Saigo Takamori likely was killed in the initial barrage, although tradition holds that he was just gravely injured and committed seppuku. In either case, his retainer, Beppu Shinsuke, cut off his head to ensure that Saigo's death was honorable. The few surviving samurai launched a suicide charge into the teeth of the imperial army's Gatling guns, and were shot down. By 7 o' clock that morning, all of the Satsuma samurai lay dead. Blog. The Modern Imperial Army destroyed the last of the Samurai. After the troops landed, they seized the arsenals and took the provincial governor into custody. This influential clan was headed by the Shimazu family, which had been founded by Shimazu Tadahisa, His letter indicated that even at that late date Saigo was not committed to the rebellion and sought a peaceful settlement. Oku’s small force, though discovered and attacked the next morning, was able to keep a hole open in the rebel lines long enough to revictual the garrison before passing through and linking up with the imperial army. What happened at the Battle of Shiroyama? Enodake’s rugged slopes, however, were not to Saigo’s liking as a final resting place. They halted, facing the imperials all day. The war had cost the imperial forces more than 6,000 troops killed and 10,000 wounded, while the much smaller samurai army had lost 7,000 dead and 11,000 wounded. Forced to carry Saigo on a special litter, since he was suffering from a hydrocele, the little army managed to slip through the fog undetected, quietly dispatching the few guards who barred its path. In spite of the futility of his cause, however, Takamori Saigo’s integrity and strength of convictions left a lasting impression on both the people and the government he had opposed. HistoryNet.com contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines. The imperial government in Tokyo expected Saigo to come to the capital by sea or to dig in and defend Satsuma. Saigo, however, had no regard for the conscripted farm boys who made up the imperial army. Then, kneeling on the ground, Saigo had Beppu cut off his head with a single sword stroke. The war party resigned in protest, and Saigo returned to his home city of Kagoshima, where he went into voluntary retirement from public life. However, he soon learned that 50 Tokyo police officers who were Satsuma natives had returned home with instructions to assassinate him in the case of an uprising. With that, Saigo threw his support behind those organizing for a rebellion. John Capen Hubbard, an American sea captain in the service of the Mitsubishi company, happened to be in the area soon after the battle, and in a letter to his wife reported that most of the bodies were of rebels. Following an intensive artillery bombardment that lasted most of the night of September 24, imperial forces stormed the mountain at 3 a.m. By 6 a.m., only 40 rebels were still alive. Determined to prevent future humiliations, Japanese leaders decided that they needed a modern army equipped with the most up-to-date weapons, trained by the best officers of the day: the French and Germans. Among the rebel weapons captured by the imperials at Nobeoka were numerous matchlock muskets of ancient vintage. The influential Satsuma samurai, Saigo Takamori, was away at the time and had no knowledge of these events, but hurried home when he heard the news. Initially he was furious about the junior samurais' actions. He didn't necessarily think he could be compromised but one could never be too careful. The rebels’ next position was on the rugged slopes of Mount Enodake. During the next three days, more than 1,000 students raided the naval yards and the Iso arsenal, stealing 84,000 rounds of ammunition. . He believed in authoritarian government and shared Saigo’s desire for military expansion into Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria, but he also favored modernizing the Japanese army along Prussian lines. The shortage of ammunition was so severe that rationing was necessary and the artillerists were reduced to firing unexploded Satsuma shells back at the besiegers. After their reorganization, imperial troops resumed the offensive and forced the rebels back to Miyazaki. It now had more than 20,000 men, compared to the rebels’ 8,000. A final attack was planned for April 14, but before it could be carried out, Saigo disengaged and his men took up new positions on high ground east of Kumamoto. Rather than risk desertions or defections, Tani decided to stand on the defensive. Retreating before the government troops, the samurai next tried to make a stand at Nobeoka, a coastal city north of Miyakonojo. Fighting to preserve the old order, the samurai had gone down in bloody