Mori clan, Summer 1545
By early summer, Motonari had led his army to Hamada castle, and had established siege works around the fortifications. The army’s camp became the clan’s centre of government, as Motonari directed the clan’s activities. His recent victories had added to his reknown as a strategist, and a biwa player had joined his retinue. This improved the morale of his tired troops.
His recent victories had also boosted the morale of the Mori subjects and this feel-good factor appeared to be providing a small boost to the economy. A message arrived from senior retainers in Aki proposing that Mori clan scholars work towards improving their understanding of ship building and naval strategy.
Motonari agreed that this was important, but was acutely conscious that innovation was also required in the economic sphere if the clan was to become rich enough to stand alone against the rest of the country, should such be required in order to seize the mantle of Shogun.
Motonari knew he needed to decide how to deal with the current siege. He knew his army was depleted, although it outnumbered the defenders. He knew that there was every chance the defenders would march out rather than face starvation. But he also knew that that could take half a year or more, which was time that the Amako could spend recruiting reinforcements.
While he considered his next move, he learned that the bow kobaya he had dispatched in spring had gained control of the lucrative trade route with the Korean kingdom. Once the Mori could rebuild their trade fleets, this would provide a lucrative source of cotton. He also heard that a second bow kobaya had been built, and that this had been sent to secure the incense trade with the Indonesian sultanate.
Seeking to preserve funds in order to improve fortifications in Aki, Motonari kept recruitment to a minimum. He ordered that an additional unit of bow ashigaru be trained, and that an additional bow kobaya be constructed. This left 819 koku in the treasury. His builders advised it would take double that to expand Koriyama castle.
Having studied the defences of Hamada castle, and ascertained that it was defended by one unit of peasant spearman, one unit of peasant archers and a small unit of samurai retainers, Motonari felt confident that he could take the castle with limited losses. As such, he opted to storm the walls before Amako reinforcements could arrive.
Motonari led his forces around the relatively undefended east side of the castle.
His yari ashigaru torched the east gate allowing the yari samurai to enter the court yard. They are followed by the ashigaru, while the bow ashigaru provide covering fire from outside the walls. The Amako counterattacked with their yari ashigaru, but they were engaged by samurai, and caught in the flank by the Mori peasants.
The garrison’s samurai charged in, but they too were caught in the flank, this time by the two cavalry bodyguard units. The daimyo and his heir charged into the combat and cut a swathe through the defenders.
The defenders fought valiantly, but died to a man, the castle and province were overrun.
In a gesture to convince the local peasants that they were better off under Mori rule, Motonari declared the province tax exempt while reconstructions took place. This served to appease the majority of the population, but Motonari’s exhausted army could go no further until its wounded had recovered, and new soldiers drafted to replace fatalities.
Towards the end of summer, word reached Motonari of a small Amako force to the east.