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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Ancestor of the present Marquis Hachisuka


The

battle itself, though the forces engaged were not large, must be counted one of the great combats of the world, for had not Nobunaga emerged victorious the whole course of Japanese history might have been changed. At the outset, no definite programme seems to have been conceived on Nobunaga's side. He had no allies, and the numerical inferiority of his troops was overwhelming. The latter defect was remedied in a very partial degree by the resourcefulness of Hideyoshi. In his boyhood he had served for some time under a celebrated chief of freebooters, by name Hachisuka Koroku,* and he persuaded that chieftain with his fifteen hundred followers to march to the aid of the Owari army, armour and weapons having been furnished by Sasaki Shotei, of Omi province. Sasaki regarded Nobunaga's plight as too hopeless to warrant direct aid, but he was willing to equip Hachisuka's men for the purpose, although the addition of fifteen hundred soldiers could make very little difference in the face of such a disparity as existed between the combatants.

*Ancestor of the present Marquis Hachisuka.

Shortly before these events, Owari had been invaded from the west by the Kitabatake baron, whose domain lay in Ise, and the invaders had been beaten back by a bold offensive movement on Nobunaga's part. The ultimate result had not been conclusive, as Nobunaga advisedly refrained from carrying the war into Ise and thus leaving his own

territory unguarded. But the affair had taught the superiority of offensive tactics, and thus Nobunaga's impulse was to attack the army of Imagawa, instead of waiting to be crushed by preponderate force. His most trusted generals, Shibata Katsuiye, Sakuma Nobumori, and Hayashi Mitsukatsu, strenuously opposed this plan. They saw no prospect whatever of success in assuming the offensive against strength so superior, and they urged the advisability of yielding temporarily and awaiting an opportunity to recover independence. Here, Hideyoshi is reputed to have shown conspicuous wisdom at the council-table. He pointed out that there could be no such thing as temporary surrender. The Imagawa would certainly insist on hostages sufficiently valuable to insure permanent good faith, and he further declared that it was a mistake to credit the Imagawa with possessing the good-will of any of the other great feudatories, since they were all equally jealous of one another.

Finally, it was resolved that seven forts should be built and garrisoned, and that five of them should be allowed to fall into the enemy's hands if resistance proved hopeless. In the remaining two forts the garrisons were to be composed of the best troops in the Owari army, and over these strongholds were to be flown the flags of Nobunaga himself and of his chief general. It was hoped that by their success in five of the forts the Imagawa army would be at once physically wearied and morally encouraged to concentrate their entire strength and attention on the capture of the last two fortresses. Meanwhile, Nobunaga himself, with a select body of troops, was to march by mountain roads to the rear of the invading forces and deliver a furious attack when such a manoeuvre was least expected. The brave men who engaged in this perilous enterprise were strengthened by worshipping at the shrine of Hachiman in the village of Atsuta, and their prayers evoked appearances which were interpreted as manifestations of divine assistance. Most fortunately for the Owari troops, their movements were shrouded by a heavy rainfall, and they succeeded in inflicting serious loss on the invading army, driving it pele-mele across the border and killing its chief, Yoshimoto. No attempt was made to pursue the fugitives into Mikawa. Nobunaga was prudently content with his signal victory. It raised him at once to a level with the greatest provincial barons in the empire, and placed him in the foremost rank of the aspirants for an Imperial commission.


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