Home > Uncategorized > Mori Clan AAR: Autumn 1552 – Spring 1555
Mori Clan AAR: Autumn 1552 – Spring 1555
November 15, 2011
Takamoto did not, in the event, need to take the fight to the Chosokabe. Nor were they as spent as a military force as their anaemic attack on the Kono would have suggested. Toward the end of autumn, a substantial Chosokabe army marched out of Tosa and into Iyo.
And straight into Takamoto’s ambush. The size of the Chosokabe army gave him brief pause for thought, as he had anticipated an easy battle against a much weaker force. He had not yet been joined by the reinforcements his father sent, but delay would not avail him. On the contrary, it would leave the reinforcements vulnerable. This was clearly the best opportunity to destroy the treacherous Chosokabe, and there was no honour to be gained by timidity.
Recalling the fate that had met the Amako when they had ambushed him years earlier, Takamoto disdained to split his force in two. Instead, he positioned his army to concentrate an attack on the front of the Chosokabe column.
Once the attack was launched, and the Chosokabe leaders realised what was happening, they quickly turned their column around, seeking to prepare a defence on more favourable ground. They were too hasty, however. Their marching column had been led by their cavalry, with their spearmen in the rear and elite Chosokabe bow samurai protected in the middle.
In reversing the direction of their march, the cavalry spurred their mounts to keep out of reach of the Mori spears, leaving the most superb archery force in Japan exposed. Takamoto seized the opportunity and launched his own cavalry at the retreating archers. Being samurai, they put up a stalwart defence, but without support from the rest of their army, they were cut down.
They did, nevertheless, sell their lives dear – the Mori light cavalry were all but wiped out, and other cavalry units lost several men each before Mori foot troops closed with the archers and the weight of numbers no longer favoured the Chosokabe.
As a result of the Chosokabe’s disorganised retreat, out of 800 of the finest archers in Japan only 100 escaped to join the rest of their army.
Takamoto regrouped his forces and pressed the attack. The last of the great Chosokabe archers demonstrated their worth, inflicting pain disproportionate to their numbers.
It wasn’t enough though, and they died to a man. Fewer than 200 men from an army of over 2000 escaped Takamoto’s ambush – the news of which quickly spread throughout the realm.
Takamoto pursued the survivors, and caught up with them during the winter. Their general, in command following the death of his lord, sought death with honour for himself and his men. In this he was almost successful, but seeing his body guard cut down around him one by one, his nerve eventually broke, and he fled the field never to be seen or heard of again.
No doubt as the panic wore off and the weight of his dishonour bore down on him he took his own life.
Having been surprised by this size of the Chosokabe attack, Takamoto was relieved to discover, when his army arrived in Tosa the following spring, that the Chosokabe had nothing left to give.
The defenders were quickly put to the sword and surviving members of the clan opened their bellies. After their treachery, there could be no question of a reprieve for the Chosokabe.
Damaged structures in Tosa were rebuilt, but the famous archery dojo was torn down to make way for a market. All vestiges of the Chosokabe’s proud tradition of archery were consigned to poetry. Their bloodline, however, would live on through the daughter of Motonari’s second son, now the sole survivor of her clan.
Takamoto’s attention now turned to securing the rest of Shikoku for his father. Its remaining two provinces were controlled by the Miyoshi, who were at war with the Mori’s ally – the Kikkawa clan. Mori ships scouted the Shikoku coast to determine how much resistance was likely to be met, and a metsuke was sent from Iyo to Sanuki to enquire as to whether the garrison would prefer profitable, comfortable dishonour to death. They didn’t, and to ram home the point they executed the metsuke.
The completion of a temple in Iwami went some way to stem the influx of Christianity into the province, and a monk was set to work reminding the population that it took more than one lifetime to reach Nirvana. It wasn’t quite enough though, and the pernicious foreign doctrine continued to spread, albeit more slowly.
Before an attack could be launched against the Miyoshi, a messenger arrived from the Shogun.
He had apparently become concerned by the growth of the Takeda clan, and, enfeebled as he was, hoped that the Mori might be able to deal with them. He ordered Motonari to capture a province from the Takeda within the next four years or so. Doing so would result in improved status for the clan, which would improve its diplomatic efforts – with everyone but the Takeda. Motonari had no particular dispute with the Takeda, but talking the matter over with his council led him to the conclusion that, following the conquest of Shikoku, an attempt should be made to comply with the Shogun’s wishes.
He was in no position to claim the Shogunate for himself, and he had no desire to incur the political problems that might be caused by an open rift with Ashikaga, however feeble they might actually be. Moreover, looking over reports gathered by Mori officials dealing with traders, he noted that Izu, a peninsula jutting out from the south of the Takeda demesne was a producer of gold, and one of the wealthiest provinces in the land.
Capturing it would add to the clan’s coffers, and provide a base for a future attack on Kyoto.
Motonari nevertheless wished to secure Shikoku first. An emissary was dispatched to the Kikkawa with an offer to join their war against the Miyoshi. Framing the attack as helping out a friend seemed more honourable than a barefaced invasion.
The conquest of Sanuki was straightforward, the castle being only moderately defended.
Samurai archers defending the walls caused some pain, and the Mori peasant spearman sent against the walls in the first wave were badly mauled, but they were readily replaceable, and few true Mori warriors lost their lives.
Takamoto paused to rebuild damaged structures, replenish the peasant units and wait out the winter. When spring returned he marched on Awa, where he knew a much more substantial force awaited him. He put aside all thoughts of storming the walls, and resolved to wait for the Miyoshi to sally or starve.
Barely were siegeworks laid, when the Miyoshi took the honourable course and marched their army out to confront the invaders in the field.
Takamoto took a defensive position, but the Miyoshi’s superiority in ranged troops meant that once they had closed the distance, the Mori would need to charge downhill.
In this, the battle played out largely as he expected. Once their missile troops were in range, the Miyoshi cavalry sought to drive the Mori archers off the field, but were met instead by spearmen, which developed into a large melee in the centre of the field.
Into this melee, the Miyoshi archers fired, trying to pick off troops at the rear of the Mori lines. Unfortunately for the Miyoshi, their inferiority of melee troops meant that they had none to spare to guard their archers, who were easily countered by Mori cavalry, attacking on both flanks of the Miyoshi position.
The Miyoshi troops tried to hold the line, and where they achieved some local superiority they were able to almost break a unit of peasant spearmen. But inspirational words from their general, and the intervention of katana samurai that had been held in reserve held them steady, and led to a complete collapse of the Miyoshi line. Their archers already fleeing from the Mori cavalry, few were able to escape and only a token force made it back to the castle, where shortly afterwards they fought their last battle.
Awa was occupied, completing the Mori conquest of Shikoku. Motonari had no particular designs on Awaji island, and offered the Miyoshi peace if they accepted vassalisation.
The offer was accepted, and the Mori, once again, were without enemies. A situation that required a remedy.
The infrastructural development of Mori lands had boosted the economy significantly, but it had also led to military developments. Although they would not see action for some time, it was during the wars for conquest of Shikoku that the Mori trained their first battlefield ninja units.
It was also during this period that the Shimazu clan completed their conquest of Kyushu, wiping out the Shoni clan, long-time friends of the Mori. To make matters worse, the Shimazu were perfidous Christians. Motonari was sure that the Ouchi would not be able to hold the Shimazu, which left his clan to defend the old ways.