Decisive Imperial victory
End of the Boshin War
Empire of Japan
Republic of Ezo
Commanders and leaders
Ruler: Meiji Emperor
Army: Kuroda Kiyotaka
President: Enomoto Takeaki
Army: Ōtori Keisuke
Hijikata Toshizō †
Navy: Arai Ikunosuke
10 steam warships
11 steam warships
Casualties and losses
1 ship sunk
1 ship destroyed
2 ships sunk
3 ships captured
3 ships lost
The Battle of
Hakodate Sensō) was fought in
Japan from December 4, 1868 to June 27, 1869, between the remnants of
Tokugawa shogunate army, consolidated into the armed forces of the
rebel Ezo Republic, and the armies of the newly formed Imperial
government (composed mainly of forces of the Chōshū and the Satsuma
domains). It was the last stage of the Boshin War, and occurred around
Hakodate in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaidō. In Japanese, it
is also known as the Battle of the Goryokaku (五稜郭の戦い,
Goryokaku no tatakai)
According to the Japanese calendar, the Battle of
Hakodate was fought
from Meiji-1 year (gannen), 10-month, 21-day until Meiji-2 year,
2.1 Occupation of southern Hokkaidō
2.2 Miyako Bay
2.3 Landing of Imperial forces
4 Later depictions of the battle
5.2 French involvement
6 See also
7 References and notes
Boshin War erupted in 1868 between troops favorable to the
restoration of political authority to the Emperor and the government
of the Tokugawa shogunate. The
Meiji government defeated the forces of
the Shogun at the
Battle of Toba–Fushimi
Battle of Toba–Fushimi and subsequently occupied
the Shogun's capital at Edo.
Enomoto Takeaki, vice-commander of the Shogunate Navy, refused to
remit his fleet to the new government and departed
1868-08-20, with four steam warships (Kaiyō, Kaiten, Banryū,
Chiyodagata) and four steam transports (Kanrin Maru, Mikaho, Shinsoku,
Chōgei) as well as 2,000 sailors, 36 members of the "Yugekitai"
(guerilla corps) headed by Iba Hachiro, several officials of the
Bakufu government including the vice-commander in chief of the
Shogunate Army Matsudaira Taro, Nakajima Saburozuke, and members of
the French Military Mission to Japan, headed by Jules Brunet.
On August 21, the fleet encountered a typhoon off Chōshi, in which
Mikaho was lost and Kanrin Maru, heavily damaged, forced to rally the
coast, where she was captured at Shimizu.
Rebel troops of the former Bakufu, being transported to Hokkaidō.
Part of the fleet of
Enomoto Takeaki off Shinagawa. From right to
left: Kaiten, Kaiyō, Kanrin, Chōgei, Mikaho. The Banryū and
Chiyodagata are absent. 1868 photograph.
The rest of the fleet reached Sendai harbor on August 26, one of the
centers of the Northern Coalition (奥羽越列藩同盟) against the
new government, composed of the fiefs of Sendai, Yonozawa, Aizu,
Shōnai and Nagaoka.
Imperial troops continued to progress north, taking the castle of
Wakamatsu, and making the position in Sendai untenable. On October 12,
1868, the fleet left Sendai, after having acquired two more ships (Ōe
and the Hōō, previously borrowed by
Sendai Domain from the
Shogunate), and about 1,000 more troops: former-
Bakufu troops under
Shinsengumi troops under Hijikata Toshizō, Yugekitai
under Katsutaro Hitomi, as well as several more French advisors
(Fortant, Marlin, Bouffier, Garde), who had reached Sendai overland.
Occupation of southern Hokkaidō
The rebels, numbering around 3,000 and traveling by ship with Enomoto
Hokkaidō in October 1868. They landed on Takanoki
Hakodate on October 20. Hijikata Toshizo and Otori Keisuke
each led a column in the direction of Hakodate. They eliminated local
resistance by forces of Matsumae Domain, which had declared its
loyalty to the new Meiji government, and occupied the fortress of
Goryōkaku on October 26, which became the command center for the
The fortress of Goryōkaku, headquarters of the rebel army.
