Shinsengumi: Excerpt 1

By the end of 1862 the situation had gotten out of hand. Hordes of renegade samurai had abandoned their clans to fight under the banner of Imperial Loyalism. These warriors, derogatorily called “ronin” by the powers that were, had transformed the formerly tranquil streets of the Imperial Capital into a sea of blood. The rōnin were determined to overthrow the shogun’s regime, which had ruled Japan these past two and a half centuries. Screaming “Heaven’s Revenge,” they wielded their swords with a vengeance upon their enemies. Terror reigned. Assassination was a nightly occurrence. The assassins skewered the heads of their victims onto bamboo stakes. They stuck the stakes into the soft mud along the riverbank. The spectacle by dawn was ghastly.The authorities were determined to rein in the chaos and terror. A band of swordsmen was formed. They were given the name Shinsengumi – Newly Selected Corps – and commissioned to restore law and order to the Imperial Capital. At once reviled and revered, they were known alternately as ronin hunters, wolves, murderers, thugs, band of assassins, and eventually the most dreaded security force in Japanese history. Their official mission was to protect the shogun; but their assigned purpose was single and clear – to eliminate the ronin who would overthrow the shogun’s government. Endowed with an official sanction and unsurpassed propensity to kill, the men of the Shinsengumi swaggered through the ancient city streets. Under their trademark banner of “sincerity,” their presence and even their very name evoked terror among the terrorists, as an entire nation reeled around them.