defeat to modern weapons wielded by the lower-class soldiers they despised. Determined not to let the rebels escape again, Yamagata issued orders for extra security precautions and then set about tightening the ring. A servant hid the head to keep it from falling into enemy hands. Financially, crushing the Satsuma Rebellion cost the government greatly, forcing Japan off the gold standard and causing the government to print paper currency. For his war chest, Saigo took only 25,000 yen, sufficient to buy supplies for a month. During the stalemate at Tabaruzuka, Yamagata decided to land a detachment behind the rebel lines, so as to fall on them from the rear. In the same year, the wearing of swords in public became optional, and in 1876 it became illegal. On July 24, the imperial forces opened their main offensive against Saigo’s army in Miyakonojo. It was Yamagata who ordered a frontal assault on the Satsuma positions on March 4, which developed into the eight-day Battle of Tabaruzuka. French newsmagazine Le Monde Illustré / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain. My friend William Baerg is a contributor for the Kumamoto International Facebook page and has nicely agreed for me to post an article on my blog. The end of the Satsuma Rebellion also marked the end of the samurai era in Japan. Already a popular figure, after his death, Saigo Takamori was lionized by the Japanese people. He is popularly known as "The Last Samurai," and proved so beloved that Emperor Meiji felt compelled to issue him a posthumous pardon in 1889. The first test of the young Meiji government came with the revolt of the powerful Satsuma clan based in the southern region of the island of Kyushu. In order to cut Saigo off from his base, an imperial force made up of three warships, bearing 500 policemen and several companies of infantry, arrived in Kagoshima on March 8. It had the dimensions of a civil war, and was the last in a series of upheavals against the social and cultural changes driven forward by the Meiji government. Saigō Takamori was labeled as a tragic hero by the people and on February 22, 1889, Emperor Meijipardoned Saigō posthumously. The modernization of the country meant the abolition of the privileged social status of the samurai class, and had undermined their financial position. The government had already dealt with several small but violent samurai revolts, and the prospect of Satsuma samurai, which were widely regarded as the best in Japan, being led in rebellion by the Great Saigo was too terrible to contemplate. When night came, they split their force in two, slipped around both flanks of the patrol and escaped again. Word of the shigakkos‘ martial nature was greeted with considerable alarm in Tokyo. Matters had gone beyond Saigo’s control, however, since an advance body of rebellious samurai had already departed for Tokyo without his knowledge. In 1872, the imperial army was reorganized as a force of 46,000 conscripts from every social class. Instruction at the schools centered on the Chinese classics, although French and English were also taught. The Siege of Kumamoto Castle lasted until April 12, 1877. Many former samurai from the area joined Saigo's army, increasing his force to 20,000. The Satsuma samurai fought on with fierce determination; meanwhile, the defenders ran out of artillery shells. The rebellion lasted almost the whole year of 1877, and commanded an army of around 20 thousand. His students began agitating for war. The rebellion lasted from January 29, … So great was his dedication that when his government sought a plausible excuse for a war with Korea, Saigo offered to go there as ambassador in 1873, intending to insult the Korean government to such a degree that it would be forced to kill him, thereby providing Japan with its casus belli. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today! One of his most loyal followers, Shinsuke Beppu, carried him farther down the hill on his shoulders. Yamagata’s battle plan was to assault the samurai position from all sides at once. To prevent a recurrence of that sort of thing, the garrison was reinforced by an additional infantry brigade on May 4. by Alon Adika. In late August, Imperial forces led by General Yamagata Aritomo surrounded the rebels on Mount Enodake. There was little shooting, either due to lack of ammunition or from inclination. During the days of the han, Satsuma had taken a lead in arms manufacture and importation. With 30,000 troops at his disposal, Yamagata outnumbered Saigo’s forces 60-to-1. Born in Satsuma, the westernmost province on the island of Kyushu, in 1827, ‘Great Saigo,’ as his supporters called him, had backed the Meiji emperor in 