Bombardment of Kagoshima

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Bombardment of Kagoshima
Part of the Bakumatsu
Bird's-eye view of the bombardment of Kagoshima by the Royal Navy, August 15, 1863. Le Monde Illustré.
Date15–17 August 1863
Result British Victory. See Aftermath.
British Empire United Kingdom Japanese Crest maru ni jyuji.svg Satsuma
Commanders and leaders
British Empire Sir Augustus Kuper Japanese Crest maru ni jyuji.svg Shimazu Hisamitsu
7 steam warships 3 steam ships
80 cannons
Casualties and losses
3 warships damaged
13 killed
59 wounded
3 steam warships were captured and later burned
5 junks destroyed
500 homes destroyed[1][2]
parts of the coastal batteries destroyed, parts of the fort and town' destroyed.
5 killed
unknown number of civilians killed or wounded

The Bombardment of Kagoshima, also known as the Anglo-Satsuma War (薩英戦争, Satsu-Ei Sensō), was a battle fought between Britain and the Satsuma Domain in Kagoshima from 15 to 17 August 1863. The British were trying to extract compensation and legal justice from the daimyō of the Satsuma Domain for the Namamugi Incident in 1862, when vessels of the Royal Navy were fired on from coastal batteries near Kagoshima. The British bombarded the city in retaliation and pushed out the Satsuma, but were unable to defeat them and retreated two days later. The Satsuma declared victory and after negotiations fulfilled some British demands for the Namamugi Incident.


Initial settlement between the Bakufu and European Powers, on board the French Navy warship Sémiramis, July 2nd, 1863. Center: Saikai Hida-No-Kami Daimyō (vice-minister), on his left Duchesne de Bellecourt, French Minister in Japan, on his right, Lt.-Colonel Neale, representative of Great Britain, Admiral Jaurès and Admiral Kuper RN.[3]

On 14 September 1862, the Namamugi Incident occurred when a British merchant, Charles Lennox Richardson broke into Daimyo Procession, disregarding the warnings and eventually was killed by the armed retinue of Shimazu Hisamitsu, the father and regent of Shimazu Tadayoshi, the daimyō of the Satsuma Domain. Reportedly, Richardson had failed to yield for Shimazu's entourage while travelling on a road near Kawasaki, Kanagawa, and was subsequently killed under Kiri-sute gomen – the right for samurai to kill people of lower class for perceived disrespect. Richardson's death sparked outrage from Europeans for violating the extraterritoriality they enjoyed under terms of the Unequal treaties. Lieutenant-Colonel Edward St. John Neale, the British Chargé d'Affaires, demanded from the Bakufu (the central government of the Tokugawa Shogunate) an apology and a indemnity of £100,000, representing roughly 1/3 of the total revenues of the Bakufu for one year.[4] Neale kept threatening a naval bombardment of Edo, the Tokugawa capital city, if the payment was not made.[5] Britain also demanded the Satsuma Domain arrest and put on trial the perpetrators of Richardson's death, and £25,000 compensation for the surviving victims and the relatives of Richardson.

The Bakufu was led by Ogasawara Nagamichi, governing in the absence of the Shōgun Tokugawa Iemochi who was in the Imperial capital of Kyoto.[6] Eager to avoid trouble with European powers, Ogasawara negotiated with France and Great Britain on 2 July 1863, on board the French warship Sémiramis, apologized and paid the indemnity to the British authorities. Participating in the settlement were the main French and British political and navy representatives of the time: Gustave Duchesne de Bellecourt the French Minister in Japan, Lieutenant-Colonel Neale the Chargé d'affaires of Great Britain, Admiral Jaurès and Admiral Kuper.[3]

