift to the Nanbu clan in hopes of entering into their service, who, in turn, immediately notified Kita Nobuchika of the threat. At this time, Kita Nobukage had led the main force based at Hanamaki Castle toward Tase to suppress another uprising known as the Tase-Ahyō Uprising, so the castle was lightly defended. Nobuchika promptly issued a gag order to the residents below the castle, gathered the women and children from the town to serve as hostages, and reinforced his castle defenses in preparation for an attack. Meanwhile, Akisuke entered the castle and fought as a member of the Nanbu forces. Later, he made contributions in the attack on Iwasaki Castle and was rewarded by the Nanbu clan with a fief of 1,000 koku.
On the evening of 9/20, while operating under the cover of darkness, the Waga and Hienuki forces launched an attack on Hanamaki Castle. Waga Tadachika led the main force of 380 soldiers toward the main gate, while Netsuko Kuranosuke led approximately 400 former retainers of the Hienuki clan against the outside gate, resulting in violent clashes against the defenders. Fierce attacks enabled the attacking forces to breach the outer citadels and to ride that momentum toward the inner citadel. The ensuing battle included not only bushō, but also peasants who resided below the castle, the abbot of the Shōan Temple, (存泰) Oshō, rōnin from Tsugaru (Okudera Uma-no-jō and Okudera Hachiemon – siblings), servants of Nobuchika, and residents (Urako and Matsuko). These defenders donned armor and vigorously fought back with naginata, or long spears with curved blades. Included among them was a servant named Nakajima Saibei. Despite being only fifteen years old, he managed to kill a valorous former retainer of the Hienuki named Hattan Shimizu Jirōzaemon. Nevertheless, the Nanbu forces were significantly outnumbered. To give the appearance of more troops than he actually had, Nobuchika had the defenders discharge their arquebuses without bullets, with the ceaseless firing serving to dampen the morale of the Waga forces. Moreover, the conduct of battle at nighttime made it difficult to distinguish between friend and foe, causing combatants to look at the feet of those around them. At this time, the castle was surrounded by moats and Kitakami River along the north side. When crossing these barriers, the Waga forces became dirty, revealing in darkened conditions who was on which side of the battle.
In addition to the stiff resistance of the Nanbu troops against the Waga and Hienuki forces, in addition to a lack of coordination between the Waga and Netsuko forces, the attackers ceased their assault on the main citadel. With the coming of dawn, the main force from the castle returned from Tase, along with the arrival of reinforcements including Sakuraba Naotsuna of Morioka and the Shimamori clan, landowners from Kitayuguchi. This resulted in a reversal of the situation on the battlefield, causing the Waga and Hienuki forces to flee south. The Nanbu forces, mixed with reinforcements from various locations, reconstituted their army in the castle. With Kita Nobutsugu (Nobuchika’s third son) serving as the commander-in-chief, a unit of 250 troops including Kashiyama Akisuke was formed to pursue the fleeing enemy forces. When, during his escape, Waga Tadachika learned that the Nanbu army had sent a unit to pursue them, he called together a force comprised of remnants from the battle at Jūnichōme Castle (also known as Shishigahana Castle) and planned to intercept them; however, these forces could not withstand the spirited attacks by the Nanbu forces. In another retreat, he headed toward Futago Castle. Tadachika halted the fierce attacks of the Nanbu army and entered Futago Castle, but the castle was in decrepit condition, and there were almost no features to protect against an enemy attack, so he decided to abandon the site and further withdrew to Iitoyo. Following Tadachika’s departure, the Nanbu army entered Futago Castle and gave-up the pursuit. After destroying the site, the forces returned to Hanamaki.
As an outcome of this battle, the Nanbu clan established definitive control over the Waga and Hienuki districts which became the foundation of the Morioka domain.