Battle of Ueno

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Battle of Ueno
上野戦争
Part of Boshin War
Battle of Ueno 4 July 1868.jpg
Battle of Ueno.
UenoSenso.jpg
The attack on Kan'ei-ji Temple, labeled here as "The attack of Honnō-ji" (本能寺) in the Battle of Ueno. The Shogitai (彰義隊) troops are on the left, in samurai garb, and Imperial troops with modern uniforms are on the right (the "Red bear" (赤熊, Shaguma) wigs indicate soldiers from Tosa Jinshotai(迅衝隊)).
Date July 4, 1868
Location Ueno, Tokyo
Result Decisive Imperial victory
Belligerents
Satsuma, Chōshū, Tosa, Saga Former Bakufu troops, Shōgitai
Commanders and leaders
Ruler: Emperor Meiji
Army: Ōmura Masujirō
Satsuma: Saigō Takamori, Tosa: Itagaki Taisuke
Shibusawa Seiichirō
Amano Hachirō
Strength
under 2,000 2,000 combatants
Casualties and losses
Heavy among Satsuma troops 300

The Battle of Ueno (上野戦争 Ueno Sensō?) was a battle of the Boshin War, which occurred on July 4, 1868 (Meiji 1, 15th day of the 5th month),[1] between the troops of the Shōgitai under Shibusawa Seiichirō and Amano Hachirō, and Imperial "Kangun" troops.

Prelude[edit]

Though the Shōgitai was mostly made up of former Tokugawa retainers and residents of the surrounding provinces, some domains supported the Shōgitai, such as Takada han (Echigo Province, 150,000 koku), Obama han (Wakasa Province, 103,000 koku), Takasaki han (Kōzuke Province, 52,000 koku), and Yūki han (Shimosa Province, 18,000 koku).[2]

Facing them were the combined forces of the Chōshū, Ōmura, Sadowara, Hizen, Chikugo, Owari, Bizen, Tsu, Inaba, and Higo domains, under the general command of Chōshū's Ōmura Masujirō.[3]

Shibusawa and Amano initially had the 2000-strong Shōgitai posted in Ueno to protect Tokugawa Yoshinobu, who was, at the time, in self-imposed confinement at Ueno's Kan'ei-ji Temple, as well as Prince Rinnōji no Miya Yoshihisa, who was the abbot of the temple,[4] and was to become the new dynastic leader of the Tokugawa resistance as "Emperor Tōbu".

From their base, the Shogitai had been harassing Imperial troops, creating trouble in Edo, thus forcing the Imperial side, although outnumbered, to take action.[5]

Battle[edit]

Armstrong Gun used by troops of the Saga Domain at the Battle of Ueno against the Shogunate's Shōgitai.

The Shōgitai took up positions around Kan'ei-ji (寛永寺; an important Tokugawa family temple) and the nearby Nezu Shrine (根津神社).[6] When the battle began, the forces of Satsuma, led by Saigō Takamori, attacked head-on at the gate, but were stopped by the Shogitai forces, which were superior in number. The Satsuma forces suffered heavy casualties, until the forces of Choshu managed to make a second attack from the rear, which unblocked the tactical stalemate.[5] While the Shogitai put up stiff resistance, the Tosa troops also used Armstrong cannons and Snider guns to devastating effect, thus ending the last center of resistance in Edo. According to Saigo Takamori:

"With our ample preparations we made short work of [the enemy], and this is an exceptional and extreme delight."

—Saigo Takamori[5]
Devastation of Ueno after the battle. 1868 photograph.

Rinnōji no Miya escaped, reached Enomoto Takeaki's warship Chogei-maru and was dropped off further north, on the Pacific coast.[6] Harada Sanosuke of the Shinsengumi is said to have joined the Shōgitai, and died soon after this battle.[7] About 300 Shogitai are said to have died in the battle, and a thousand houses were burnt in collateral damages.

Funeral monument to the Shogitai in Ueno Park.
Depiction of the battle of Ueno at Kan'ei-ji Temple.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ NengoCalc: 明治一年五月十五日; n.b., the old lunar calendar date is sometimes misidentified as "May 15th."
  2. ^ Mori Mayumi. Shōgitai Ibun. Tōkyō: Shinkōsha, 2004, p. 123.
  3. ^ Mori Mayumi. Shōgitai Ibun. Tōkyō: Shinkōsha, 2004, p. 170.
  4. ^ Gekidosuru Aizu Boshin Hen. Vol. 5 of Aizuwakamatsu Shi. Tōkyō: Kokushō-kankōkai, 1981, p. 138
  5. ^ a b c The last samurai Mark Ravina p.157
  6. ^ a b Yamakawa Kenjirō. Aizu Boshin Senshi Tōkyō: Tōkyō Daigaku Shuppankai, 1931, p. 196.
  7. ^ Kikuchi Akira. Shinsengumi Hyakuichi no Nazo. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 2000, p. 228-9.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kikuchi Akira. Shinsengumi Hyakuichi no Nazo. Tōkyō: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha, 2000.
  • Mori Mayumi. Shōgitai Ibun. Tōkyō: Shinkōsha, 2004.
  • Steele, M. William. Against the Restoration. Katsu Kaishu's Attempt to Reinstate the Tokugawa Family. Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 36, No. 3. (Autumn, 1981), pp. 299–316.
  • Steele, M. William. Edo in 1868: The View from Below. Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 45, No. 2. (Summer, 1990), pp. 127–155.
  • Takano Kiyoshi. Tokugawa Yoshinobu: Gendai Nihon no Enshutsusha. Tōkyō: Nihon Hōsō Shuppan Kyōkai, 1997.
  • Yamakawa Kenjiro. Aizu Boshin Senshi. Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1931.