The Satsuma refused to apologize, to pay the compensation of £25,000 demanded by the British, or to convict and execute the two Japanese samurai responsible for the murder, arguing that disrespect to the daimyō was normally sanctioned by the immediate death of those showing disrespect. Legally, their claim was invalid, as foreigners in Japan benefited from extraterritoriality due to Japan's reluctant acceptance of the Unequal treaties with Europe. Japanese customary law did not usually apply to foreigners but, politically, Satsuma felt it could not be seen as submitting to European demands in the very anti-foreign context at that time in Japan. The British wished to make a point against anti-foreigner outrages in Japan. Other anti-foreign troubles were occurring throughout the country at the same time, reinforced by Emperor Kōmei's 1863 "Order to expel barbarians". The European powers chose to react militarily to such exactions: the Straits of Shimonoseki had already seen attacks on American, Dutch and French ships passing through, each of which had brought retaliation from those countries, with the U.S. frigate USS Wyoming under Captain McDougal, the Dutch warship Medusa under Captain François de Casembroot, and the two French warships Tancrède and the Dupleix under Captain Benjamin Jaurès attacking the mainland. Eventually, on 14 August, a multinational fleet under Admiral Kuper and the Royal Navy commenced the Bombardment of Shimonoseki to prevent further attacks on western shipping there. The American-European operations against the Japanese succeeded.

Lieutenant-Colonel Neale in 1863, during the July preliminary negotiations with the Bakufu.

Protestations of the Bakufu[edit]

Following protracted and fruitless negotiations with Satsuma that had taken over a year, Neale eventually had had enough. Under British Government instructions, he required the Royal Naval Commander-in-Chief of the Far East and China Station to force Satsuma into complying with the British Government's demands. Informed of the plans, the Bakufu asked for a delay in its implementation:

On receipt of your despatch of the 3rd of August, we fully understood that you intend to go within three days to the territory of the Prince of Satsuma with the men-of-war now lying in the Bay of Yokohama, to demand satisfaction for the murder of a British merchant on the Tokaido last year. But owing to the present unsettled state of affairs in our empire, which you witness and hear of, we are in great trouble, and intend to carry out several plans. Supposing, now, something untoward were to happen, then all the trouble both you and we have taken would have been in vain and fruitless; therefore we request that the said departure may be delayed for the present.

— Edo, 4th of August, signed by four Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Shogunate.[7]

On the 5th, a vice-minister from Edo visited Lieutenant-Colonel Neale, but far from further opposing the expedition of the European empire actually transmitted that the Shogunate intended to send one of its steamers with the squadron. The steamer in question; however, did not join the expedition.[8]


The British squadron left Yokohama on August 6. It was composed of the flagship HMS Euryalus (with Colonel Neale on board),[8] HMS Pearl, HMS Perseus, HMS Argus, HMS Coquette, HMS Racehorse and the gunboat HMS Havock. They sailed for Kagoshima and anchored in the deep waters of Kinko Bay on August 11. Satsuma envoys came aboard Euryalus and letters were exchanged, with the British commander pressing for a resolution satisfactory to his demands within 24 hours. The Satsuma clan prevaricated, refusing to comply for various reasons.


Bombing of Kagoshima map
Japanese defenses combating Western ships. Japanese painting.
The start of the bombardment

The deadline expired, and diplomacy gave way to coercion. Deciding to put pressure on Satsuma, the Royal Navy commander seized three foreign-built steam merchant ships (Sir George Grey, Contest, England, with an aggregate value of about $300,000/£200,000 sterling or GB£128,000,000 in 2011 pounds)[9] belonging to Satsuma which were at anchor in Kagoshima harbour, to use them as a bargaining tool. Picking their moment, just as a typhoon started, the Satsuma forces on shore vented their anger by firing their round shot cannons at the British ships. Surprised by the hostility, the British fleet responded by first pillaging and then setting on fire the three captured steamships. Then, after nearly two hours getting ready (they had not expected or intended to get into any exchange of fire with Satsuma), a line of battle was formed, which sailed along the coast of Kagoshima and fired cannon shells and round shot. One of the British warships, the gunboat Havoc, set five Ryukyuan trading junks on fire.

