The Battle of Ueda (上田合戦)

The Battle of Ueda is a generic name for the battles between the Sanada clan and the Tokugawa clan fought around Ueda-jo Castle in Shinano Province (present day Ueda City, Nagano Prefecture) and neighboring mountain castles, and around Kan-gawa River that runs north-south in the eastern part of Ueda City, etc.

There were two battles between the Sanada and Tokugawa clans around these places, and the battle in 1585 is called the first stage and the battle in 1600 is called the second stage.

Ueda is located in Chiisagata-gun in eastern Shinano, and this area had been unstable before Ueda-jo Castle was built because it was the border of the Takeda clan, Uesugi clan, and the Gohojo clan. After Masayuki SANADA subdued Numata, Agatsuma-gun, Kozuke Province under the Takeda clan, he subdued Chiisagata-gun under the Tokugawa clan and built Ueda-jo Castle.

In this battle, Masayuki SANADA was mainly secluded in Ueda-jo Castle to fight, so it is also called the Battle of Ueda-jo Castle or the Siege of Ueda-jo Castle. To be precise, however, it is reasonable to call it the Battle of Ueda because it was an all-out war fought not only around Ueda-jo Castle but also included other mountain castles scattered in Ueda Chiisagata such as Toishi-jo Castle and Maruko-jo Castle.

The first Battle of Ueda

This battle is also called the Battle of Kan-gawa separately.

In April 1582, the Takeda clan fell due to subjugation of Takeda done by Nobunaga ODA. The property of the Takeda clan that spread from Kai to Shinano to Ueno was distributed to Oda vassals, and Shinano Kokujin-shu (local samurais) who had been Takeda vassals who came to serve the Oda government. In July of the year, Nobunaga ODA died a violent death (the Honnoji Incident) in Kyoto. The Hojo clan, who had an amicable relationship with the Oda clan, invaded Oda's territory Ueno with army 56,000 strong led by Ujinao HOJO, defeated the army 20,000 strong lead by Kanto Kanrei (A shogunal deputy for the Kanto region) Kazumasu TAKIGAWA, one of the big four of Oda, at the Battle of Kannagawa River, and Kazumasu TAKIGAWA was routed to his home ground Ise. As Kazumasu TAKIGAWA was routed, Oda's territory Shinano, Kai, and Ueno became void at once, and neighboring forces such as Kagekatsu UESUGI in Echigo, Ujinao HOJO in Sagami, and Ieyasu TOKUGAWA in Mikawa invaded, and Tenshojingo no ran (Tenshojingo Rebellion) occurred in the former Oda territory.

Ieyasu TOKUGAWA who conquered Kai invaded southern Shinano, the Uesugi clan invaded northern Shinano, and the Hojo clan invaded eastern Shinano from Kozuke Province through Usui-toge Pass. At this time, Masayuki SANADA who had influence from eastern Shinano to Nishiueno belonged to the Hojo side, but when Tokugawa invaded eastern Shinano, he switched to the Tokugawa side.

In October, Tokugawa and Hojo made peace, and as a condition for the peace, they decided to exchange Numata City, Kozuke Province of the Sanada clan and Saku County, Shinano Province conquered by the Hojo clan.

In the next year 1583, Masayuki started building Ueda-jo Castle and he was fighting against the Hojo clan for the Numata and Azuma territories.

In 1585, Ieyasu arrived at an encampment in Kai and requested that Masayuki hand over Numata territory to the Hojo clan, but Masasuke rejected the request on the grounds that the territory was not given by the Tokugawa clan, and communicated with the Uesugi clan who was in a hostile relationship with him. In July of that year, Ieyasu, who returned to Hamamatsu and got to know about the rebellion of Masayuki, started the subjugation of Sanada and sent an army about 7,000 strong including his vassals Mototada TORII, Tadayo OKUBO, and Chikayoshi HIRAIWA to the base of the Sanada clan, Ueda-jo Castle.

Tokugawa's army proceeded from Kai to Hokkoku Kaido Road through Suwa-do Road and deployed troops near Kokubun-ji Temple in the Ueda Basin. They say that Sanada's side was about 1200 strong, and Masayuki was besieged in Ueda-jo Castle, and his oldest son Nobuyuki was besieged a branch castle Toishi-jo Castle. In the branch castles of the Sanada Main Castle, Masayuki's cousin Yoriyasu YAZAWA and Uesugi's enpei (reinforcements) were besieged.

