We're already at May of 1738; France is already militarily involved, and I'm guessing British-Spanish relations in 1739 will go as OTL. Can't wait to see the War of Austrian Succession breakout...
Re bombes de bois.
I've not be able to locate a description but it's possible it's an alliterative corruption of pois pea, poids weights, or poix pitch. The first 2 suggest some sort of shrapnel or pipe bomb, the latter an incendiary.
A corruption is certainly plausible; they pop up a lot in the narrative. A syndicate investor who was probably named Vanderbilt is recorded as Fandermil, for instance, and I'm 99% sure the warship Preterod was actually the Brederode, which was a real Dutch warship active at the time.

Some English-language sources for the manifest apparently don't even bother with a complete translation and just record that item as "bombs." If the manifest contained any kind of mortar or howitzer that would make more sense to me, but unless the three "large culverins" are actually howitzers it's not clear how such munitions were to be used.

Don't really know much about this period, Carp, but it's a pretty interesting read! :)

Thanks! As it happens, I actually don't know all that much about the period either; I consider myself mainly a medieval aficionado, although I do have a soft spot for things of the sail-and-flintlock era from reading the Horatio Hornblower books as a kid (over and over again). I mainly just got interested in the Corsican rebellion and dug into that.
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Thanks! As it happens, I actually don't know all that much about the period either; I consider myself mainly a medieval aficionado, although I do have a soft spot for things of the sail-and-flintlock era from reading the Horatio Hornblower books as a kid (over and over again). I mainly just got interested in the Corsican rebellion and dug into that.

Fair play then. We all have our niches of history that brought us to the dance, though I dare say yours is virgin ground for many of us. Extra virgin, even! :p
The Syndicate Fleet
The Syndicate Fleet


A period drawing of the Dutch 52-gun warship Brederode.

On May 20th, the "syndicate armada" departed from the Dutch port of Texel. The syndicate's ships numbered three: the Yongfrau Agathe, a small fluyt of "twelve large guns and four small ones" under Adolphe Peresen; the Jacob et Christine, a 12-gun sloop under the command of Cornelius Roos; and the Africain (or "L'Africain"), a 40-gun Indiaman, under the overall expedition commander Pierre Keelmann. As was common practice at the time for a group of merchant ships sailing in dangerous waters—and they would be passing along the Barbary coast—they were accompanied by a state escort, a warship recorded as the 60-gun "Preterod" under Captain Alexander Frentzel. It seems very likely that this is a misspelling of the Brederode, a Dutch fourth-rate warship of 52 guns launched in 1731.[1] Once through the Strait of Gibraltar, the fleet made stops at Malaga and Alicante in Spain. Thereafter they were headed to Algiers, where they would be delayed on account of a diplomatic mission which Captain Frentzel was commanded to undertake, specifically a negotiation of peace between the States General and the dey of Algiers Ibrahim III. The fleet was delayed here for nearly two weeks, and only reached Cagliari in Sardinia on August 8th.

In the meantime, Lieutenant-General Louis de Frétat de Boissieux played a waiting game. He continued his correspondence to his own government, cautioning that if the Corsicans were allowed to remain in the hands of the Genoese they would probably offer the island to the first power that agreed to take them; it might as well be France. He added too that "Theodore de Neuhof, le soi-disant Roi" was very powerful in the interior and complained of the conduct of the Genoese commissioner-general Giovanni-Battista de Mari, who continually demanded that he "put everything to fire and blood."

In early June, Boissieux received his answer. The chief minister Cardinal André-Hercule de Fleury penned a reply directly to the "nationals"Boissieux handed it over to Theodore's delegates, Gianpietro Gaffori and Erasmo Orticoni—informing them that France would not suffer the sovereignty of Genoa over the island to be abridged, but that if the rebels submitted themselves forthwith to His Most Christian Majesty he would hear their claims and ensure they were fulfilled by the Genoese if found to be just and well-founded. Boissieux, reacting to these instructions and aware of the recent hostilities between the Genoese and the Corsicans, ordered Mari to immediately observe a cease-fire. Mari, as usual, was angered at being told to stand down and raged against the "slothful" conduct of Boissieux and his troops, but his position was weak and there was little he could do but comply. Boissieux required the cease-fire to be mutual, and informed the rebels that he would require collateral. He requested that they furnish prominent hostages to guarantee their good behavior, and promised that these hostages would be held comfortably at Toulon and not under any circumstances placed in Genoese custody. He allowed them two weeks to comply.