The naval bombardment claimed five lives among the people of Satsuma (the city had been evacuated in anticipation of the conflict), and 13 lives among the British (including Captain Josling of the British flagship Euryalus, and his second-in-command Commander Wilmot, both decapitated by the same cannonball). Material losses were considerable, with around 500 wood-and-paper houses burnt in Kagoshima (about 5% of Kagoshima's urban area), the Ryukyuan embassy destroyed, and the three Satsuma steamships and five Ryukyuan junks destroyed. The Satsuma forces were slowly pushed back; however the fact that the British were not expecting such large amounts of armed resistance meant that their ships ran low on food and ammunition, forcing a premature retreat of the British navy. The encounter was face-saving for Satsuma, and was even claimed as a victory by the Japanese side, considering the relative number of casualties. The British ships did not land troops or seize cannons (which would have signalled the absolute defeat of Satsuma), Kuper having decided that the small bombardment was enough.[2]


The Satsuma negotiators who sealed the final agreement with Britain

Satsuma however later negotiated and paid £25,000 (which they borrowed from the bakufu and never repaid, due to the fall of the bakufu in 1869 and its replacement by the Meiji administration). They never produced or identified Richardson's killers, but despite this, the reparation received was enough to obtain an agreement by Britain to supply steam warships to Satsuma.

A 150-pound Satsuma cannon, cast in 1849. It was mounted on Fort Tenpozan at Kagoshima. Caliber: 290mm, length: 4220mm.
The payment of the Satsuma indemnity

The conflict actually became the starting point of a close relationship between Satsuma and Britain, which became major allies in the ensuing Boshin War. From the start, the Satsuma Province had generally been in favour of the opening and modernization of Japan. An interesting historical footnote to this incident was that a teenage Tōgō Heihachirō was manning one of the cannons used to defend the port, and is reported to have attributed his future career as head and "father" of the Imperial Japanese Navy to this moment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Howe p. 279
  2. ^ a b Denney, p.191
  3. ^ a b Polak 2002, p. 92.
  4. ^ Totman, pp.68–69
  5. ^ Totman, p. 71
  6. ^ Totman, p.72
  7. ^ In Rennie, p. 381
  8. ^ a b Rennie, p. l382
  9. ^ Measuring Worth, Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount - average earnings, retrieved: 7 May 2011


  • De Lange, William (2020). The Namamugi Incident: The Murder that Sparked a War, Toyo Press. ISBN 978-9492722-270
  • Denney, John (2011), Respect and Consideration: Britain in Japan 1853–1868 and Beyond Radiance Press, ISBN 978-0-9568798-0-6.
  • Howe, Christopher (1996), The Origins of Japanese Trade Supremacy: Development and Technology in Asia from 1540 to the Pacific War, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, ISBN 978-1-85065538-1.
  • Polak, Christian (2001). Soie et lumières: L'âge d'or des échanges franco-japonais (des origines aux années 1950). Tokyo: Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie Française du Japon, Hachette, Fujin Gahōsha (アシェット婦人画報社).
  • ——— (2002), 絹と光: 知られざる日仏交流100年の歴史 (江戶時代–1950年代) [Kinu to hikariō: shirarezaru Nichi-Futsu kōryū 100-nen no rekishi (Edo jidai–1950-nendai)] (in Japanese), Tokyo: Ashetto Fujin Gahōsha, ISBN 978-4-573-06210-8, OCLC 50875162
  • Rennie, David Field (2005), The British Arms in North China and Japan Originally pub. 1864. Facsimile, Adamant Media Corporation, ISBN 1-4021-8184-1
  • Satow, Ernest. "The Bombardment of Kagoshima", Chapter VIII, A Diplomat in Japan.
  • Totman, Conrad 1980 The collapse of the Tokugawa Bakufu, 1862–1868 University of Hawai Press, Honolulu, ISBN 0-8248-0614-X
  • Zwier, Lawrence J.; Cunningham, Mark E. (2013), The End of the Shoguns and the Birth of Modern Japan: Pivotal Moments in History (rev. ed.), Twenty-First Century Books, ISBN 978-1-46770377-2.

Coordinates: 31°35′44″N 130°32′53″E / 31.5955°N 130.5481°E / 31.5955; 130.5481