Kiheitai Militia 1864-1866
|Size||300 (Total enlisted: 622)|
|Engagements||Shimonoseki Campaign |
First Ch?sh? expedition
Second Ch?sh? expedition
|Takasugi Shinsaku (1863-1867)|
|Yamagata Aritomo (1867-1868)|
Founded in 1863 by Takasugi Shinsaku, the Kiheitai militia consisted of 300 men, who came from all social classes, including farmers, merchants, samurai and others. Most were from Ch?sh?, but a few volunteers were from other domains. The Kiheitai was known for its discipline, and use of western-style weapons and military techniques. It was partly funded by the Ch?sh? domain, but gained the rest of its financial support through donations by wealthy merchants and farmers. Kiheitai followed a developing trend which had been spearheaded by the shogunate following the Convention of Kanagawa to form military units based on ability rather than hereditary social status. Shinsengumi, a Kyoto-based, pro-Tokugawa police force, was founded in the same year as Kiheitai, and was also composed of people from a broad variety of social classes.
The Kiheitai militia saw action in the Bombardment of Shimonoseki in 1864, during which the fleets of Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and the United States fired upon the Ch?sh? port city of Shimonoseki, and subsequently landed troops.
As the military arm of the pro-reform faction within the Ch?sh? domain, the Kiheitai helped overthrow the pro-bakufu faction in the Ch?sh? civil war, repulsed the Second Ch?sh? expedition sent by the Tokugawa bakufu in 1866. Around the same time, the Second Kiheitai was formed in the Su? Province.
Takasugi died of tuberculosis in 17 May 1867, his Kiheitai militia was taken over by his protégé Yamagata Aritomo. The Kiheitai militia played an important role in the Boshin War, which led to the Meiji Restoration.
The Kiheitai was disbanded in 1868, with total enlistment of 622 men since 1863. The success of the socially mixed unit and its Western armaments and tactics was an important influence on the development of the Imperial Japanese Army, and on the later system of universal military conscription in Japan.
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