Mr. Van Valkenburgh to Mr. Seward.
Sir: As I anticipated in my last communication to you, war has actually commenced between the Tycoon and Satsuma representing the Mikado’s government. I have no doubt that the Mikado has by decree abolished the office of Shogoon, (Tycoon,) and that the powerful Daimios having possession of him intend subduing the Tycoon by force of arms.
I have as yet received no communication of any kind from the Mikado or his government, and all information is derived through the Tycoon’s officers, probably colored by the medium through which it passes. The events, however, which have transpired since my last dispatch from Osaka, have satisfied us all that the Tycoon is arrayed against the supreme government, and that many of the Daimios are united for his overthrow.
Up to and including Monday, the 27th of January, our conferences were daily held, and we were engaged in making arrangements for the conditions of sale, divisions into lots, form of lease, time and manner of sale, upset price, and annual rent, of the lands in the foreign settlements located both at Osaka and Hiogo, and, so far as the foreign representatives were concerned, unanimously agreed to the same.
They awaited only the approval of Itakura Iga No Kami, the prime minister of the Tycoon, to be published for the information of our citizens.
On the 23d January, by invitation, I had a private and social interview with the Tycoon, at which was present the Prince of Etchizen.
It was merely social, and no business was transacted, the conversation being almost entirely led by the Tycoon, upon the form of government of the United States and England, and the purchase of the Stonewall, which he seemed to be anxious to receive.
Etchizen and Owari, two of the principal Daimios of Japan, had been sent by the Mikado to urge the Tycoon again to return to Kioto.
On Sunday, the 26th January, the Tycoon sent in advance towards Kioto a portion of his retainers, who had been armed as troops with rifles and muskets; about twenty-five miles from Osaka, at Fusima, they fell into an ambush of Satsuma’s troops, were fired upon, and after a short but decisive conflict were compelled to fall back. Thus the war commenced. At Yodo, a small village this side of Fusima, they made a stand, re-enforcements were sent them, but they were again defeated by Satsuma’s troops, and continued fighting and retreating during the 27th, 28th, 29th; and 30th. In the night of the 30th, about 12 o’clock, Heri Yama Desho No Kami, a member of the second council, called at my legation and gave me the news that the Tycoon’s troops were retreating, and he also informed me that he could no longer protect American citizens, and I must take such measures as I deemed necessary for the safety of myself and my countrymen. Fortunately, from the top of my house, in the distance I had seen the burning fires of the yaskis and villages, in the [Page 636] march of the retreating army, and had made ready to leave my legation at a moment’s warning, with all the Americans who were then in Osaka. The citizens of Osaka for three days before had been moving out into the surrounding country with their goods and families, and this also had given me reason to be partially prepared for a hasty leave. The yaskies and property of Satsuma, situated in Osaka, had been seized and burned by the troops of the Tycoon on the night of the 27th. All was excitement in the streets, and the places of business were closed for some days before the 30th.
The United States steamer Iroquois had arrived off Osaka, but some eight miles distant from my legation, two or three days previous, for the purpose of taking myself and suite to Yokohama, when we should be prepared to leave. Knowing this fact, Heri Yama came at the request of the Tycoon, to ask permission for himself the Tycoon, to go on board the Iroquois that night, and to remain there until his vessel, the Kai-o-mar, a Japanese frigate, should arrive early in the morning to take him to Yedo.
I wrote a note to Commander English, of the Iroquois, and the Tycoon evacuated his castle at Osaka, about two o’clock in the morning of the 31st January, accompanied by his prime minister and other high officials, went on board the Iroquois by Japanese boats, remained there for about two hours, and then was transferred to his own frigate, which arrived at daylight, and upon which he sailed for Yedo.
Two of the governors for foreign affairs arrived at my legation about two o’clock in the morning of the 31st, in great excitement, stating that the left flank of the Tycoon’s army had been turned, and that Satsuma’s troops were then marching upon Osaka, and after disguising themselves as common coolies, afterwards accompanied our party to the fort, a distance of some seven miles, from whence they escaped with other officials to Yedo, in one of the Tycoon’s steamers. About four o’clock in the morning the representatives of Italy, the Netherlands, and Prussia, came to my legation, for the purpose of going to the French legation, a distance of about one and a half mile, as had been previously agreed upon in case of danger. Taking all my countrymen, servants, and Japanese escort, and a portion of my goods, we went to the French legation, and there found the French minister ready to leave, and learned that the English minister would meet us, with his large escort of some seventy persons, at the foreign concession, some three miles distant. My escort consisted of seven United States marines, under command of Midshipman Emory, of the United States steamer Iroquois, and eleven Tycoon’s men, who had been attached to me on my arrival at Osaka by the government. At six o’clock a. m., the 31st of January, we, the representatives of France, Holland, Italy, Prussia, and myself, went on foot through the streets of Osaka to the foreign concession, and from thence to the fort at the mouth of the river, for the purpose of embarking. The English minister reached the foreign concession, and remained there over night, while the other representatives stayed near the fort until the evening of the 1st of February, when we embarked, the Italian, Prussian, Holland ministers and myself, with our respective suites and countrymen, on board the United States steamer Iroquois, the French minister on board the Laplace, and the English minister embarking on Sunday on board the Rattler. On Saturday, the 1st instant, the town of Sakai, near Osaka, was almost entirely destroyed by fire, while several fires were also burning in the city itself. On Sunday the castle of the Tycoon was destroyed by fire, and many fires were springing up in various directions. The Tycoon’s troops were entirely dispersed, and the city was in possession [Page 637] of the Mikado’s forces. At 11.30 a. m. we sailed for Hiogo, reaching this place about one p. m., a distance of eleven miles from anchorage to anchorage. Here all was excitement; the Tycoon’s troops had withdrawn, and notice had been given by the governor that he could no longer protect the foreigners, and, in fact, had chartered a steamer to leave the next day for Yedo, to carry off all the Tycoon’s officials, and had also made preparations to burn the custom and bonded warehouses, in which was a large amount of foreign merchandise.