On September 25, Tokugawa's army was close to Ueno-jo Castle and proceeded to Ninomaru (second bailey), but met a counter attack and was beaten back. In addition, they were chased by the castle side army as they retreated, Nobuyuki in Toishi-jo Castle also attacked from the side, and the army finally collapsed. Yazawa's force joined the running battle and many officers and soldiers drowned in Kan-gawa River. It is said that Tokugawa's 1300 soldiers were killed by this tactic utilizing the home-court advantage of the Sanada side. On the other hand, Sanada's army lost only twenty-one to forty soldiers.

The following day, Tokugawa's army attacked Maruko-jo Castle where a neighboring small local ruling family, the Maruko clan, (served Sanada clan later) who sided the Sanada clan was besieged, but again, they were blocked by a fort and robust resistance and kept the position for about twenty days. During this time, upon skirmishes against reinforcements of the Uesugi Army and news of additional reinforcements, Ieyasu delivered reinforcements (5000 soldiers led by Naomasa II (some troops joined the battle from the beginning), Yasutaka OSUGA, and Yasushige MATSUDAIRA) while ordering a temporary retreat, and as a result, Tokugawa's army retreated from Ueda on October 21. After that, warlords including Tadayo OKUBO stayed in Komoro-jo Castle and repeated skirmishes against Sanada's army, but in December, a senior fudai (a daimyo in hereditary vassal to the Tokugawa family) Kazumasa ISHIKAWA ran away to the Toyotomi family, leading to a complete retreat.

The battle is recorded in "Sanada Gunki" (a war chronicle) of the Sanada family as well as "Mikawa Monogatari" (Tales from Mikawa) of the Tokugawa side. Through this battle, Masayuki came to be described as having excellent ingenuity. In addition, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA recognized the Sanada clan highly through this battle, and as a result, he had Tadakatsu HONDA's daughter Komatsuhime marry into Nobuyuki SANADA for conciliation.

The Sanada clan later served the Toyotomi government, and it is indicated that diplomatic relations with various influences and expansion of power to control several districts was the process of the Sanada clan growing from a small feudal lord to daimyo (major territorial lord).

Ueda City Museum possesses images of the Battle of Kan-gawa.

From October 1585 to June 1586, in conjunction with the Battle of Ueda, the Hojo clan attacked Numata-jo Castle several times, but Masayuki's uncle Jodai (the keeper of castle) Yoritsuna YAZAWA (father of Yoriyasu YAZAWA) succeeded to fight them off.

The second Battle of Ueda

Masayuki, Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, and the Uesugi clan served the Toyotomi government. The Gohojo clan fell from the conquest started in 1590 (the Siege of Odawara) and Ieyasu was transferred to Kanto. In 1598, Hideyoshi died and the influence of Ieyasu, in the position of the head of Gotairo (Council of Five Elders), increased. Anti-Tokugawa powers gathered together around one of the Gobugyo (five major magistrates) Mitsunari ISHIDA, and when Ieyasu commanded an army for conquest of Aizu in July 1600, Mitsunari organized the Western Camp with Terumoto MORI as the supreme commander, and rose up in arms (the Battle of Sekigahara). Masayuki served Ieyasu leading the Eastern Camp, but in September 1600, he fell out with his second son Yukimura SANADA in Shimotsuke and went back to Ueda to side with the Western Camp. On the other hand, his eldest son Nobuyuki SANADA joined the Eastern Camp. According to a popular theory, they parted so that the Sanada family could survive regardless which of the Eastern and Western Camps won.

The Eastern Camp led by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA came to know the rise of the Western Camp of Mitsunari and others in Oyama City, Shimotsuke Province and returned the army to the west. At this time, the main force of Ieyasu and the advance party of daimyo who were assisted by Toyotomi proceeded on Tokai-do Road, but 38,000 troops led by Hidetada TOKUGAWA went west on the Nakasen-do Road. On the way was Ueda-jo Castle in which the father and son of the Sanada family were besieged.

