The battle started with Shogunal forces moved in the direction of Kyoto to deliver a letter from Yoshinobu, warning the Emperor of the intrigues plotted by Satsuma and the court nobles who supported it, such as Iwakura Tomomi.
The 15,000-strong Shogunal army outnumbered the Satsuma-Chōshū army by 3:1, and consisted mostly of men from the Kuwana and Aizu domains, reinforced by Shinsengumi irregulars. Although some of its members were mercenaries, others, such as the Denshūtai, had received training from French military advisers. Some of the men deployed in the front lines were armed in archaic fashion, with pikes and swords. For example, the troops of Aizu had a combination of modern soldiers and samurai, as did the troops of Satsuma to a lesser degree. The Bakufu had almost fully equipped troops and Chōshū troops were the most modern and organized of all. According to Conrad Totman: "In terms of army organization and weaponry, the four main protagonists probably rank in this order: Chōshū was best; Bakufu infantry was next; Satsuma was next; and Aizu and most liege vassal forces were last".
There was no clearly defined intent to fight on the part of the Shogunate troops, attested by the many empty rifles of the men in the vanguard. Motivation and leadership on the part of the Shogunate also seems to have been lacking.
Although the forces of Chōshū and Satsuma were outnumbered, they were fully modernized with Armstrong howitzers, Minié rifles and one Gatling gun. The Shogunate forces had been slightly lagging in term of equipment, although a core elite force had been recently trained by the French military mission to Japan (1867–1868). The Shogun also relied on troops supplied by allied domains, which were not necessarily as advanced in terms of military equipment and methods, making up an army that had both modern and outdated elements.
The British Navy, generally supportive of Satsuma and Chōshū, maintained a strong fleet in Osaka harbour, a factor of uncertainty which forced the Shogunate to maintain the garrison at Osaka with a significant part of its forces in rather than commit them to the offensive in Kyōto. This foreign presence was related to the very recent opening of the ports of Hyōgo (modern Kobe) and Ōsaka to foreign trade three weeks earlier on 1 January 1868.
Tokugawa Yoshinobu himself was in bed with a severe chill, and could not participate directly in the operations.
Read more about this topic: Battle Of Toba-Fushimi
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