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"Samurai Army Composition as depicted in screens and scroll" Topic


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18,073 hits since 8 Aug 2012
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

EValerio Inactive Member08 Aug 2012 7:20 p.m. PST

The current discussion on the composition of units in samurai armies echoed my confusion and frustration in visualizing the samurai army. Trying to illustrate them through the years have given me terrible headaches.

Studying Japanese screens and woodblock prints have helped me in visualizing what the samurai army might have looked like, but since they often don't match what is written in books in English, I still get headaches.

The Takeda Teppo Tai as illustrated in the Takeda Screen.

The top illustration show 3 Arquebusiers and 2 archers in the average Takeda Teppo squad. The squad leader (Teppo ko gashira) of the Teppo Tai are often illustrated as an ashigaru or a samurai on foot. BUT in the Takeda screen the Teppo squad leader is a mounted samurai with two supporting footsoldiers. There are at least 54 Teppo squads in the Takeda Screen, all with a mounted squad leader.

The squad leader is supported by an ashigaru groom who held the horse steady if fighting from a static position. A samurai on foot may have assisted the mounted squad leader as a yumi ko gashira, a 'spotter' for the archers who covered the arquebusiers while reloading. The archers are directed as 'sharpshooters', shooting at specific targets, the nearest threat to the reloading arquebusiers.

The illustration below depict one of the Teppo 'companies' at the front ranks of the Takeda army in the Takeda screen. Five Teppo squads deployed together under the command of a Teppo Kashira. The mounted 'Captain' is supported by a slightly larger group of footsoldiers. Two teppo companies make up the front ranks in the Takeda screen. A total of ten Teppo squads with two captains to command them.

All the Teppo Tai and their squad leaders are without sashimono since they are not expected to engage in close combat. Only the 'captain' wears a sashimono. This may have acted as the 'standard' for the entire company. Illustrations in Rekishi Gunzo books showing the same type of company show a standard bearer with nobori, so I've added one here.

All the men in red armour in the Teppo company is my way of showing men coming from one commander's personal retinue, with the other Teppo Tai 'borrowed' from other contingents. A practice to bolster manpower or increase firepower.

The men above are illustrated as that of Yamagata Masakage, the vanguard 'Red Regiment' of the Takeda army. There were other commanders who served as part of Masakage's contingent. Okuma Tomohide of Echigo abandoned Uesugi Kenshin and served Yamagata Masakage.

Baggy Sausage Inactive Member08 Aug 2012 9:42 p.m. PST

Cool as heck! Thank you!

PIG IRON STUDIO Inactive Member09 Aug 2012 2:16 a.m. PST

Most interesting – it's loads easier when its shown in pictures as you have done.

EValerio Inactive Member09 Aug 2012 2:28 a.m. PST

The Yari Ashigaru, the third specialized ashigaru weapons squad that fought together with the Teppo Tai.

The top illustration depicts a 'company' with about 25 yari ashigaru, most likely men that came with five Teppo squads combined into one unit. They are illustrated deployed in one thin row and armed with nagae-yari, the Japanese pike. Positioned behind them is their unit leader, a mounted samurai supported by footsoldiers.

The bottom illustration depicts how two 'companies' of yari ashigaru are seen in the front ranks in the Takeda screen. About 50 men standing shoulder to shoulder in one thin line, positioned behind the Teppo 'company'. The unit leaders of the two companies are positioned behind and in the wings of the yari ashigaru.

Like the teppo squads, the yari ashigaru are without sashimono. Only the mounted unit leader is shown wearing sashimono, again probably functioning also as the unit standard. A nobori is added as suggested by RK books. The unit leaders appear to wear 'personal' sashimono, one leader wearing a white horo with his sashimono.

Behind the center of the yari ashigaru line is a color guard for an uma-jirushi. Behind the uma-jirushi is the mounted Ashigaru Taisho, the 'general' in charge of all the ashigaru weapons squads. He is illustrated in the screen wearing a horo with what looks like a 3d object sashimono. The Takeda screen depicts the Ashigaru Taisho commanding two full 'companies' of ashigaru bow, gun and spear.

