Shinsengumi: Excerpt 3

“Every day the men would go out and cross swords with the enemy. One corpsman claimed that the blood of the man he had killed today splattered on the ridge of the adjacent house. Another said that the blood [of his victim] hadn’t splattered beyond the white paneled wall. Still another boasted that the blood of the man he had cut down had reached the roof of the house.”

This passage from Shimosawa’s narrative suggests, at the very least, that more men were killed by the Shinsengumi than can be accounted for. Killing had become a daily occupation for the corpsmen, whose very livelihood now depended on terror and bloodshed. Perhaps the most brutal killer in the corps was the commander. “He was fearsome even when drinking,” Kondo Isami’s former mistress, who had been employed as a courtesan in Kyoto, reminisced nearly half a century later. “People would talk about whom they had killed today, and whom they were going to kill tomorrow. It was all so frightful. According to what I had heard, by that time Kondo had killed fifty or sixty men.”