Siege of Kita-no-shō Castle
Date: 4/23 to 4/24 of Tenshō 11 (1583)
Location: Kita-no-shō Castle in Echizen Province
Synopsis: After incurring a defeat at the Battle of Shizugatake, Shibata Katsuie retreated to his base at Kita-no-shō Castle in Echizen. Hashiba Hideyoshi forced the surrender of Maeda Toshiie and had him serve as a guide to lead his forces to Kita-no-shō. Despite their valiant efforts, the defenders succumbed to the superior number of besieging forces, after which Katsuie climbed the castle tower and took his own life and those of his family, accompanied by over 80 martyrs.
The Siege of Kita-no-shō Castle occurred on from 4/23 to 4/24 of Tenshō 11 (1583) at Kita-no-shō Castle in Echizen Province. The conflict was waged between former senior retainers of Oda Nobunaga – Hashiba Hideyoshi and Shibata Katsuie.
After suffering a defeat at the Battle of Shizugatake, Katsuie fled Yanagase and entered Echizen. He traveled through Ima-no-shō and passed through Fuchū, giving thanks to Maeda Toshiie for his friendship over the years. Katsuie and Toshiie had a close relationship with Hideyoshi over the years and Katsuie told Toshiie not to worry about him and that he should settle with Hideyoshi. He further told him to request the support of Hideyoshi. Katsuie did not reproach Toshiie for betraying him by withdrawing early at the Battle of Shizugatake. He said that it is better for Toshiie to surrender to Hideyoshi and he released hostages from Toshiie. He returned that night to his base at Kita-no-shō and gathered trusted retainers including Shibata Yazaemon, Kojima Wakasa, and Nakamura Yozaemon to discuss how to defend the castle.
Meanwhile, Hideyoshi had Hori Hidemasa serve in the vanguard to pursue Katsuie and then went to Echizen. He established a base at Ima-no-shō and, on 4/22, entered Fuchū, forced the surrender of Maeda Toshiie, and assigned Hidemasa to defend Fuchū Castle. On 4/23, Hideyoshi had Toshiie serve as a guide and traversed the Asuwa River as his forces headed toward Kita-no-shō.
Course of events
Katsuie made plans for the defense of Kita-no-shō Castle but had a garrison of only 3,000 soldiers. He positioned his soldiers in the outermost areas of the castle, displayed on long walls his war flag (ordinarily attached to the back of his armor during battle), and had the wives and children of soldiers disperse to those with whom they had connections. On 4/23, Hideyoshi pursued the remnants of Katsuie’s forces defeated the month prior at the Battle of Shizugatake. After surrendering to Hideyoshi, Maeda Toshiie served in the vanguard and closed in on Kita-no-shō. He set-up an operational base at 宕山, and had the infantry approach the castle under the protection of bamboo shields and attack, firing arquebuses. By evening, the besieging forces advanced within approximately twenty to thirty meters of the castle walls surrounding the inner citadel.
On the evening of 4/23, Katsuie gathered family members and over 80 close retainers for a banquet in the tower of the inner citadel, and, reluctant to part ways, the gathering continued until dawn. Katsuie advised his formal wife, Oichi-no-kata (the younger sister of Oda Nobunaga whom he wed in the aftermath of the coup against Nobunaga), to leave the castle, but she did not agree and expressed a desire to perish together. Katsuie acknowledged her wish but planned for their three daughters to depart.
Out of concern about the fate of her daughters, Oichi-no-kata sent a letter in her own writing to Hideyoshi to request assurance that, in the event of the fall of Kita-no-shō Castle, her daughters would be protected.
At 4:00 AM on 4/24, Hideyoshi launched an assault on the inner citadel. Armed with bows and arrows as well as arquebuses, 200 elite soldiers from the Shibata army defended the castle. This resulted in many casualties among Hideyoshi’s forces so, around noon, Hideyoshi chose several hundred crack troops and had them charge the citadel with swords and spears. Katsuie’s soldiers counterattacked but their numbers were depleted so they could not halt the offensive.
Katsuie pulled-out the ladder for the tower and climbed to the top. He shouted to the soldiers below to watch and learn from how he would end his life. First, he stabbed Oichi-no-kata and then the daughters. He then cut himself from the left side to the right and down in the shape of a cross before calling for a retainer named Nakamura Bunkasai to decapitate him according to customary practice. After over 80 individuals martyred themselves, Bunkasai set fire to gunpowder to blow-up the tower, killing Katsuie’s relatives inside. This occurred at 5:00 PM.