Battle of Kumegawa, 24 June 1333

The battle of Kumegawa (24 June 1333) was the second of two battles in two days in the campaign that led to the capture of Kamakura and the fall of the Kamakura Shogunate (Genko War, 1331-33), and was won by the pro-Imperial forces of Nitta Yoshisada.

Nitta Yoshisada had decided to join the Imperial cause after he was called to take part in the Shogunate's siege of Chihaya. He received an Imperial mandate. He feigned illness and returned home, where he began to raise an army. His uprising was triggered by the arrival of tax gathers at his estates. He raised his banner on the 8th day of the 5th month (20 June 1333) at the shrine at Ikushina, and then began a march south towards the Shogunate's capital at Kamakura, gathering supporters as he went. According to the Taiheiki his army was 200,000 strong by the time it reached the Iruma River.

The Shogunate responded by sending one army east to gather reinforcements, while a second force of 60,000 men was sent north to try and block Yoshisada at the Iruma River. This army was commanded by the grand marshal Sakurada Sadakuni, supported by Nagasaki Takashige and Nagasaki Saemon.

The Shogunate army was unable to stop Yoshisada crossing the Iruma River. They reached Kotesashi (south of the river) on the 11th day for the 5th month (23 June 1333), and paused. This allowed Yoshisada to cross the river unopposed, and attack the Shogunate force. The resulting battle of Kotesashi (23 June 1333) was an inconclusive affair and at the end of the day the two armies separated. Yoshisada camped on the Iruma River, while the Shogunate force moved south to the Kume River. Both sides prepared to resume the battle on the following day.

On the morning of the twelfth day (24 June 1333) the Bakufu force prepared to defend their position, and formed a single strong line. The Taiheiki's description of this formation is a little confused, and it could be read as an attempt to envelope the attacking army or as an attempt to smash the centre of Yoshisada's army. Yoshisada responded by forming his men into a wedge, strengthening his centre. Neither side was able to win any great tactical advantage in the resulting battle, which seems to have become a chaotic melee. The Taiheiki doesn't give an casualty figures for this battle, but does say that Yoshisada's men suffered light losses while their opponents 'perished in great numbers'.

At the end of the battle the Bakufu force retreated to Bubaigawara on the Tama River (modern Fuchu, in western Tokyo). Their morale was poor, but they were given time to recover. Yoshisada decided to allow his troops at the Kume River, giving them the time to recover from two battles in two days. This pause was almost fatal. It allowed the Bakufu to rush reinforcements to Bubaigawara, and when Yoshisada launched his next attack he was almost defeated (battle of Bubaigawara, 27-28 June 1333) and was only saved by the arrival of reinforcements. 

Taiheiki: A Chronicle of Medieval Japan, trans. Helen Craig McCullough. A modern English translation of the first twelve chapters of the Taiheiki, covering the period of the Genko War, a civil war that saw the Emperor Go-Daigo briefly overthrow the Shogunate and restore direct Imperial rule.
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A History of Japan, 1334-1615, Sir George Sansom. A classic history of Japan, covering the period from the fall of the Kamakura Shogunate in the 1330s to the battle of Sekigahara of 1615. A little dated now, but it still provides an excellent narrative history of this period, with more detail on the military events than in most more modern works.
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 November 2012), Battle of Kumegawa, 24 June 1333 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_kumegawa.html

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