Personal logo elsyrsyn Supporting Member of TMP09 Aug 2012 4:59 a.m. PST

Very nicely done, and very helpful. Thanks!

Doug

Personal logo Dr Mathias Supporting Member of TMP Fezian09 Aug 2012 7:56 a.m. PST

Wonderful images. EValerio I've been looking at your heraldry for as long as you've been putting it on the forums, they're a fantastic resource.

Thanks!!!

figman1 Inactive Member09 Aug 2012 5:18 p.m. PST

Ditto what Dr Mathias said.
Thanks!!

EValerio Inactive Member09 Aug 2012 6:47 p.m. PST

Rough sketches and diagrams have gathered dust for many years. Working on them now have helped further my understanding of the subject. I am considering adding these to the heraldry book. So, Thank you!

A thin line of nagae-yari ashigaru seemed unwise to place on the front ranks. But immediately behind them is a formidable and fearsome array of samurai!

Top illustration show a unit of 14 foot samurai. All armed with yari and wearing 'uniformed' sashimono. These are close-combat troops that will take the fight to the enemy.

Behind each samurai is an ashigaru. Not armed with yari and without sashimono, these ashigaru will follow and closely support a samurai.

Bottom illustration show how the foot samurai are deployed. At the bottom left can be seen the uma-jirushi and the Ashigaru Taisho. To the Taisho's left is a 'company' of 28 samurai and 28 ashigaru. Immediately behind is another 'company' of equal size and composition. Taking a cue from Yamagata Masakage I have illustrated the front 'company' with red-armoured samurai. Each 'company' of foot samurai commanded by a mounted 'lieutenant' (two footsoldiers) and 'captain' (five footsoldiers and nobori).

To the Ashigaru Taisho's right side would be an identical array of two 'companies' of foot samurai. A total of about 112 foot samurai and 112 ashigaru surround the Ashigaru Taisho.

It appears the mounted samurai 'lieutenants' and 'captains' are NOT wearing 'unit' sashimono. These may be high-ranking individuals who have earned the privilege to wear personal sashimono, one 'captain' wearing a colorful horo. The foot samurai they command appear not to be their own troops. Wearing 'standard' white Takeda sashimono, these foot samurai may have been 'allocated' to them from a central source of troops, supplied by all the commanders serving Shingen. I have come across this system with the Hojo and the Date.

setsuko10 Aug 2012 2:46 a.m. PST

Thank you for these great posts, having illustrations to go with the text really helps me a lot when reading about unit organization no matter the period. I really get inspired to put more mounted command in my infantry unit bases, even though that leaves me with the problem of separating those from actual "command" bases when using systems like DBA. Systems with separate distinguishable command bases makes this structure a lot easier to represent on the battlefield IMHO.

How widespread would you say that this organization is? I remember reading Osprey's book on samurai army organization, which pretty much only use the Hojo clan and Edo period Tokugawa armies as examples, but are not those said to be more strictly organized than other clans during the sengoku period?

wminsing Inactive Member10 Aug 2012 6:54 a.m. PST

Wow, this is extremely useful- thank you!

-Will

EValerio Inactive Member15 Aug 2012 2:54 a.m. PST

Setsuko,

The all mounted command depicted in the Takeda screen could be unique to the Takeda. Mounted samurai were always small in numbers in armies, an all mounted command would have weakened their main fighting unit, the mounted samurai. The Takeda would have the resources for an all mounted command depicted in the Screen.

Ritta Nakanishi illustrated a detailed diagram of the command structure of the samurai army in his book 'The History of Japanese Armour Vol. 2' The illustration is a little 'crowded' with many units or groups 'squeezed' in to fit the two pages.

I isolated each group and illustrated them separately to get a clearer picture. The names are from Ritta Nakanishi.

The Yari Gumi (Spear Group)
A. Yari Bugyo (Spearmen Manager)
B. Yari Gumi Gashira (Spear Group Foreman)
C. Yari Samurai Gumi Gashira (Samurai Spear Group Foreman)
D. Yari Samurai Gumi (Samurai Spear Group)
E. Yari Ashigaru Gumi Gashira (Ashigaru Spear Group Foreman)
F. Yari Ashigaru Gumi (Ashigaru Spear Group)
G. Yari Ashigaru Ko-Gashira (Ashigaru Spear Sub-Foreman) a member of the rank and file in the squad. The equivalent of a Corporal in a Platoon.