1867. Whether intentionally or not, Saigo was forging the nucleus for a rebellion. Located on the southern tip of Kyushu Island, more than 800 miles south of Tokyo, the Satsuma domain had existed and governed itself for centuries with very little interference from the central government. During the latter years of the Tokugawa shogunate, just prior to the Meiji Restoration, the Satsuma clan began to invest heavily in armaments, building a new shipyard at Kagoshima, two weapons factories, and three ammunition depots. Officially, the Meiji Emperor's government had authority over those facilities after 1871, but Satsuma officials actually retained control of them. The Satsuma Rebellion which took place in 1877 was the most famous, and the final major instance out of a series of shizoku rebellions led in the late 1870s by former samurai of southwestern Japan against the prospect of the Meiji government abolishing their elite status and the rice stipends which had traditionally been the samurai's chief or sole source of income. At the height of the battle, Saigo wrote a private letter to Prince Arisugawa, restating his reasons for going to Tokyo. Medical supplies consisted of one carpenter’s saw for amputations and a few rags for bandages. The map covers the whole Kyushu island and uses point to point system. Officials intended to transport them to Osaka. On January 30, 1877, the central government launched a raid on the arms and ammunition storage areas in Kagoshima, without any prior warning to the Satsuma authorities. Tokyo intended to confiscate the weapons and take them to an imperial arsenal in Osaka. When an Imperial Navy landing party reached the arsenal at Somuta under cover of night, locals raised the alarm. Soon, more than 1,000 Satsuma samurai appeared and drove off the intruding sailors. The samurai then attacked imperial facilities around the province, seizing weapons and parading them through the streets of Kagoshima.Â. Theme: The Satsuma Rebellion in Japan in 1877. Too much blood had been spilled, but honor forbade surrender. At that time, the relief force was then only a few miles away. [Jerome David] Salinger, U.S. novelist (The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey). The Satsuma Rebellion proved that a conscript army of commoners could out-fight even a very determined band of samurai — provided they had overwhelming numbers, at any rate. It signaled the beginning of the Japanese Imperial Army's rise to domination in eastern Asia, which would end only with Japan's eventual defeat in World War II almost seven decades later. Rebellions broke out in Satsuma, Hizen, and Tosa. The Satsuma advance guard, 4,000 strong, set out on February 15, marching north. They were followed two days later by the rear guard and artillery unit, who left in the midst of a freak snowstorm. Satsuma daimyo Shimazu Hisamitsu did not acknowledge the departing army when the men stopped to bow at the gates of his castle. Few would return. Most of the fighting was now confined to sniping and isolated clashes between rival swordsmen. Marching north, the army was hampered by the deepest snowfall Satsuma had seen in more than 50 years. J.D. J. Edgar Hoover, founding director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). By using ThoughtCo, you accept our, A Long History of Japanese Women Warriors, Biography of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, 16th Century Unifier of Japan, Overview of the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan, Bushido: The Ancient Code of the Samurai Warrior, Russo-Japanese War: Admiral Togo Heihachiro, J.D., University of Washington School of Law, B.A., History, Western Washington University. The Meiji Restoration of 1868 signaled the beginning of the end for Japan's samurai warriors. After centuries of samurai rule, however, many members of the warrior class were understandably reluctant to give up their status and power. They also believed that only the samurai had the courage and training to defend Japan from its enemies, internal and external. Surely no conscript army of peasants could fight like the samurai! In 1877, the samurai of the Satsuma Province rose up in the Satsuma Rebellion or Seinan Senso (Southwestern War), challenging the authority of the Restoration Government in Tokyo and testing the new imperial army. Units were forbidden to assist one another without express permission. Whether intentionally or not, Saigo was forging the nucleus for a rebellion. Since most of the garrison of Kumamoto Castle was from Kyushu, and many of the officers were natives of Kagoshima, their loyalties were open to question. Tag: Satsuma Rebellion Tani Tateki – Kumamoto Castle defender during the Seinan War. In the final battle, the Battle of Shiroyama, 30,000 imperial troops bore down upon Saigo and his few hundreds of surviving rebel samurai. Despite the overwhelming odds, the Imperial Army did not attack immediately upon arrival on September 8 but instead spent more than two weeks carefully preparing for its final assault. In the wee hours of the morning on September 24, the emperor's troops launched a three-hour-long artillery barrage, followed by a massed infantry assault that began at 6 am.