Behind the Story of Blood and Tears – Battle of Ueno

Behind the Story of Blood and Tears – Battle of Ueno

August 14, 2018 Behind the Story Blog Blood and Tears Graphic Design History Japan 1

Shogitai Banner
Credit: sabakuINK CC-BY-SA 4.0

Satsuma, Choshu Banners
Credit: sabakuINK CC-BY-SA 4.0
Source: 家紋DB

Pro-Imperial Troops Banners
Credit: sabakuINK CC-BY-SA 4.0
Source: 家紋DB

The Battle of Ueno took place on May 15, 1868 (lunar date) at the Toeizan Kaneiji Temple complex on Mt. Ueno in Edo. Pro-imperial troops, spearheaded by the Satsuma and Choshu domains, launched an early morning attack against the Shogitai and other pro-shogunate fighters. Details of the battle are described in Blood and Tears, episode 12 (13AUG).

Kaneiji Temple had been commandeered as the Shogitai headquarters—the mountaintop location and heavy walls provided an ideal fortress. Nonetheless, the bloody battle lasted only one day and was the last gasp for pro-shogunate factions located in Edo. The deciding factor was heavy artillery provided by the Saga, Okayama and Tsu forces. Stationed on the west bank of Shinobazuike Pond, they used British-made Armstrong cannons to launch a non-stop bombardment of shells into the complex.

By battle’s end the entire temple complex was destroyed, save for a handful of buildings. The fires raged out of control and destroyed large sections of the surrounding neighborhoods. Declared traitors to the emperor, pro-shogunate fighters were left where they fell. A mandate prohibited the retrieval, burial and memorializing of the dead, so the bodies were left out to rot under the summer sun. Following this decisive defeat, the remaining pro-shogunate factions fled to the northeastern regions seeking to regroup for another battle.

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  1. […] map featured in episode 12 (13AUG) of Blood and Tears that detailed troop movements during the Battle of Ueno, started with a woodblock print of Edo published in 1858—part of the Japanese Historical Map […]

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