The top illustration is 'condensed'. The Yari Samurai are shown in a looser formation than those of the ashigaru. Samurai individuals fighting in a group compared to the ashigaru who fought in tight disciplined formation.

Bottom illustration I have shown four groups or 'companies' in the command structure of the Spear Group, but the groups could easily be as big as those in the Takeda Screen. The Yari Samurai were to support the Yari Ashigaru. If the Ashigaru are able to 'hold the line', the samurai would rush out from both wings and take the enemy in flank. The maneuver similar to the Zulu 'Buffalo Horns'.

The Gashira for both samurai and ashigaru groups were armed with yari and would fight alongside the men when needed.

The Gashira in Nakanishi's illustration are on foot, but they appear to be 'dismounted' samurai. Screens or woodblocks showing other armies, show that Gashira could also be foot samurai, or even 'senior' ashigaru.

Nakanishi's illustration may show Takeda troops and don't exactly match that of the Takeda Screen, but the command structure he depicts is the most common one for many Sengoku Period armies.

EValerio Inactive Member16 Aug 2012 3:36 a.m. PST

The Yumi Gumi (Archer Group).
A. Yumi Bugyo (Archer Manager/Commissioner)
B. Yumi Gumi Gashira (Archer Group Foreman)
C. Samurai Yumi Gashira (Samurai Archer Foreman)
D. Samurai Yumi Gumi (Samurai Archer Group)
E. Yumi Ashigaru Gashira (Ashigaru Archer Foreman)
F. Yumi Ashigaru Gumi (Ashigaru Archer Group)
G. Yumi Ashigaru Ko-Gashira (Ashigaru Archer Sub-Foreman)


Bottom illustration show Samurai Archers ahead of the Ashigaru Archers, operate some distance from the main body as 'skirmishers', acting as sharpshooters and snipers.

The Teppo Gumi (Gunner Group)
A. Teppo Bugyo (Gunner Manager/Commissioner)
B. Teppo Gumi Gashira (Gunner Group Foreman)
C. Samurai Deppou Gashira (Samurai Gunner Foreman) Spelling of Teppo for samurai is different.
D. Samurai Deppou Gumi (Samurai Gunner Group)
E. Teppo Ashigaru Gashira (Ashigaru Gunner Foreman)
F. Teppo Ashigaru Gumi (Ashigaru Gunner Group)
G. Teppo Go-Kashira (Gunner Sub-Foreman)


Samurai Arquebusiers are fewer in number and in loose formation, individuals fighting in a group. Numbering three to five in a group. Numbers would increase greatly by the end of the Sengoku period.

Samurai Arquebusiers are shown ahead of the main body as 'skirmishers', acting as sharpshooters and snipers. Nakanishi illustrated Oda Nobunaga's samurai arquebusiers operating outside the fences with very heavy caliber arquebuses to goad the Takeda into charging.

Sir Samuel Vimes Inactive Member16 Aug 2012 8:20 p.m. PST

EValerio,

Thanks. This is such great help.

setsuko17 Aug 2012 3:55 a.m. PST

That picture helps a lot to visualise the organisation. It's probably the best drawing of the subject that I've seen this far, all books included. You are awesome. :)

EValerio Inactive Member17 Aug 2012 1:18 p.m. PST

The Command structure for the mounted samurai from Nakanishi's book. The command structure 'expanded' to include the various types of mounted samurai.

A. Ikusa Bugyo (Samurai Taisho/ Samurai Commander)
B. Musha Bugyo (Samurai Commissioner)
C. Mounted Archer. With Yumi-mochi (bow carrier) carrying bow and extra arrows. Yari-mochi (spear carrier) carrying spear if mounted samurai chooses to engage in close combat.
D. Mounted Spearman, with Yari-mochi (spear carrier).
E. Mounted Commander Yamagata Masakage, supported by Yari-mochi, Hata-zashi (standard bearers and their Color Guard), and mounted samurai retainers (F).
G. Mounted Deppou Samurai, supported by Teppo-mochi to carry ammo and reload gun.