Various expeditions were organized to take full control of the
southern peninsula of Hokkaidō. On November 5, Hijikata, commanding
800 troops and supported by the warships Kaiten and Banryo occupied
the castle of Matsumae. On November 14, Hijikata and Matsudaira
converged on the city of Esashi, with the added support of the
flagship Kaiyo Maru, and the transport ship Shinsoku. Unfortunately,
Kaiyō Maru was shipwrecked and lost in a tempest near Esashi, and
Shinsoku also was lost as it came to its rescue, dealing a terrible
blow to the rebel forces.
After eliminating all local resistance, on December 25, the rebels
founded the Ezo Republic, with a government organization modeled after
that of the United States, with Enomoto Takeaki, as President
(総裁). While the governments of
France and the United Kingdom
conditionally recognized the new republic, the
Meiji government in
Tokyo did not.
A defense network was established around
Hakodate in anticipation of
the attack by the troops of the new Imperial government. The Ezo
Republic troops were structured under a hybrid Franco-Japanese
Commander in chief
Commander in chief
Ōtori Keisuke seconded by Jules
Brunet, and each of the four brigades commanded by a French officer
(Fortant, Marlin, Cazeneuve, Bouffier), seconded by eight half-brigade
Japanese commanders. Two ex-
French Navy officers,
Eugène Collache and
Henri Nicol further joined the rebels, and Collache was put in charge
of building fortified defenses along the volcanic mountains around
Hakodate, while Nicol was in charge of re-organizing the Navy.
In the meantime, an Imperial fleet had been rapidly constituted around
the ironclad warship Kōtetsu, which had been purchased by the Meiji
government from the United States. Other Imperial ships were Kasuga,
Hiryū, Teibō, Yōshun, Mōshun, which had been supplied by the fiefs
of Saga, Chōshū and Satsuma to the newly formed government in 1868.
The fleet left
Tokyo on March 9, 1869, and headed north.
Main article: Battle of Miyako Bay
The Imperial navy's revolutionary ironclad Kōtetsu.
The Imperial navy reached the harbor of Miyako on March 20.
Anticipating the arrival of the Imperial fleet, the rebels organized a
daring plan to seize the powerful new warship Kōtetsu.
Three warships were dispatched for a surprise attack, in what is known
as the Naval Battle of Miyako: the Kaiten, on which were riding the
Shinsengumi as well as the ex-
French Navy officer Henri Nicol,
the warship Banryu, with the ex-French officer Clateau, and the
warship Takao, with ex-
French Navy officer
Eugène Collache on board.
To create surprise, the Kaiten entered Miyako harbor with an American
flag. They raised the
Ezo Republic flag seconds before boarding the
Kōtetsu. The crew of Kōtetsu managed to repel the attack with a
Gatling gun, with huge losses to the attackers. The two Ezo warships
escaped back to Hokkaidō, but the Takao was pursued and self-wrecked.
Landing of Imperial forces
The Imperial troops, numbering 7,000, finally landed on
April 9, 1869. They progressively took over various defensive
positions, until the final stand occurred around the fortress of
Benten Daiba around the city of Hakodate.
Japan's first major naval engagement between two modern navies, the
Naval Battle of Hakodate
Naval Battle of Hakodate Bay, occurred towards the end of the
conflict, during the month of May 1869.
Before the final surrender, in May 1869, the
Ezo Republic French
military advisors escaped to a
French Navy warship stationed in
Hakodate Bay, the Coëtlogon, from where they returned to
thence to France.
After having lost close to half their numbers and most of their ships,
the military of
Ezo Republic surrendered to the
Meiji government on
May 17, 1869.
Hijikata Toshizō, leader of the Shinsengumi, fought against the
Imperial troops and died in the battle of Hakodate.
The battle marked the end of the old feudal regime in Japan, and the
end of armed resistance to the Meiji Restoration. After a few years in
prison, several of the leaders of the rebellion were rehabilitated,
and continued with brilliant political careers in the new unified
Enomoto Takeaki in particular took various ministry functions
during the Meiji period.
