The Battle of Shokusan (稷山の戦い)

The Battle of Shokusan was fought between the Japanese army and the Ming army during the Keicho Campaign.


The peace-treaty negotiations after the Bunroku Campaign failed and therefore led to the Keicho Campaign. In 1597, the aim of the campaign was to demolish Jeolla-do and Chungcheo-do, and after attaining that objective the plan was to build fortresses (Japanese castles) and choose residents for them, whereupon the rest of the army would return to Japan.

The Japanese army, which was based near Busan, demolished the Korean navy in the Battle of Chilcheollyang on August 28 and, as for the land war, started its advance toward Jeolla-do. The Ming-Korean army was increasing its defenses at Namwon and Hwangsoksan castles, between the road boundary of Chilcheollyang and Gyeongsang-do.

The Japanese army divided into two, the left army and the right army, and subsequently the left forces captured Namwon Castle on September 26 and the right forces captured Hwangsoksan Castle on September 27, after which the two forces headed toward the core district of Jeolla-do, Jeonju City. Chin, the defending Ming warrior, was afraid and fled without engaging, and the Japanese conquered Jeonju on October 5. Here the various warriors held a meeting, and then separated in order to conquer Chilcheollyang and Chungcheong-do.

The progress of battle

The five main groups of the right army of Japan, consisting of Hidemoto MORI (about 25,000 soldiers), Kiyomasa KATO (about 10,000 soldiers), Nagamasa KURODA (about 5,000 soldiers), Assistant Deputy General Kazuyoshi OTA and Shigetoshi TAKENAKA led about 40,000 soldiers and left Jeonju on October 10; they headed north, reaching Gongju in the middle of October. When Ming warrior Chin fled Jeonju at first, Admiral Ma Gui sent for the ranger Gyu from Hanseong for support. Gyu combined forces with Chin and stayed in Gongju; upon hearing that the Japanese army had left Jeonju and headed north, they became afraid and retreated to Hanseong. Therefore, the Japanese army met no resistance in occupying Gongju.

The Japanese army split at Gongju, and the two groups of Kato and Ota headed to the right, reaching Cheongju via Yeongi County on October 16. Hidemoto, with the Kuroda group in the van, reached Cheonan City via Jeonui on the same day.

At Hanseong, Keiri Yang Hao of Ming, who had arrived from Pyongyang on October 11, prompted Ma Gui to stop the invasion of the Japanese army. Ma Gui reached Suwon City together with four warrior groups of Deputy Admiral Kaisei, the ranger Gyu, Yang, and Haki (pronunciation unconfirmed) leading 2,000 experienced horsemen, and set out for Shokusan on the 16th. The Korean court sent troops led by LEE Won-Ik, which headed down to Chukusan and took the Cheongju route in order to guard the left wing of the Ming army.

Nagamasa KURODA sent some advance troops led by those including Zushonosuke KURODA and Toshiyasu KURIYAMA, early in the morning of October 17. Zushonosuke advanced up to about 4 meters before Shokusan, whereupon it became evident that the enemy troops were starting to fill the mountain fields and were drawing closer at dawn. The various leaders met in order to decide whether they should attack or retreat.
Shusui KEYA said, 'The enemy are many and we are few. If we retreat one step backwards, the enemy will definitely give chase and our troops will be cut down, but if we try to advance and face death with all of our troops act together, we will definitely break through our enemy. If we use the chance to retreat, our troops might make it. This was the trick that Katsuyori TAKEDA used after the loss at the Battle of Nagashino, where he attacked in order to discourage the pursuit of his enemies.'
They had the soldiers shoot guns and shout through the smoke, as they attacked. This took the Ming army by surprise, so they broke ranks and retreated in a second. Zushonosuke used this opportunity to rally the soldiers and retreat. At the same time, Nagamasa heard the gun shots from the place in the distance where the spearhead was present and led his 3,000 troops in the direction. However, he was pursued by the enemy's vanguard and was therefore in a dangerous position.
Sanzaemon KURODA said, 'If the advance troops lost, our main troops will probably not hold, so this is to be my last stand.'
Then, he attacked the enemy's flank with his troops. Mototsugu GOTO, who held a high ground, sent troops to fight the enemy, prevent the enemy from becoming aware that our troops are outnumbered, and also support our vanguards. Sanzaemon rallied the vanguards and returned.

When Nagamasa arrived at the battlefield, he immediately went up the high ground on the eastern side and inspected the enemy's status, whereupon he changed the formation of his troops. The first group of the right wing, which was led by Tahyoe MORI, Toshiyasu KURIYAMA and Hyogonosuke KURODA, followed by the second group led by Kurobei INOUE and Ichiemon NOMURA, and the first group of the left wijng, which was led by Mototsugu GOTO and Sanzaemon KURODA, follwoed by the second group led by Zushonosuke KURODA and Magobei KIRIYAMA. Nagamasa personally led the remaining 2,000 troops. At this time, the Ming warriors including Kaisei arrived from Suwon. With the arrival of the 2,000 troops led by Chinese leaders ranger Haisen, Senso ribonkyo and Haso Ryogusetsu, the army regained energy and attacked the enemy. The two sides clashed several times in the fields of Matsuin, but there was no decisive winner.

Hidemoto MORI was at Cheonn, heard about the precarious situation at Shokusan and immediately rushed to support the battle at Shokusan with his army, ordered vanguards including Mototsugu SHISHIDO and Hiroyuki YOSHIMI to spearhead the attack. Those incuding Mototsugu rushed for and helped the Kuroda troops by attacking the enemy's rear and flank. The Ming army was soundly defeated and retreated toward Suwon. It was after 3 pm, so the Japanese army didn't pursuit the enemy, and rallied the troops and returned to Cheonan instead. The dead in this day's battle numbered 29 soldiers in the Kuroda troops for the Japanese army and about 200 soldiers for the Ming army.

Progress after the battle

When the Japanese army headed toward Shokusan, the Ming-Korean army drew a defensive line at Han-gang and strengthened its defenses. However, in Hanseong people panicked at the approaching Japanese army and fled, so the city was virtually empty. On the other hand, after the battle of Shokusan, the right army of Japan entered the Gyeonggi-do and invaded Anseong and Chuksan. Then, following the plan, the Japanese troops at Gyeonggi-do, Chungcheong-do and Jeolla-do were reversed and went back to the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula in order to start building castles. The Korean court couldn't understand the reason for this reversal, and assumed that the Japanese army was setting a trap.

The Ming-Korean army planned a counterattack against the Japanese army, which was hurried in building castles on the southern coast of the peninsula, and attacked the easternmost castle being constructed, which was Urusan-jo. The Battle of Urusan-jo Castle started on January 29, 1598, but the castle was defended by Kiyomasa KATO and, with the support of Hidemoto MORI and others, the Ming-Korean army was shattered on February 9.

[Original Japanese]