Nakanishi illustrated Tokugawa Ieyasu with 'improvised' mounted Teppo samurai. Mounted samurai with Teppo squad riding outside the fences of Nagashino to goad the Takeda into charging. Mounted samurai acting like Dragoons with the Teppo squad reloading the guns for the samurai.


Bottom illustration show the mounted samurai arranged into the 'Hoshi' Arrowhead Formation for a fierce charge. From drawings and diagrams from Rekishi Gunzo books. A mobile formation where the Taisho joins the charge, protected on three sides by a wall of mounted samurai.

NOTE: Two of the mounted samurai are better off, having two extra foot samurai to follow them into battle.

Missile troops support the mounted charge, Teppo and yumi ashigaru (not illustrated) and mounted missile troops. By the end of the Sengoku period the number of Mounted Teppo will increase, replacing the mounted archer.

wminsing Inactive Member20 Aug 2012 2:02 p.m. PST

Fascinating and amazing work! I admit the whole mixed infantry/cavalry formation confuses me, as it seems like you'd be forgoing a lot of mobility to allow the infantry to keep up. Did the infantry act more as a fall back/rallying point, or a 'second wave' when charging?

-Will

EValerio Inactive Member20 Aug 2012 5:02 p.m. PST

Mounted samurai did not charge at full gallop like 'Western' cavalry that you see in most samurai films. I have not come across text that the samurai had to slow down to allow the footsoldiers to keep up, rather it was up to the footsoldiers to keep up and stay with their mounted lord.

Mounted samurai often acted like mounted infantry. I have seen films, Taiga drama and reenactments that may show one type of tactic used by mounted samurai.

Mounted samurai dismounting once reaching the enemy and engaging in hand-to-hand combat. His supporting footsoldiers fighting alongside him, his groom holding his horse away from the fighting. Once an enemy head is taken, or if the situation becomes dangerous, the mounted samurai remounts his horse as his footsoldiers cover his withdrawal.

In some scenes, as the mounted samurai engages a mounted enemy, his footsoldiers surround the enemy horsemen and pull him off his saddle and behead him. In recent Taiga dramas, this is how Takeda Nobushige and Morozumi Masakiyo are dispatched by Kakizaki troops. A fierce battle then takes place between the supporting footsoldiers, where the Takeda succeeds in retrieving the heads of their slain commanders.

At Sekigahara, Matsuda Hidenobu fought on foot, armed with a large rake. He pulled down 11 enemy horsemen and held them with his rake, as his footsoldiers beheaded them all.

I am still examining the Takeda Screen. There is a section that puzzles me at the moment. There is a gathering of horsemen within the main body. Upon closer examination, all the horses have empty saddles, the grooms holding on to the horses. The riders may have chosen to fight as infantry alongside the footsoldiers.

EValerio Inactive Member21 Aug 2012 4:17 a.m. PST

Based on Nakanishi's illustration of almost the entire contingent of Kimata Morikatsu, commander of the vanguard unit of the 'Red Devils'. Details match what can be seen on the Wakae Screen depicting the Red Devils during the Osaka Summer Campaign. Again, Nakanishi has crammed a lot of detail in a small space with Morikatsu's substantial Baggage Train and other non-combatants squeezed in with the combat units. I have isolated only the combat units in the illustration below.

The 'Tip of the Spear', Vanguard of the Red Devils.
A. Kimata Morikatsu. Supported by a spear carrier, groom, four ashigaru, four foot samurai wearing personal sashimono, and (B) Nobori bearer.
C. Tsukaiban, the only mounted samurai without foot retainers. C1 all red horo, to communicate with Tokugawa Ieyasu or other allied contingents. C2 Colorful 'Polka Dot' Horo to communicate with other contingents of the Red Devils.
D. Morikatsu's O Uma-jirushi.
E. Foot Samurai. Turnbull says eight samurai, while I can see only 3 with 2 ashigaru support in Nakanishi's illustration.
F. Mounted Samurai. Morikatsu and his 3 mounted retainers, the main fighting force in the vanguard unit.
G. Nagae-yari Ashigaru.
H. Teppo Squad of 3 arquebusiers and 2 archers.