Together with the Italian and Prussian representatives, I at once called upon the governor, whom I well knew, and asked him what protection he could afford to our citizens. His answer was none; that I must take my own measures to protect them and our flag. I then asked him, as he was about to leave, to give us the custom-house and bonded warehouse as our legation, to which he at once assented, and, we immediately raised upon them our flags, and are now occupying them as legations, with a guard of United States marines from the Oneida and Iroquois.
To-day, the 3d of February, the governor and all officials have left Hiogo, and no one remains with whom to transact business. Most of the property of foreigners here has been put upon board of vessels now in port, although the advent of the foreign representatives seems to have given new confidence to them.
I deemed it prudent to leave Osaka, because it was given up to a revolutionary mob of whom we knew nothing, and from whom we had heard nothing. Our vessels of war were some eight miles from us, and there was no such thing as being protected, with a large city, and a bad and at times impassable bar between us and them. We had no Americans there except such as were attached to the legation, and there was no American property to protect. The sale of the land in the foreign settlement had not been made. My colleagues all agreed with me, and our departure, under the circumstances and at the time, was unanimously resolved upon. Here we propose to remain for the present. Our vessels are now close in shore, and we feel confident that under almost any circumstances we can remain until communication can be had with the supreme government, whatever and whenever that may be.
It is believed that the news of the burning of Satsuma’s yaskis at Yedo, by the Tycoon’s forces there, and of which you have been informed by Mr. Portman, from Yokohama, hastened the outbreak near Kioto, and at once put an end to such peaceable negotiations as were then going on. Many wounded men had been brought into Osaka on the three days preceding its evacuation, and it is said about 150 were burned in the conflagration which destroyed the castle.
Whether this was the work of the Tycoon’s officers, or of his enemies upon entering the castle, is not clearly understood, but my impression is, its destruction was ordered by the Tycoon, to prevent its occupation by his enemies; and in the fire and explosion of ammunition the barracks, in which these poor wounded men were, ignited and were consumed.
Inclosed I transmit No. 1, copy translation of a communication received on the 28th day of January, at five o’clock a. m., from Saki Uita No Kami, Itakura Iga No Kami, and Matsdaira Buzen No Kami, three members of the Gorogio, asking me to issue an order to Americans to confine themselves strictly to the terms of the treaty prohibiting merchant vessels from entering unopened ports, and the sale of arms and ships of war to other than the Japanese government. This was a circular letter, and was sent to each of the several foreign representatives in Osaka.[Page 638]
I inclose No. 2, a communication I at once addressed to those gentlemen, and No. 3, the answer received on the evening of the same day.
I inclose also No. 4, copy of a communication addressed by me to D. L. Moore, esq., United States vice-consul at Nagasaki, similar ones being also addressed to the consular agents at both Hiogo and Osaka, and also to General Stahel, United States consul at Kanagawa. With our consul at Hakodadi I have here no means of communication, but have instructed the vice-consul at Nagasaki to furnish him with copies of any communications and information, should opportunity offer.
I inclose also No. 5, copy of the last communication received by me from the Tycoon’s government, about two o’clock on the morning of the 31st January, and after the Tycoon had left his castle at Osaka, on his way to Yedo.
It was four hours after the receipt of this document, and six hours after the flight of the Tycoon, that the foreign representatives left the upper part of Osaka for the embarking place near the fort, seven miles distant from their legations.
I inclose No. 6, copy of a communication from the governor of Hiogo, given to our consular agent at this place on the 1st instant, in which the governor says: “The government will of course use their best endeavors to protect your flag and countrymen, but in the present unsettled and unsatisfactory state of affairs it is desirable that your countrymen withdraw to their ships.”
I also inclose No. 7, the last communication received by consular agent at Hiogo, from the governor, on the afternoon of the 2d instant.
I fear difficulties may occur at Yokohama and Nagasaki. The Monocacy is at the former and the Shenandoah at the latter place.
Trusting that my action will be approved, I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.