Hidetada ordered Nobuyuki SANADA, Masayuki's legitimate son, to innocuously ask Masayuki to surrender the castle. Experienced Masayuki put off his answer inefficiently to delay the inevitable. It is said that Hidetada, after vainly spending several days, knew Masayuki's intent and was inflamed with rage, and resolved to capture Ueda-jo Castle. At this time, Masanobu HONDA and one of Tokugawa-shitenno (four generals serving Ieyasu TOKUGAWA) Yasumasa SAKAKIBARA, and others proposed that they should not downgrade the outnumbered Sanada clan, but pass Ueda-jo castle in silence and hurry to the major battlefield against the Western Camp (Sekigahara), but because there were many generals who were unfamiliar with battlefields including Toshikatsu DOI, they could not reverse Hidetada's decision. Then, as soldiers led by Yasushige MAKINO (the lord of the Ogo domain) were provoked by Masayuki's dare and triggered the battle, Masayuki agitated and threw out Tokugawa's army with an army of only 3500 strong.

Although Tokugawa's army had an overwhelming number of troops, they could not utilize the advantage of the troops due to the geological conditions, but the local Sanada's army who completely held control of the geological area tossed Tokugawa's army with ingenuity and defeated.
"烈祖成蹟" describes this as 'Our army defeated badly and had countless casualties.'
Hidetada was surprised that Ueda-jo Castle was so robust beyond expectations and decided to hurry to his destination leaving the closer troops at Ueda-jo Castle. However, not only this delay at Ueda, but also bad weather along the way caused harm, and he made a cataclysmic gaffe to be late for the main battle of Sekigahara on October 21. Ieyasu became furious at this gaffe and it is said that he did not even allow Hidetada to see him for a while. Yasunari and his son Tadanari MAKINO (the first lord of the Echigo Nagaoka Domain), who made the cause of huge defeat in hindsight, ran away protecting their followers, so they were temporarily suspended.

In this battle, Masayuki succeeded to cause Hidetada's army to be late for the Battle of Sekigahara in Mino Province, but in the battle of Sekigahara itself, the West Camp was defeated, and Masayuki and Nobushige who were on the Western Camp's side were sentenced to death. However, thanks to a plea for sparing lives made by Nobuyuki and his father-in-law Tadakatsu HONDA, they escaped death and were exiled to Mt. Koya first, and then, because Yukimura wished to have his wife accompanied, to Kudoyama Town.

About these two battles

The first and second battles of Ueda have different characters.

The first one stemmed from territorial issue of Numata territory due to reconciliation of the Tokugawa clan and Hojo clan, and it can be considered as a territorial battle (ego battle) between the Tokugawa clan who requested the hand over of the Numata territory and the Sanada clan who rejected it. Especially for the Sanada clan, it was most important to be recognized as an independent power in Shinano by old retainers of Takeda, so they continued being stubborn till the last. As a result, they succeeded in having the name of Sanada be known to major lords including the Toyotomi clan by fighting off Tokugawa.

However, the second battle, under a situation where military conflict (the Battle of Sekigahara) between the Toyotomi side (Western Camp) and Tokugawa side (Eastern Camp) was inevitable, stems from the fact that Masayuki and his second son Nobushige sided with Toyotomi side (Western Camp). There are several theories why Masayuki and Nobushige dared to side with the Western Camp while the daimyo in Shinano Province all sided with the Eastern Camp, and it is said that the matrimonial relation Masayuki and his son Nobushige had (Masayuki's fifth daughter married into the Uda clan, which is the family home of the wife of Mitsunari ISHIDA, Masayuki's second son Nobushige, being associated with Mitsunari, married with a daughter of Yoshitsugu OTANI who sided with the Western Camp) had a significant influence on their choices. On the other hand, because Masayuki's eldest son Nobuyuki SANADA married Komatsuhime, who was an adopted daughter of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, he joined the Hidetada TOKUGAWA's army as the Eastern Camp to attack Ueda. They say this choice was made valuing survival of their family name as a daimyo family above everything else, which is fundamentally different from the first choice made for publicity seeking.

Through these two battles, the name of the busho (Japanese military commander) Masayuki SANADA became known nation wide.