If the Red Devil contingent of 20-30 horsemen were to form a huge 'Arrowhead Formation', Morikatsu's unit would form the 'tip of the spear'.

The small Teppo Squad assigned to blast a hole in the enemy ranks prior to the charge, could be increased in size and firepower by adding the Teppo squads of the other Red Devil contingents. The Yari Ashigaru also being 'enlarged' through the same system.

A mobile formation where the entire group illustrated above would take the fight to the enemy. The nobori, uma-jirushi and the two Tsukaiban making up Morikatsu's mobile HQ. It would stay behind Morikatsu while he engaged in combat, providing a rallying point.

During the hand-to-hand combat, the Teppo squad and the Yari Ashigaru could provide protection for Morikatsu's HQ while providing fire support for their attacking horsemen. In a screen in the Tokugawa collection there is an illustration of a Tokugawa Tsukaiban taking command of a Teppo squad.

wminsing Inactive Member21 Aug 2012 5:42 a.m. PST

Thank you for the clarification and the continuing information!

-Will

Killerkatanas Inactive Member22 Aug 2012 5:44 p.m. PST

I am really curious about where Nakanishi got his information about mounted samurai teppo. I have yet to find anything concrete. I do remember reading a little about them being formed after Osaka, but certainly not before that.

But this is not the first time the history of Nagashino has been imbelished. The original source of Nagashino states that there were 1,000 gunners (with 2,000 loaders). Three men per team, one firing and two loading.

BTW You should really thinbk about publishing a book with your heraldry and organization art in it. I'm sure it would be a good seller. Maybe hit up Osprey about it.

Brian

EValerio Inactive Member23 Aug 2012 1:55 p.m. PST

Hi Brian,

Nakanishi mentions 'Shinchou-ki' as the source of details for his Nagashino illustrations.

In a discussion at the Samurai Forum, the 'Shinchou-ki' published in 1622 was a revision of 'Shinchou-kou-ki' written around 1600. That 'Shinchou-ki' is much less reliable, especially with it's acccount of Nagashino.

I haven't come across specialised units of mounted Teppo, instead, mounted samurai who chose to dismount and fight with teppo, from Korea, Sekigahara and finally Osaka increased in numbers as time went on.

Yari Sam Inactive Member24 Aug 2012 10:42 a.m. PST

Hi EValerio! Outstanding work as always. Just wanted to thank you for all your contributions here and on the heraldry pages.

Any idea when the book will be available? I'll buy.

EValerio Inactive Member03 Sep 2012 5:23 p.m. PST

Yari Sam,

Can't give you a date as it will be a while for me to finish a current commission before I can get back to working on the book.

A recap using the formations at the beginning of this thread, the Teppo Squads, Yari Ashigaru and Foot Samurai, shown in the way they are deployed in the Takeda Screen.

A variation of the 'Saku' Keyhole Formation, A defensive formation against the Arrowhead. The Teppo Companies to the flank, creating a funnel that will expose the attacking enemy in a deadly crossfire. The front rank of yari ashigaru and foot samurai arranged in depth to absorb the enemy charge.

NOTE: The right Teppo Company formation appear denser while the left Teppo Company appear more strung out. This is just the perspective of the illustration. Both Teppo companies are strung out in a thin defensive line in the screen.

A close up detail of the right Teppo company.


Sticking out of the main body, they are vulnerable and exposed if they become the target of attacking horsemen. If attacked they are to withdraw behind the first row of foot samurai, where the archers can continue to provide fire support by shooting arrows over the heads of the samurai and yari ashigaru.

Their mounted squad leaders providing cover as the Teppo squads withdraw to safety behind the foot samurai. These mounted squad leaders forming a body of cavalry at the flanks of the main body.

A close up detail of the main body. I have redrawn the heraldry, based on what I can make out of the Takeda screen. The banners are badly damaged in the screen.


Based on what I can see or make out, the 'Captains' have personalized sashimono or horo, while all the 'Lieutenants' have uniformed sashimono. Yamagata Masakage's nobori is in the very center of the formation. He is the overall commander of this vanguard.

