Uesugi Kagekatsu was born into the Nagao clan of Ueda, the son of Nagao Masakage. After Masakage's death, Kagekatsu was adopted by his uncle, Uesugi Kenshin, as his mother, Aya Gozen, was Kenshin’s elder sister. When Kenshin passed away suddenly in 1578, Kagekatsu found himself entangled in a power struggle with his stepbrother/cousin, Uesugi Kagetora, also adopted by Kenshin.

On March 17, 1578, Kagekatsu besieged Kagetora’s castle at Otate, resulting in its swift fall and Kagetora's forced seppuku. With this victory, Kagekatsu asserted his full inheritance and leadership over the Uesugi clan.

Aligned with the Toyotomi clan, Kagekatsu participated in military campaigns at Odawara and in both Korean Campaigns. His loyalty and competence earned him Aizu Domain and an income of 1.2 million koku. Highly esteemed by Hideyoshi, Kagekatsu was appointed as one of the Council of Five Elders.

Following Hideyoshi’s death in 1598, Kagekatsu observed as Tokugawa Ieyasu, another councilor, moved to divide the council members and the nation into East and West factions. Kagekatsu was among the first daimyo to oppose Ieyasu's actions, remaining loyal to the Toyotomi clan and supporting Ishida Mitsunari against the Tokugawa.

Kagekatsu's fortification of a castle at Aizu and the mobilization of troops drew the attention of Ieyasu, who marshaled a formidable force of 50,000 soldiers against the Uesugi. This move was likely part of Ishida Mitsunari's strategy to divert Ieyasu's attention from the Western loyalists. However, Ieyasu sensed the ploy and redirected his forces towards Sekigahara.

After the Western forces' defeat at Sekigahara, Kagekatsu aligned himself with the Tokugawa. He was granted the domain of Yonezawa with an income of 300,000 koku. Kagekatsu fought for the Tokugawa in the Osaka campaigns of 1614 and 1615.

Uesugi Kagekatsu passed away on April 19, 1623, in Yonezawa at the age of 67.


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