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The Rōshigumi (浪士組, meaning "the rōnin squad"), the "Kyoto Defenders", was a group of 250 masterless samurai (rōnin), founded by Kiyokawa Hachirō in 1863. Loyal to the Bakufu, they were supposed to act as the protectors of the Tokugawa shogun.

Kiyokawa Hachirō formed the Rōshigumi with funding from the Tokugawa regime. Originally, he claimed it was formed for protecting the Tokugawa shogun in Kyoto and preparing for military action against Western countries. However, he lied to the regime; his goal was to gather people to work with the imperialists and not the Shogunate government.

The Rōshigumi met on March 26 (lunar calendar February 8), 1863 in Edo and they all left for Kyoto. Kondo Isami, Hijikata Toshizo, Okita Soji, Inoue Genzaburō, Todo Heisuke, Harada Sanosuke, Nagakura Shinpachi. Serizawa Kamo, Niimi Nishiki, Hirayama Gorou, Hirama Juusuke, and Noguchi Kengi were all among the members of the Rōshigumi. (Two days later, while the Rōshigumi left for Kyoto, Kondo was responsible for assigning lodges for the members. However, he accidentally forgot about Serizawa's group, leading to a famous incident where Serizawa lost his temper and, with the help of his group, created a huge bonfire outside the lodges as an insult to Kondo.)

On April 10 (lunar calendar February 23), the Rōshigumi arrived at Kyoto and the group stayed in Yagitei, a Mibu village outside Kyoto. Surprisingly, Kiyokawa suddenly commanded the group to return to Edo when they had just arrived in Kyoto. By then, he had secretly submitted a letter to the imperialists stating that his Rōshigumi were to work only for the Emperor. Thirteen members dissented and stayed in Kyoto, including Kondo and Serizawa, and became the founding members of the Shinsengumi.

In response, a government official made spies out of Rōshigumi members Tomouchi Yoshio and Iesato Jiro, forcing them to stay in Kyoto and join Serizawa and Kondo's group in order to keep an eye on them.

Other dissident members of the Rōshigumi returned to Edo and became the founding members of the Shinchōgumi (the Shinsengumi's brother league in Edo) with Okita Rintaro (Okita Soji's brother-in-law) as a commander.