Boissieux's action immediately brought peace to the island, for both sides feared French power too much to challenge his diktat. Fleury's terms, however, were not acceptable to the Corsicans, as they still refused to place themselves under Genoese power. Nevertheless, Theodore saw the wisdom of being conciliatory, and authorized Gaffori and Orticoni to agree to provide Boissieux with his hostages as soon as volunteers could be found. Additionally, the delegates requested that the French receive a Corsican envoy at Paris so that any Corsican complaints of Genoese bad faith could be provided directly to the French government. Boissieux was not in a position to approve this, but promised that he would submit the matter to Versailles for consideration. Ultimately, Theodore found his hostages, all of whom really were volunteers. There were eight in total, four from the Dila and four from the Diqua, and they included Filippo Maria Costa, a son of Theodore's chancellor Sebastiano Costa, as well as Alerio Francesco Matra, the son of Marquis Saviero Matra.

For the first time Theodore addressed Boissieux directly, sending him a letter in Gaffori's care. In it, according to his secretary Denis Richard, Theodore was apologetic. He explained that while he had no doubt of the honor and beneficence of the French king, the Corsicans had so little faith in the honor of the Genoese that they could not bring themselves to agree to be ruled by them again. Theodore suggested that he would gladly set an example to "his subjects" and submit himself to His Most Christian Majesty, and implied that without that example it was very likely there would be war. All he requested was that Boissieux cease undermining him and agree that he should not be treated as a common outlaw, as was so far the stance of Boissieux and his government. It was, he claimed, only by his own persuasion that the Corsicans had sent delegates and hostages at all, and thus the French had much to thank him for. Richard, who had a fairly critical view of his sovereign and employer, suggested in his memoirs that Theodore had been looking for a way out; perceiving his situation as bleak and aware of the treatment that would await him if he fell into Genoese hands, he wanted a promise of amnesty and safe conduct should he at last quit the kingdom.

Boissieux did not immediately respond, and was not the sort of man to be won over in a single letter. He was mindful of his own government's attitude towards Theodore. He did, however, forward the letter to Fleury, adding that he had seen no evidence so far that Theodore had any British association and that if Versailles truly wanted to remove him from the picture, it might be more successful if it offered him safe passage and a "dignified retreat" rather than referring to him as a common criminal. That seems to comport with Richard's explanation that Theodore was on the verge of flight, although Boissieux only suggested that Theodore might take advantage of such an offer, not that he had specifically requested it.

At the same time that Theodore was making his overture, Franco-Genoese relations took a turn for the worse. In late July, the Genoese discovered that an engineer in the French army had been making detailed sketches of the defenses of Calvi and sending them back to France. Whether Boissieux knew about or authorized this is unclear, but it prompted a fresh objection by Mari and further fueled his suspicion that the French meant only to take the island for themselves. Mari wrote Fleury directly, complaining that Boissieux had become too close to the rebels and demanding his removal. While the cardinal did not necessarily share the general's view of the situation, however, he had done nothing insubordinate, and certainly Fleury was not going to sack Boissieux based on the request of a Genoese functionary.

So matters dragged on through the summer. The hostages, some of whom had to traverse the length of Corsica from the Dila, took time to gather, and Boissieux was sufficiently assured of their good faith as to not stick closely to his two-week guideline. By August 10th they were all accounted for and had been taken to Toulon on a French frigate. Two days earlier, the syndicate armada had reached Cagliari.

The appearance of the Dutch flotilla, particularly after the publication of its alleged manifest in Le Mercure a few months previously, immediately set the Genoese consul in Cagliari, Mongiardino, on high alert. He wrote Mari to report the arrival of these suspicious ships and urged the Sardinian viceroy, the Marquis Carlo-Amadeo di Rivarolo, to inspect or impound them, but Rivarolo declined to do this. In an apparent effort to deceive observers, Captain Keelmann directed the Yongfrau Agathe and the Jacob et Christine to depart Cagliari alone, so that they would not appear to be in a convoy together.