Skeptic03 Sep 2012 7:12 p.m. PST

This is very interesting!

About the screens, might they have used a kind of "compressed" representation, where only (say) one man in five was actually depicted?

EValerio Inactive Member03 Sep 2012 8:27 p.m. PST

My impression is that it is not 'compressed'. It is quite extensive. Showing Yamagata Masakage to the front and Takeda Shingen to the rear, with rank after rank of samurai and ashigaru between them.

As to the Saku illustrated above, the number of men show that it is but ONE contingent. To visualize the entire Takeda army spread out on the Kawanakajima Plain, you have to imagine SEVERAL contingents deployed side by side, on a much wider front.

While you may have Teppo squads positioned in front of each contingent to blunt an enemy charge, diagrams and RK illustration show the 'funnel' can be composed of Teppo companies from several contingents deployed together in a dense mass at the flanks. One illustration show each side of the 'funnel' composed of three entire companies in three rows. Teppo companies in front and second row with a third company of archers at the rear, shooting over the heads of the two companies of Teppo ashigaru.

One contingent can deploy in any of the battle formations. Two or more contingents fighting side by side can deploy into a larger, denser battle formation that can cover an even larger area of the battlefield.

If one contingent can have a company as vanguard, another company as right flank, another company as left flank, and another company as rear guard. Expand it if you have several contingents fighting side by side. An entire contingent as vanguard, another contingent as right flank, another contingent as left flank, and an entire contingent as rear guard.

When several contingents are fighting side by side forming a very large version of any battle formation, EACH contingent may have their various companies deployed differently, depending on which position of the battle formation the contingent have been assigned to.

I will try to create a diagram to show these.

Field Marshal04 Feb 2013 6:29 p.m. PST

A bit of threadomancy i know but wow this is some really great stuff…thank you so much!

Lion in the Stars04 Feb 2013 8:51 p.m. PST

Yes, thank you for all the work in illustrating this. I hope you have had some time to work on the Book, I'd be willing to spend quite a bit to get a copy.

And with that illustration of the different formations, I'm really tempted to make diorama bases in 15mm.

setsuko05 Feb 2013 9:40 a.m. PST

It WOULD be quite possible to make with some of the unpainted 6mm samurai I have…

ItinerantHobbyist08 Mar 2013 4:39 p.m. PST

Yeah, I'm not even sure how I would go about modelling this using Kings of War as a ruleset.

Or even impetus. Both sets are element based, so you could make diorama bases, but it would be, at the most 5 figures a base. And they would all be mixed – bow and arquebus. Most lists have say for one or the other. Need to noodle on this.

tadamson Inactive Member11 Mar 2013 7:19 a.m. PST

Sadly you would need skirmish level rules to run with these formations. Wargames rules tend to run from 1 fig = 20 men up to 1 base = 200-300 men…

Lion in the Stars11 Mar 2013 9:31 a.m. PST

@Itineranthobbyist: There are straight bow-armed units, historically. I'd play with the stats for a teppogumi to reflect having ~3:2 teppo:archers, not pure guns.

Lion in the Stars13 Mar 2013 3:10 a.m. PST

@tadamson: It depends, really. I was picturing a ruleset like War of the Ring, where you're pushing around multiple 'companies' under the command of a hero.

Sure, it'd be great to make these units 1:1 models:real bodies, where you'd have ~8-10 models per teppotai, yumitai, or yaritai stand, but what's keeping you from "fireteam basing" like what Flames of War does?

Each squad in the company moves and shoots at the same time. You'd have the individual command stands from gumi on up to commanding Daimyo. You'd need some kind of command friction built in, though.

barcah2001 Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2013 5:34 a.m. PST

EValerio, been waiting for an update on the possible publication of your booklet on Samurai heraldry and formations. Is there anything coming up in the near future?

Mark

barcah2001 Supporting Member of TMP20 Aug 2013 6:10 a.m. PST

On a related topic, I always thought the Killer Katana rules were best suited for armies structured like this, but after replacing the foot/horse cards with clan or taiko cards. Special situations and groups of massed teppo, pikes, cavalry could also be represented by special cards.

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