The Elusive Ezo Republic
The former shogunate forces conquered and took full control of Ezo. Their stronghold was Hakodate’s star-shaped Goryokaku fortress, which was Japan’s first such structure to be built in the Western style (*1). Many star-shaped fortresses remain in Europe, including Fort Bourtange in the Netherlands and the Kastellet star fortress in Denmark. The Ezo government was established on December 15, 1868, in the fortress, where the restored Hakodate Magistrate’s Office (an administrative institution of the shogunate) stands today (*2).
Japan’s first “public bid” (election) by officers and those of upper ranks that established the Ezo government elected Takeaki Enomoto as President and Toshizo Hijikata as Vice-Minister of the Army. This was the origin of the Republic of Ezo.
The Shinsengumi who had acted in concert with Hijikata were reorganized with newly recruited warriors into the Hakodate Shinsengumi and were put in charge of local policing.
People from outside Japan also acted in concert with the Ezo government – 10 military advisors, including their leader Captain Jules Brunet, were dispatched from France to the shogunate. Five of them sacrificed themselves for chivalry by abandoning the French army to join the Ezo government.