At this point captains Frentzel and Keelmann undoubtedly had a discussion. Frenztel, a navy officer, was quite aware that no French corvette could withstand the firepower of the Brederode, but he was also mindful of the larger political situation. His government tolerated the syndicate, and perhaps even abetted it, but it had no desire for its own ship to open fire on the French Navy on the syndicate's behalf. What the States General needed was plausible deniability, and so far they had it; if at this moment the Brederode departed from the convoy, the Dutch could very reasonably say that they had been escorting a merchant convoy through hostile waters as was common practice, and whether that convoy had at some later point landed at Corsica was not their concern. Keelmann, however, had been made aware that he would have to land in the north of Corsica if he hoped to be paid, and he feared running the gauntlet of the waters around Calvi where the French presence was presumed strongest.

Frentzel agreed to escort the syndicate ships as far as Cape Revellata near Calvi, and the next day the Brederode and Africain left Cagliari. They traveled north up the western coast of Sardinia and reunited with the smaller ships off Alghero before heading into Corsican waters. Their passage up the western coast was uneventful, although they paused briefly at the Gulf of Sagone to allow the Jacob et Christine to set ashore some volunteers of Theodore's who did not want to risk being caught aboard the syndicate ships by any French or Genoese vessel that might overtake them.[2]


A modern reproduction of a 42-gun VOC Indiaman which may have resembled the 40-gun Africain.[A]

One of these volunteers was another of Theodore's "nephews," Johann Friedrich von Neuhoff zu Rauschenburg. Johann Friedrich was actually Theodore's first cousin, although at 25 years of age he certainly could have passed for the king's nephew. His father Werner Jobst Lothar was a younger brother of Theodore's father. As the youngest son of Theodore's grandfather Leopold Wilhelm, Werner had been stuck with the smallest share of the patrimony, amounting to the picturesque but minor fief of Rauschenburg on the Lippe river near the Westphalian town of Olfen. Accordingly, Werner had taken the title of Freiherr von Neuhoff zu Rauschenburg, and when he died in 1730 the estate and the title had passed to his son Johann Friedrich. The young lord had been active in Theodore's affairs since his arrival in Amsterdam, and now made his appearance in Corsica with a gaggle of German officers and other hopefuls who had been attracted to the scheme by promises of money and position. Johann Friedrich convinced Keelmann to allow them to disembark with some small arms and ammunition from the syndicate's cargo, at least enough to make sure they were well-protected, but Keelmann was insistent that nothing more would be landed without payment.[B]

On the 24th of August, the syndicate fleet sighted two Genoese barca-longas and the Brederode ran up the Dutch ensign. The ships approached, and a Genoese captain demanded that the Dutch fleet heave to. Captain Frentzel refused; they were not in view of any shore, Frentzel felt no obligation to stop for a Genoese ship, and in any case his flotilla vastly outgunned the two little patrol boats. Eventually the Genoese ships departed for Calvi to inform Mari. On the next day, concerned that he had already done too much, Frentzel decided to take his leave of the flotilla and set a westerly course for Port Mahon.

As Isola Rossa was a significant smuggling depot, the northern coast of Corsica was a site of heavy Genoese and French naval patrols. It was also the only rebel-held port in the olive-rich Balagna, which made it ideal for Keelmann's purposes, but after sighting the Genoese barques and the departure of the Brederode Keelmann did not feel like taking chances. He also needed to placate his co-captains Peresen and Roos, who were on the verge of mutiny and demanded that they re-route to Naples or Livorno. Those captains, unlike Keelmann, were only employees and not investors; they were less concerned with the syndicate's enterprise than their own safety, and as far as they were concerned it was more sensible to try and hawk the arms in their holds at a safer port. Keelmann, however, insisted that his orders were to go to Corsica, and threatened the other captains with legal consequences if they took the syndicate's cargo anywhere else.

Keelmann planned to land at Isola Rossa, but as the fleet approached his worst fears were realized. A flotilla of three ships appeared, three Genoese galleys and the French frigate Flore. With a westerly wind at his back, Keelmann and his fellow ships fled. Wearing its sails, the Africain did its best to keep away from its pursuers, but the Flore was a good sight faster than the lumbering Indiaman. Its captain, the Marquis de Sabran, fired a warning shot at the Africain. As a means of confusion, Keelmann ran out the Spanish flag, but did not slow or heave to. When the frigate kept closing, Keelmann ran out the guns to demonstrate to Sabran what he was dealing with.