The new Imperial government, finally secure, established numerous new
institutions soon after the end of the conflict. The Imperial Japanese
Navy in particular was formally established in July 1869, and
incorporated many of the combatants and ships which had participated
in the Battle of Hakodate.
The future admiral Tōgō Heihachirō, hero of the 1905 Battle of
Tsushima, participated in the battle as a gunner on board the paddle
steam warship Kasuga.
Later depictions of the battle
Although the Battle of
Hakodate involved some of the most modern
armament of the era (steam warships, and even an ironclad warship,
barely invented 10 years earlier with the world's first seagoing
ironclad, the French La Gloire), Gatling guns, Armstrong guns, modern
uniforms and fighting methods, most of the later Japanese depictions
of the battle during the few years after the
Meiji Restoration offer
an anachronistic representation of traditional samurai fighting with
their swords, possibly in an attempt to romanticize the conflict, or
to downplay the amount of modernization already achieved during the
Bakumatsu period (1853–1868).
A Japanese rendition of the Battle of
circa 1880. The cavalry charge, with a sinking sail ship in the
background, is led by the leaders of the rebellion, labeled from left
to right, Enomoto (Kinjiro) Takeaki, Ōtori Keisuke, Matsudaira Tarō.
The samurai in yellow garment is Hijikata Toshizō. French soldiers
are shown behind the cavalry charge in white trousers. Imperial troops
with modern uniforms are on the right (the "Red bear" (赤熊,
Shaguma) wigs indicate soldiers from Tosa ("White bear" (白熊,
Haguma) wigs for Chōshū, "Black bear" (黒熊, Koguma) wigs for
Satsuma)), with a modern steam warship in the background.
Although the modernization of Japan is generally explained as starting
Meiji period (1868), it actually started significantly
earlier from around 1853 during the final years of the Tokugawa
Bakumatsu period). The 1869 Battle of
two sophisticated adversaries in an essentially modern conflict, where
steam power and guns play the key role, although some elements of
traditional combat clearly remained. A great deal of Western
scientific and technological knowledge had already been entering Japan
since around 1720 through rangaku, the study of Western sciences, and
since 1853, the
Tokugawa shogunate had been extremely active at
modernizing the country and opening it to foreign influence. In a
sense, the Restoration movement, based on the sonnō jōi ideology was
a reaction to this modernization and internationalization, although,
in the end, the
Meiji Emperor chose to follow a similar policy under
Fukoku kyōhei ("rich country, strong army") principle. Some of
his former supporters from Satsuma, such as
Saigō Takamori would
revolt against this situation, leading to the
Satsuma Rebellion in
A group of French military advisors, members of the 1st French
Military Mission to Japan and headed by Jules Brunet, fought
side-by-side with troops of the former Tokugawa bakufu, whom they had
trained during 1867–1868.
The Battle of
Hakodate also reveals a period of Japanese history when
France was strongly involved with Japanese affairs. Similarly, British
and American interests and actions in Japan were quite significant,
but less visible than with the French. This French involvement is part
of the broader, and often disastrous, foreign activity of the French
Empire under Napoleon III, and followed the Campaign of Mexico. The
members of the French Mission who followed their Japanese allies to
the North all resigned or deserted from the French Army before
accompanying them. Although they were speedily rehabilitated upon
their return to France, and some, such as
Jules Brunet followed
brilliant careers, their involvement was not premeditated or
politically guided, but rather a matter of personal choice and
conviction. Although defeated in this conflict, and again defeated in
the Franco-Prussian War,
France continued to play an important role in
Japan's modernization: a Second Military Mission was invited in 1872,
and the first true modern fleet of the
Imperial Japanese Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy was
built under the supervision of the French engineer
Émile Bertin in
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battle of Hakodate.
References and notes
^ Lesser preceding actions were the Battle of Shimonoseki Straits
Battle of Awa
Battle of Awa (1868).
Hillsborough, Romulus (2005). Shinsengumi: The Shogun's Last Samurai
Corps. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 0-8048-3627-2.