This book was written by Romulus Hillsborough and it describes the Shinsengumi during the final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
You may have heard of the Shinsengumi. They are famous in Japan and there have been many movies and television shows made about this group.
The leaders of the Shinsengumi, Kondo Isami and Hijikata Toshizo, are among the most celebrated men in Japanese history.
Prologue to the book
By the end of 1862, hordes of renegade samurai had abandoned their clans to fight under the banner of Imperial Loyalism. These warriors, derogatorily called ronin, had transformed the streets of the Imperial Capital into a sea of blood. The ronin were determined to overthrow the shogun's regime, which had ruled for 250 years.
Screaming "Heavan's Revenge," they weilded their swords with a vengeance upon their enemies. Terror reigned. Assassination was a nightly occurrence.
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. They were 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 named evoked terror among the terrorists, as an entire nation reeled around them.
I will write some more about the Shinsengumi in additional posts. I also plan on reading two other books by this author about this time period.