Sabran undoubtedly knew that he could not stand against the broadside of the Africain alone, and frustratingly the laggardly Genoese were too far behind to assist him. He attempted instead to overtake the Africain and attempt to arrest one of the smaller ships of the flotilla. Soon he was firing his bow chasers at the Yongfrau Agathe to damage her rigging, while Keelmann struggled to try and interpose himself between the frigate and the fluyt without losing too much speed. The Africain fired a warning shot of her own at the Flore, but Keelmann still hesitated to actually engage her.

The chase, lasting several hours, was eventually decided by the appearance of the Mortella tower at the entrance to the Bay of San Fiorenzo. Owing to its strategic position and Theodore's fears of a French landing in the Nebbio, it was one of the few towers which the rebels had actually garrisoned. The guards did not know exactly what was going on, but they certainly recognized the Flore and saw it firing on the other ships and trained their two 18-pounder guns on the frigate. Soon they were ranging the Flore with their guns, and a curl of smoke began rising from the tower—the gunners were warming up their shot furnace and would soon be ready to lob red-hot shot at the frigate. When a shot whistled over the frigate's deck, the Flore veered away, and the flotilla glided into the bay.[C]

Theodore was only a few miles away at Murato and quickly came to San Fiorenzo. He had some goods to offer them, but told a dismayed Keelmann that most of the oil which had been stockpiled was indeed in the Balagna, and it would take time to arrive. Theodore asked that Theodore begin landing the cargo immediately, but Keelmann refused; his orders were clear. Eventually the two agreed to unload a portion of the cargo—specifically, some of the guns—in exchange for what Theodore did have, if for no other reason than to fortify the harbor, as Keelmann feared the French and Genoese would be back and attempt to cut out the fleet from San Fiorenzo.

It had been a near thing, but the arrival of the syndicate fleet was an enormous boon for Theodore. Prior to Keelmann's arrival, if Denis Richard is to be believed, the king was on the verge of flight. On the diplomatic front, Theodore seemed to be running out of time, and there was a growing faction of the rebel leaders who had grown disillusioned with the idea that Theodore would ever delivered the substantial foreign aid he had promised and opined that it might be better to agree to Fleury's terms before they no longer had that opportunity. Theodore had been increasingly worried for his safety, that someone might turn him in or assassinate him for the Genoese reward money or to gain favor with the French, and was uncertain who he could really trust, even among the various volunteers and deserters who made up his "German life-guard." Now, however, Theodore had received such support as to silence all but his most irreconcilable critics, and the weapons and money to raise all of Corsica—that is, if he could manage to get Keelmann to disgorge them from his ships.[D]

[1] Not to be confused with the previous and much more famous Brederode of 1644, which was the flagship of the Dutch navy during the First Anglo-Dutch War.
[2] The ambassador of the States General to France would later claim that, according to his information, the Brederode had accompanied the syndicate vessels along the Corsican coast for fear of Corsican piracy given the "unsettled" situation on the island, which was particularly asinine as it suggested that fear of the rebels was the reason a Dutch warship had been escorting a massive cache of weapons to those same rebels.

Timeline Notes
[A] This is an image of the replica VOC ship Amsterdam, which was wrecked on its maiden voyage in 1749. I was originally going to note that in the caption, but I thought better of it; after all, in a TL with a POD in 1738 which does actually concern the Dutch the same ship may not necessarily get wrecked in the same place by the same storm 12 years later. I don't actually have any information on the Africain except that it was a 40-gun Indiaman of the mid-18th century, and the idea that it looked similar to the Amsterdam is pure conjecture.
[B] Introducing plausible Theodore successor #2 (after Charles-Philippe de Trevou; Matthias von Drost, for reasons mentioned in the last update, isn't a plausible heir unless everyone else kicks the bucket prematurely). Johann Friedrich, the most minor of barons, has a lot less wealth and status than Charles-Philippe, but that may work in his favor: he's got nothing much to return to in Westphalia, while Charles-Philippe has a prestigious position and hunts with King Louis and might not want to give up the Versailles lifestyle. Additionally, once the fighting gets under way between the rebels and the French, there's reason to think a French successor might be less palatable to the people than a German one.
[C] I'm now realizing just how long it's been since I read my C. S. Forester. Hopefully this naval "engagement" actually makes the slightest bit of sense as I've written it. It's a bit of an awkward situation, really—the side that had the most guns doesn't want to fight, but the other side doesn't necessarily know that at first.
[D] IOTL, Keelmann brought Theodore (who was traveling with the fleet) to Corsica as well as some of his followers, but refused to land the cargo because Theodore had nothing to pay him with; at the time the rebels controlled no ports and Theodore's control over the rebels, having been away since 1736, was nonexistent. As soon as Boissieux heard that Theodore had arrived, he made it known that anyone who harbored him would be treated as an outlaw. He soon left with the fleet for Naples, where Keelmann and his fellow captains were arrested by the Dutch consul (who claimed to have received instructions from Boon) for disobeying their orders. French and Genoese diplomatic pressure eventually obtained their release, and the Dutch were forced to recall the consul after French protests. Theodore was briefly imprisoned at Gaeta, but he had friends in the Neapolitan government, and the imprisonment may have just been a pretext to keep him from the clutches of the French and Genoese. The premise of this TL is that, having returned to the island months earlier, controlling several ports, and most importantly controlling the olive country of the Balagna, Theodore is actually able to pay the syndicate, or at least partially.
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Hurray for a "victory" at sea!

