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Access from that side being
counted impracticable, no dispositions had been made by the Taira to
guard the defile. Yoshitsune selected for the venture seventy-five
men, among them being Benkei, Hatakeyama Shigetada, and others of his
most trusted comrades. They succeeded in riding down the steep
declivity, and they rushed at the Taira position, setting fire to
everything inflammable.

What ensued is soon told. Taken completely by surprise, the Taira
weakened, and the Minamoto, pouring in at either flank, completed the
rout which had already commenced. Munemori was among the first of the
fugitives. He embarked with the Emperor Antoku and the regalia, and
steered for Yashima, whither he was quickly followed by the remnants
of his force. Shigehira, Kiyomori's fifth son, was taken prisoner.
Michimori, Tadanori, and Atsumori were killed. Several illustrative
incidents marked this great fight. Michimori's wife threw herself
into the sea when she heard of her husband's death. Tomoakira, the
seventeen-year-old son of Tomomori, deliberately sacrificed himself
to save his father, and the latter, describing the incident
subsequently to his brother, Munemori, said with tears: "A son died
to save his father; a father fled, leaving his son to die. Were it
done by another man, I should spit in his face. But I have done it
myself. What will the world call me?" This same Tomomori afterwards
proved himself the greatest general on the Taira side. Okabe
Tadazumi, a Minamoto captain, took the head of Tadanori but could not
identify it. In the lining of the helmet, however, was found a roll
of poems and among them one signed "Tadanori:"

Twilight upon my path,
And for mine inn to-night
The shadow of a tree,
And for mine host, a flower.

This little gem of thought has gleamed on Tadanori's memory through
all the centuries and has brought vicarious fame even to his slayer,
Tadazumi. Still more profoundly is Japanese sympathy moved by the
episode of Taira no Atsumori and Kumagaye Naozane. Atsumori, a
stripling of fifteen, was seized by Naozane, a stalwart warrior on
the Minamoto side. When Naozane tore off the boy's helmet,
preparatory to beheading him, and saw a young face vividly recalling
his own son who had perished early in the fight, he was moved with
compassion and would fain have stayed his hand. To have done so,
however, would merely have been to reserve Atsumori for a crueller
death. He explained his scruples and his sorrows to the boy, who
submitted to his fate with calm courage. But Naozane vowed never to
wield weapon again. He sent Atsumori's head and a flute found on his
person to the youth's father, Tsunemori, and he himself entered the
priesthood, devoting the remaining years of his life to prayers for
the soul of the ill-fated lad. Such incidents do not find a usual
place in the pages of history, but they contribute to the
interpretation of a nation's character.

BATTLE OF YASHIMA

The battle of Ichi-no-tani was not by any means conclusive. It drove
the Taira out of Harima and the four provinces on the immediate west
of the latter, but it did not disturb them in Shikoku or Kyushu, nor
did it in any way cripple the great fleet which gave them a signal
advantage. In these newly won provinces Yoritomo placed military
governors and nominated to these posts Doi Sanehira and Kajiwara
Kagetoki, heroes, respectively, of the cryptomeria forest and the
hollow tree. But this contributed little to the solution of the vital
problem, how to get at the Taira in Shikoku and in Kyushu. Noriyori
returned to Kamakura to consult Yoritomo, but the latter and his
military advisers could not plan anything except the obvious course
of marching an army from Harima westward to the Strait of
Shimonoseki, and thereafter collecting boats to carry it across to
Kyushu. That, however, was plainly defective strategy. It left the
flank of the westward-marching troops constantly exposed to attack
from the coast where the Taira fleet had full command of the sea; it
invited enterprises against the rear of the troops from the enemy's
position at Yashima in Shikoku, and it assumed the possibility of
crossing the Strait of Shimonoseki in the presence of a greatly
superior naval force.

Yet no other plan of operations suggested itself to the Kamakura
strategists. Yoshitsune was not consulted. He remained in Kyoto
instead of repairing to Kamakura, and he thereby roused the suspicion
of Yoritomo, who began to see in him a second Yoshinaka. Hence, in
presenting a list of names for reward in connexion with the campaign
against the "Morning Sun shogun," Yoritomo made no mention of
Yoshitsune, and the brilliant soldier would have remained entirely
without recognition had not the cloistered Emperor specially
appointed him to the post of kebiishi. Thus, when the largely
augmented Minamoto force began to move westward from Harima in
October, 1184, under the command of Noriyori, no part was assigned to
Yoshitsune. He remained unemployed in Kyoto.

