In May, 1583, a former general of Nobunaga's named Shibata Katsuie coordinated a number of simultaneous attacks on Shizugatake, a series of forts held by Hideyoshi's generals among whom was Nakagawa Kiyohide. Sakuma Morimasa attacked on orders from Shibata Katsuie, and Nakagawa was killed, but the fortress' defenses held. On hearing this Shibata Katsuie immediately ordered Sakuma Morimasa to withdraw his troops as they were dangerously over extended and isolated from Katsuie's own force. Sakuma, however did not heed his lord's orders and made camp, planning to launch another offensive.
It was understood that Hideyoshi was at least 4 days' march away during Sakuma's attack. However, as soon as Hideyoshi learned of Sakuma's actions he led his men on a forced march through the night and reached Shizugatake within a day and a half. Hearing that Hideyoshi was coming with reinforcements, Sakuma ordered his men to break the siege lines and prepare to defend themselves. By this time it was too late and Hideyoshi's forces easily smashed through the defenses.
Hideyoshi's army pushed Sakuma's forces into a rout and pursued them back to Shibata Katsuie's fortress at Kitanosho Castle (Fukui) in Echizen province. They seized the castle but not before Shibata set the keep on fire, killed his family and committed seppuku.
Hideyoshi's chief seven generals in this battle earned a great degree of fame and honor, and came to be known as the shichi-hon yari or 'Seven Spears' of Shizugatake. Among these generals were men who would later become some of Hideyoshi's closest retainers, such as Kato Kiyomasa.