Japanese steam warship Takao
The wreckage of the Takao, pursued by steamships of the Imperial Navy
|Career (Republic of Ezo)|
|Builder:||John Englis, New York City|
|Launched:||8 July 1863|
|Fate:||Destroyed, 25 March 1869|
|Class & type:||Pawtuxet-class cutter|
|Displacement:||350 long tons (356 t)|
|Length:||130 ft (40 m)|
|Beam:||26 ft 6 in (8.08 m)|
|Draft:||11 ft (3.4 m)|
|Propulsion:||1 × two-cylinder oscillating steam engine; single 8 ft (2.4 m) screw|
|Speed:||12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)|
|Armament:||• 4 × smoothbore cannon
• 1 × Armstrong cannon
She was originally built in New York as USRC Ashuelot, a Pawtuxet-class screw steam revenue cutter built for the United States Revenue Marine during the American Civil War. She was purchased by Akita Domain (秋田藩) and named Takao, then transferred to the Republic of Ezo (蝦夷共和国 Ezo Kyōwakoku?), a short-lived state established by former Tokugawa retainers (Bakufu). She was armed with four smoothbore cannon on the side, and a powerful Armstrong cannon with explosive shells, installed on a rotating base.
She participated in the Battle of Miyako Bay, when three Bakufu warships were dispatched for a surprise attack against Imperial forces. For the battle, Eugene Collache, a French navy officer, was put in command of the Takao, on which were sailing 40 seamen and 30 samurai. The two other ships were the Kaiten and the Banryū.
The ships encountered bad weather, in which the Takao suffered engine trouble, and the Banryu was separated. The Banryu eventually returned to Hokkaido, without joining the battle. To create surprise, the Kaiten planned to enter Miyako harbour with an American flag. Unable to achieve more than 3 knots due to engine trouble, the Takao trailed behind, and the Kaiten first joined battle. The Kaiten approached the enemy ships and raised the Bakufu flag seconds before boarding the French-built Kōtetsu, of the opposing Imperial navy (the first Japanese ironclad). The Kōtetsu managed to repel the attack with a Gatling gun, with huge loss on the attacking side. The Kaiten, pursued by the Imperial fleet, steamed out of Miyako Bay just as the Takao was entering it. The Kaiten eventually escaped to Hokkaido, but the Takao was unable to leave the pursuers and wrecked herself voluntarily. The Takao was set on fire by the escaping rebels and exploded.
Collache was imprisoned by the Japanese, judged and condemned to death, but he was finally pardoned. At the end of the conflict, he was sent to Tokyo where he rejoined Jules Brunet, and later left for France.
- "Une aventure au Japon", Eugene Collache, p51