Noriyori pushed westward steadily, but not without difficulty. He
halted for a time in the province of Suwo, and finally, in March,
1185, five months after moving out of Harima, he contrived to
transfer the main part of his force across Shimonoseki Strait and to
marshall them in Bungo in the north of Kyushu. The position then was
this: first, a Taira army strongly posted at Yashima in Sanuki
(Shikoku), due east of Noriyori's van in Bungo, and threatening his
line of communications throughout its entire length from Harima to
the Strait of Shimonoseki; secondly, another Taira army strongly
posted on Hikoshima, an island west of Shimonoseki Strait, which army
menaced the communications between Noriyori's van across the water in
Bungo and his advanced base in Suwo, and thirdly, the command of the
whole Inland Sea in the hands of the Taira.

Evidently, in such conditions, no advance into Kyushu could be made
by Noriyori without inviting capital risks. The key of the situation
for the Minamoto was to wrest the command of the sea from the Taira
and to drive them from Shikoku preparatory to the final assault upon
Kyushu. This was recognized after a time, and Kajiwara Kagetoki
received orders to collect or construct a fleet with all possible
expedition, which orders he applied himself to carry out at Watanabe,
in Settsu, near the eastern entrance to the Inland Sea. In justice to
Yoritomo's strategy it must be noted that these orders were given
almost simultaneously with the departure of the Minamoto army
westward from Harima, so that by the time of Noriyori's arrival in
Bungo, the military governor, Kagetoki, had got together some four
hundred vessels at Watanabe.

Meanwhile, Yoshitsune had been chafing in Kyoto. To a man of his
temperament enforced passivity on the eve of such epoch-making events
must have been intolerable. He saw plainly that to drive the Taira
from Shikoku was an essential preliminary to their ultimate defeat,
and he saw, too, that for such an enterprise a larger measure of
resolution and daring was needed than Kajiwara Kagetoki seemed
disposed to employ. He therefore obtained from the cloistered Emperor
the commission of tai-shogun (great general) and hastened to Settsu
to take command. Complications ensued at once. Kagetoki objected to
be relegated to a secondary place, and Go-Shirakawa was induced to
recall Yoshitsune. But the latter refused to return to Kyoto, and, of
course, his relations with Kagetoki were not cordial. The situation
was complicated by an unpleasant incident. Kagetoki wished to equip
the war-junks with sakaro. Yoshitsune asked what that meant, and
being informed that sakaro signified oars at the bow of a boat for
use in the event of going astern, he said that such a provision could
tend only to suggest a movement fatal to success.

"Do you contemplate retiring?" he asked Kagetoki. "So far as I am
concerned, I desire only to be equipped for advancing." Kagetoki
indignantly replied: "A skilful general advances at the right moment
and retires at the right moment. You know only the tactics of a wild
boar." Yoshitsune angrily retorted, "I know not whether I am a boar
or whether I am a deer, but I do know that I take pleasure in
crushing a foe by attacking him." From that moment the relations
between the two generals were distinctly strained, and it will
presently be seen that the consequences of their estrangement became
historical.

The 21st of March, 1185, was a day of tempest. Yoshitsune saw his
opportunity. He proposed to run over to the opposite coast and attack
Yashima under cover of the storm. Kagetoki objected that no vessel
could live in such weather. Yoshitsune then called for volunteers.
About one hundred and fifty daring spirits responded. They embarked
in five war-junks, some of the sailors being ordered to choose
between manning the vessels or dying by the sword. Sweeping over the
Harima Nada with the storm astern, Yoshitsune and his little band of
heroic men landed safely on the Awa coast, and dashed at once to the
assault of the Taira, who were taken wholly by surprise, never
imagining that any forces could have essayed such an enterprise in
such a tempest. Some fought resolutely, but ultimately all that had
not perished under the swords of the Minamoto obeyed Munemori's
orders to embark, and the evening of the 23rd of March saw the Taira
fleet congregated in Shido Bay and crowded with fugitives. There they
were attacked at dawn on the 24th by Yoshitsune, to whom there had
arrived on the previous evening a re-enforcement of thirty war-junks,
sent, not by Kagetoki, but by a Minamoto supporter who had been
driven from the province of Iyo some time previously by the Taira.

As usual, the impetuosity of Yoshitsune's onset carried everything
before it. Soon the Taira fleet was flying down the Inland Sea, and
when Kajiwara Kagetoki, having at length completed his preparations,
arrived off Yashima on the 25th of March with some four hundred
war-vessels, he found only the ashes of the Taira palaces and
palisades. Munemori, with the boy Emperor and all the survivors of
the Taira, had fled by sea to join Tomomori at Hikoshima.



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