I am the Senate
- May 14, 2009
Was it so stellar? What were the great Tokugawa victories, and perhaps more to the point, how does one define or quantify good generalship?A blemish on an otherwise stellar record?
Take the Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa's most obvious candidate for great battlefield victory. Where at Sekigahara did Tokugawa display the sorts of skills one typically associates with great generalship? Where on the Battlefield did he outfox and outmaneuver Mitsunari? He didn't, on the contrary he marched his troops straight into an enemy trap. Where on the battlefield did he display an innovative grasp of tactics or use of weaponry? Not at Sekigahara. If Ieyasu ever did such a thing it would have been at Nagashino, where he was under the command of Nobunaga.
The answer of course is nowhere, because Sekigahara was a battle won off the field through political skill rather than on it through battlefield acumen. Mitsunari outfoxed himself in alienating Toyotomi generals like Kobayakawa Hideaki long before the conflict and then granting them considerable commissions at Sekigahara; Ieyasu skilfully exploited this animosity and coaxed them into defecting. Mitsunari sowed distrust in powerful Toyotomi retainers like the Mouri; Ieyasu exploited this discord again in convincing Mouri to stay put and wait the battle out. Had he not done so, or if either man had changed their mind at the last minute, the trap Mitsunari had set for the Tokugawa forces would have closed and Tokugawa would have likely lost the battle decisively. These are not displays of great generalship; they are displays of great diplomacy and politics, and those were the arenas in which Tokugawa excelled.