Tachibana Dosetsu's noteworthy military campaign — AD 1567 Yasumimatsu Campaign (休松の戦い) — Course & Aftermath

Jul 2018
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Hong Kong
If you haven't read the background story of this military campaign yet, you may search and click into the thread named Tachibana Dosetsu's noteworthy military campaign — The AD 1567 Yasumimatsu Campaign (休松の戦い) — Background.

* Tachibana Dosetsu 立花道雪 was known as Betsugi Akitsura 戸次鑑連 in that time.

The offensive on the Akizuki Domain was commenced


The map showed the location of the castles and battlefields

On 14th August 1567, Sorin ordered Betsugi Akitsura (戸次鑑連, later the famous Tachibana Dosetsu 立花道雪), Yoshihiro Akimasa (吉弘鑑理), Usuki Akisumi (臼杵鑑速) to lead 20,000-strong army to attack the Akizuki domains. Initially, the scale tipped to the Otomo side as the Otomo army soundly defeated the Akizuki army in the Battle of Kansui-Haseyama (甘水・長谷山の戦い) on the same day ; Betsugi Akitsura personally wielded his six-feet katana “Lightening Blade” (雷切) charging into the enemy ranks, slashed and cleaved as the battle raged intensively !


Tachibana Dosetsu's personal katana — “Lightening Blade” (雷切)

By the next day, the Yasumimatsu Castle had fallen. The castle lord Sakata Echigo (坂田越後) committed suicide. Akizuki Tanezane retreated to his homebase Koshosan Castle under the Otomo army’s ferocious assault, then dispatched a messenger to the Mori Clan asking desperately for reinforcement. The Otomo army deployed itself at Doujyouyama (道場山) and Kannondake (觀音嶽), forming the encirclement of the castle. Koshosan Castle was an impregnable fortress built on the mountain. It was impossible for the Otomo army to subdue it in short time. Therefore, both sides turned into stalemale as the castle was besieged.


The terrain of Koshosan

Unfortunately for the Otomo side, hearing of the probably Mori reinforcement coming to their way, a large number of Otomo vassal lords came from Buzen, Bungo and Chikuzen immediately panicked and requested for withdrawing back into their own domains. Otomo Sorin was stunned by this development of events and ordered the Otomo three generals to retreat at once. Thus, on 3rd September, the Otomo army began the withdrawal by three separate columns ; Betsugi Akitsura commanded one of them as the others were commanded by Yoshihiro Akimasa and Usuki Akisumi respectively.

Intensive pursuit ! Akizuki Tanezane’s counterattack !



Akizuki Tanezane who held grudge against the Otomo clan had been long waiting for this moment. The vengeance of flame was ablazing in his heart ! Heard of the news that the Otomo army had begun the retreat, Tanezane immediately marched out from the Koshosan Castle, gathered the 12,000-strong army, divided them to four columns and swooped upon Betsugi Akitsura’s outnumbered troops to envelop it overwhelmingly.

However, Betsugi Akitsura had perceived Akizuki Tanezane’s intention and was well-prepared. He disposed 3,000 men for ambuscade while ordering soldiers to beat the drums loud to embolden their courage and spirit ! With such preparation, the Akizuki army hardly gained any advantage over the vigilant Akitsura army as the both sides clashed ferociously in the bloody fight, yet the Akizuki army almost stormed into Akitsura army’s headquarter. The situation was critical and dangerous for Akitsura.


The model of arquebus ashigaru

In this crucial moment, the Otomo reinforcement of 600 rearguard arrived timely. Abruptly, Akizuki Tanezane was utterly terrified when he had seen that so many Otomo army banners suddenly emerge around ! He subsequently ordered the retreat and abandoned the pursuit since he was panicked that the huge amount of enemy reinforcement might overwhelm his position and even worst…marching to assault the now vulnerable Koshosan Castle from behind since he had brought the main force out.

Indeed, this was a ruse planned by Betsugi Akitsura beforehand. He deliberately ordered those rearguard heave as many as banners as possible in order to create the false impression to the Akizuki army that the huge reinforcement was coming. The bluff worked. Akizuki Tanezane was panicked and retreated. Betsugi Akitsura was a cunning tactician !


Various Sengoku clans' army banners

The Akizuki army suffered the heavy casualties under the Otomo army’s vehement counter-attack. Betsugi Akitsura won the tactical victory in the battle of 3rd September brilliantly, but this was not the end of the campaign.

Night Raid ! The Otomo army was in great pinch !

The persistent Akizuki Tanezane was unwilling to spare the Otomo army and kept following the Otomo army which was retreating, seeking an opportunity to strike once again. Coincidentially the storm broke out with torrential of rain at night on the next day (4th September), Tanezane thought that this was a golden opportunity to launch the night raid upon the Otomo army for which he supposed they would surely low down their alert in such bad weather.



As Tanezane anticipated, the two columns of the Otomo army under the command of Akimasa (吉弘鑑理), Akisumi (臼杵鑑速) respectively were negligent to take precautions due to darkness and heavy rain ; they fell into great disorder, and even misidentified the allied soldiers as enemies and killed each other in terror once they were under assault of the Akizuki army. Only the Akitsura (鑑連) army managed to maintain the discipline since Akitsura had already expected Tanezane would certainly exploit such a stormy weather to wage the night raid ; Before the night raid, Akitsura ordered his men not to take down their armour, not to remove the saddle and keep their arquebuses’ matches dried, and stay alerted at anytime.

However, the routed troops from Akimasa and Akisumi smashed through the Akitsura army’s ranks. In such perilous moment, Akitsura stayed calm and took the incisive measure. He immediately stopped this embarrassing and chaotic “friendly kill” by ordering his retainers dispelling and separating the messes of troops at once. After that, he personally fought the rearguard action for covering the withdrawal of both armies of Akimasa and Akisumi, and even boldly charged into the enemy troops with a spear. His outstanding courage and leadership effectively sustained his troops’ formation and greatly raised the Otomo army’s morale, preventing the very likely collapse of the Otomo army.

Both the Otomo army and the Akizuki army fought tenaciously with countless men fell in such sanguineous battle. The scale even tipped towards the Otomo army at dawn resulted in the Akizuki army’s retreat with tremendous casualties. But the staggeringly persistent Akizuki Tanezane launched the pursuit again and chased part of the Otomo army till the Yamaguma Castle (山隈城) in the Chikugo province, inflicted even greater casualties upon the Otomo army.

The Otomo army suffered the terrible loss in this battle, with 400 soldiers killed. Most importantly, Betsugi Akitsura lost five family relatives and many retainers in a single battle ! This was a fatal blow to the Betsugi Clan (later the Tachibana Clan).

Conclusion

Although this was the crushing defeat of Betsugi Akitsura (even though he fought the successful fighting retreat), his superb military command, crafty tactical mind and extraordinary courage and leadership for rallying his men together were all performed in this single campaign, utterly proved himself as one of the greatest military commanders in world history.


The portrait of Tachibana Dosetsu