Jinbō Sukeshige served as a bushō during the Azuchi-Momoyama and early Edo periods. Sukeshige participated in the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka and was killed in action after being shot by arquebus fire coming from the army led by Date Masamune, an ally.
In 1582, Sukeshige was born as the son of Jinbō Harushige. His common name was Chōzaburō and he held the title of Governor of Dewa.
Sukeshige’s family was affiliated with the Etchū-Jinbō clan. The lineage of his father, Harushige, originated from Jinbō Naganobu, a retainer of Hatakeyama Masanaga. Around 1460, a succession dispute for control of the Hatakeyama clan erupted between Masanaga and his cousin, Hatakeyama Yoshinari, becoming one of the triggers for the Ōnin-Bunmei War enveloping Kyōto and its environs from 1467 to 1477. The succession dispute resulted in a division of the clan into the Hatakeyama-Bishū family and the Hatakeyama-Sōshū family. Masanaga was associated with the Hatakeyama-Bishū family.
For generations, the Jinbō clan resided in Ishigaki-Toya Castle in the Arida District of Kii Province, serving as retainers of the Hatakeyama-Bishū. After the downfall of the Hatakeyama, Sukeshige’s father, Harushige, served Toyotomi Hidenaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Harushige was granted a fief of 6,000 koku in Yamato Province.
After succeeding his father, in 1600, Sukeshige allied with the Eastern Army at the Battle of Sekigahara and participated in the conquest of Uesugi Kagekatsu, receiving an increase of 1,000 koku to his fief.
In 1615, at the Summer Campaign of the Siege of Ōsaka, Sukeshige joined a small contingent of 300 soldiers under the command of Mizuno Katsunari and fought valiantly. On 5/7, at the gateway to Senba, a battalion led by Akashi Takenori attacked and dispersed the Echizen forces in the left wing of the formation so the battalion under Mizuno Katsunari fell into disarray. In the midst of a violent battle, Sukeshige was killed in action along with a total of 32 mounted soldiers and 293 foot soldiers in his battalion. According to records of the Edo bakufu, on 5/7, Jinbō Chōzaburō of the Yamato unit was killed in a violent battle against the Akashi battalion.
After the war, Sukeshige’s son, Jinbō Shigeakira, was selected to serve as a direct retainer of the shōgun as a hatamoto. His family achieved an elevated status which included residences in their home province as well as in Edo to enable service to the bakufu, a rank of hatamoto known as kōtai-yoriai.
Theory regarding the incident of friendly fire
According to one theory, Sukeshige died as a result of an unexpected volley of shots from behind by the division led by Date Masamune, an ally in the battle. This act of friendly fire led to the circulation of a rumor in the Kinai that was critical of the Date and is similarly noted in accounts of the Shimazu clan of Satsuma Province in southern Kyūshū.
In response, the surviving retainers of the Jinbō protested via Honda Masazumi and the Mizuno clan against the Date family. Date Masamune, however, asserted that the Jinbō battalion had collapsed and Sukeshige was shot to avoid the collapse of both battalions. Moreover, the Date’s military tactics did not distinguish between allies and enemies. As outsiders (a non-Tokugawa clan) with a fief of merely 7,000 koku, the Jinbō were not in a position to argue with the Date daimyō family with a fief of 600,000 koku. In the end, the Date were not censured for the incident.
While the details of the incident are uncertain, in addition to the reasoning of the Date, other theories for the killing include an errant shot, mistaken identity as an enemy soldier, an attack by the division led by Gotō Mototsugu, or a dispute over recognition for deeds on the battlefield. Finally, there is a theory that while the Jinbō battalion rested at the gateway to Senba, the Date capriciously shot him.
This does not, however, contradict the words and deeds of Masamune, whereby it is noted in the provincial laws enacted by Date Terumune (the fourteenth head of the Date clan) that the killing of an ally on the battlefield is commensurate with dying in battle.