Nighttime Attack at Honmachibashi

本町橋の夜戦

Edo Bakufu

Settsu Province

Toyotomi Clan

Date:  12/17 of Keichō 19 (1614)

Location:  Near the Honmachi Bridge in the environs of Ōsaka Castle in Settsu Province

Synopsis:  The Toyotomi forces identified an opportunity to launch a nighttime attack against the Nakamura battalion of the Edo bakufu army.  After a stealth crossing of the Honmachi Bridge, the Toyotomi forces attacked the unsuspecting troops with swords, killing scores, including Nakamaura Shigekatsu (the commander of the battalion), in a brief yet violent attack.

Commanders:  Hachisuke Yoshishige, Nakamura Shigekatsu

Forces:  200

Losses:  Over 100 including Shigekatsu

Commanders:  Ōno Harufusa, Ban Naoyuki, Mishuku Masatomo, Nagaoka Koresue 

Forces:  120

Losses:  10

The Nighttime Attack at Honmachibashi occurred on 12/17 of Keichō 19 (1614) near the Honmachi Bridge in the environs of Ōsaka Castle in Settsu Province.  This was one of the battles between the Toyotomi clan and the Edo bakufu army during the Winter Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka.

Prelude

On 11/29, Bakurō-ga-buchi fortress (defended by Susukida Kanesuke) and Noda and Fukushima castles (defended by Ōno Harutane) were occupied in succession by Hachisuka Yoshishige and Ishikawa Tadafusa fighting for the Edo bakufu.  As a result, Ōno Harunaga abandoned the Senba and Tenma fortresses to reinforce the defense of Ōsaka Castle.

Ōno Harufusa, however, opposed the opinion of Harunaga, whereupon Harunaga called Harufusa to the castle under the pretext of holding a war council and immediately incarcerated him.  During this time, individuals under Harunaga’s command set fire to the fortresses and attempted to force the soldiers stationed in the fortresses to vacate.  The fires stirred confusion among those in the fortresses which were subsequently taken over by the bakufu army.  War banners strewn near the fortresses were picked-up by the enemy, causing Harufusa to lose face so those under his command including Ban Naoyuki (Danemon) and Mishuku Masatomo planned a nighttime attack.  Initially, the commanders planned a nighttime attack on 12/15, but Okabe Noritsuna and Ishikawa Geki desired to participate in the nighttime attack and brought along those under their command so the number of participants increased.  Having planned for a small number of participants, Naoyuki sought to stop Noritsuna and Geki, triggering a dispute.  Masatomo intervened to end the argument, but the nighttime attack planned for this day was cancelled.  Others in Ōsaka Castle leaned toward a settlement proposal, giving urgency to execution of the plan which was decided to be on 12/17.

Course of events

Around 2:00 AM on 12/17 was misty with the moon hidden by clouds.  The forces for the nighttime attack total over 120 samurai in units commanded by Harufusa, Naoyuki, Masatomo and Nagaoka Koresue.  Among those participating were a well-known warrior named Mikoda Riemon. Jōjō Matahachi and Tazumi Ichirōbei hurriedly arrived, leaving the ashigaru, or lightly armored foot soldiers, under their command to join the contingent.  At this time, Naoyuki ordered the soldiers to use swords rather than spears for the attack, and attached a symbolic white cloth to his shoulder.  To conduct the nighttime attack, Koresue was assigned to be on the lookout in case Ikeda Tadakatsu came to aid of the enemy forces.  Harufusa and Masatomo prepared against enemy forces tailing them, while Miyake Kyūdayu and Yasui Koemon (the captains of the ashigaru forces under Harufusa) were positioned on the bridge with over 100 infantry soldiers.  Sanada Yaemon was in charge of defense from the watchtower.

Around 2:30 AM, attacks were conducted in succession by the units under the command of Naoyuki, Harufusa, and Koresue.  Eager to obtain recognition for his valor, Ninomiya Naganori took the lead followed one-by-one by those in his unit crouching down so as not to be noticed  by the enemy while crossing the bridge.  These forces aimed for the camp of a senior retainer in the bakufu army named Nakamura Shigekatsu.  The only bridge remaining was Honmachibashi, all of the others having been burned down by those on the side of the Toyotomi.  Failing to anticipate a nighttime attack, most of the soldiers in the Nakamura battalion were asleep.  The soldiers remaining awake for guard duty were eating rice cakes and chatting among themselves.  Even Shigekatsu, known as a brave warrior who always wore his armor, did not have his armor on this evening.  After the sword-wielding soldiers commenced their attack, the enemy forces caught off-guard were struck down one after another.  Having no time to put on his helmet, Shigekatsu grabbed a spear and rushed forward to lead his troops, but was killed after being surrounded by six attackers.

The brief nighttime attack resulted in the deaths of over 30 troops in the Nakamura battalion, including Shigekatsu and Ozeki Shigetake, and over 50 wounded.  According to another account, 214 bushi, including Nakamura Ukon (Shigekatsu), were killed and several tens of rank and file soldiers.  Another account said over 100 died.  Meanwhile, based on the account, between one and ten were killed on the side of the Toyotomi.  After the arrival of reinforcements in the bakufu army from the main base of Hachisuka Yoshishige, the attacking forces withdrew, picking-up the war banners of the Nakamura battalion and triumphantly returned to Ōsaka Castle.  The Hachisuka forces arriving as reinforcements pursued the Toyotomi troops, but infantry troops under the command of Harufusa were positioned on the bridge so were forced to turn back.

Naoyuki initially commanded forces from atop the bridge, but, when pulling up, he rode a horse and tossed out tags around the camp stating “Ban Danemon – Commander of the Nighttime Attack” whereupon his name became widely known.

A total of 23 bushi who served valorously in the nighttime attack were called by Ōno Harunaga and Kimura Shigenari to share their stories and were conferred rewards by Toyotomi Hideyori.  Among those recognized, Hirata Jibuuemon had died in battle so Koresue received a reward on his behalf.