Â. Both armies had suffered heavy casualties, but the conscription system allowed the imperial army to replace its losses. Those notes continued in circulation long after the rebels had been driven out of the area and in spite of a government ban on their use. Prominent among them was Field Marshal Takamori Saigo. With their backs against the wall, outnumbered 7-to-1, large numbers of samurai surrendered, but for many others the very idea was anathema. The government had already dealt with several small but violent samurai revolts, and the prospect of Satsuma samurai, which were widely regarded as the best in Japan, being led in rebellion by the Great Saigo was too terrible to contemplate. Almost all of their modern firearms had been lost. Saigo and his army made a seven-day march south to Hitoyoshi, where they dug trenches and prepared for the imperial army to attack. When the attack finally came, the Satsuma forces withdrew, leaving small pockets of samurai to hit the larger army in guerrilla-style strikes. In July, the Emperor's army encircled Saigo's men, but the Satsuma army fought its way free with heavy casualties. The Satsuma Rebellion (西南戦争, Seinan Sensō (Southwestern War)?) The Satsuma Rebellion proved that a conscript army of commoners could out-fight even a very determined band of samurai — provided they had overwhelming numbers, at any rate. Japan’s future was ultimately resolved in 1868, however, when Emperor Mutsuhito stepped into power under the title of Meiji (‘enlightened peace’), abolished the shogunate, ratified a constitution and moved the imperial capital to Edo, which was renamed Tokyo. On February 13 and 14, the Satsuma domain's army of 12,900 organized itself into units. Each man was armed with a small firearm — either a rifle, a carbine, or a pistol — as well as 100 rounds of ammunition and, of course, his katana. Satsuma had no reserve of extra weapons and insufficient ammunition for an extended war. The artillery consisted of 28 5-pounders, two 16-pounders, and 30 mortars. After receiving reinforcements, the imperial force, now totaling 4,000, attacked the rear elements of the Satsuma army and drove them back upon the main rebel force. In this episode of Military History, we cover the rise of the Satsuma Rebellion. Buck, James H. "The Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. As a result, there was considerable weaponry stockpiled at several armories scattered throughout the province. That system began to come apart in 1854, when U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry sailed into Kagoshima Harbor and invited Japan to join the modern world — at gunpoint. He decided to break the ring of steel one more time, determined to fall back on Kagoshima or die trying. Ironically, the conflict did more to defeat samurai goals than any act of legislation could have done. Though contested by rebels, the imperial forces landed with nominal losses, then pushed north to the city of Miyanohara, reaching it on the 19th. Travel Aug 16, 2014. The last, and by far the greatest, revolt came in Satsuma in 1877. Losing blood rapidly, he selected a suitable spot to die. Rejecting large numbers of volunteers, he began his journey with only 12,000 students. As the two sides were well dug in, a fierce war of position developed in which neither side could gain an advantage. Although Prince Taruhito Arisugawa was the official commander of the imperial forces assigned to put down the Satsuma rebels, real command was in the hands of General Aritomo Yamagata. During the siege, more than 7,000 shells were fired, and the imperial forces had another 7,000 in ready reserve if needed. The first letter may have been sent by shigakko extremists hoping to provoke a confrontation. To their disgust, the officers were treated as if they were deserters. The police, however, reported that they were unable to find even one of the raiders, in spite of the students’ having paraded their trophies through the city streets. Unlike previous shizoku uprisings, which were small and poorly organized, the Satsuma Rebellion severely tested the government’s capacity to wage war. 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