From my, admittedly a bit rusty, reading of Forester and O'Brian the engagement was plausible enough. You shouldn't worry about the quality of your writing, it is very good!

Let's see if the oil can reach San Fiorenzo then...
As someone who knows nothing about naval war, what does "damage her rinning" mean?

I suppose none of the ships took meaningful damage in the chase?
I think that's a typo for "rigging": the set of ropes and sails that are needed to move for a sailing boat or ship. My English sea-tsrminology is unfortunately quite limited and I can hardly distinguish a bowline from a backstay :)


Calenzana at the foot of the mountains

"If your sovereign commands should oblige us to submit ourselves to Genoa, let us first drink the health of the Most Christian King, and then die."

- Reply of the Corsican consulta to King Louis XV

Captain Pierre Keelmann was upset at Theodore's apparent inability to pay him, or at least his inability to pay him more than a fraction of what the syndicate was owed. Neither he nor the other captains, Cornelius Roos and Adolphe Pereson, desired to remain on Corsica any longer than was absolutely necessary. At the moment, however, they were not going anywhere. The Marquis de Sabran, who had chased them into the Bay of San Fiorenzo on the frigate Flore, ordered the ships he had available to patrol as close to the bay's entrance as they dared and enforce a close blockade. Sabran had failed to stop the syndicate flotilla from landing, but he might yet prevent them from leaving, and for now the weather was in his favor. The Flore alone had lacked the firepower to take on the Africain, but with additional frigates and galleys he could very well manage it. The Africain's considerable battery concealed the fact that its merchant crew was under-strength and not well trained for battle.

All they could do was wait for Theodore to deliver, and until then Keelmann refused to land the bulk of the cargo. Finding that even his powers of persuasion were no match for the flinty Captain Keelmann, Theodore sent word to Captain-General Marquis Simone Fabiani, the governor of the Balagna, requiring him to gather and transport as much olive oil as possible to the Nebbio. That was not an easy operation, for it involved crossing what the Corsicans called the Agriate, a rugged region of coast dotted with fields and orchards but traversed mainly by shepherds' tracks over hills of broken granite.[A] That would take time, not simply to move the goods but to round up the men and mules to accomplish the task.

Lieutenant-General Count Louis de Frétat de Boissieux had been informed of the progress of the syndicate fleet ever since it had sailed into Cagliari. Nevertheless, there was still some confusion; the Genoese off Calvi had reported four ships flying the Dutch flag, while Sabran sent a dispatch boat back to Calvi describing his encounter with three ships flying the Spanish flag. This was recognized as a thin disguise, however, probably intended to make any Genoese vessels think twice before shooting at Spaniard ships, and Boissieux sent all these observations back to Versailles. In the meantime, he took matters into his own hands.

Although Boissieux clearly sympathized with the rebels and complained constantly of the ingratitude, brutishness, and incompetence of the Genoese, he was nevertheless determined to do his duty, and the landing of several ships purported to be carrying arms angered him. Had not Theodore and his deputies sworn that they had absolute faith in the honor and good-will of France? Had they not promised to uphold a cease-fire? Why, then, were they apparently now arming themselves for war? Boissieux summoned Theodore's delegates, Father Erasmo Orticoni and Gianpetro Gaffori, and demanded an explanation. Orticoni and Gaffori had not been privy to the syndicate's plans, and weakly explained that merchants often ran the Genoese blockade to deliver "needed goods" to the Corsicans, who would otherwise starve. Boissieux was not fooled—smugglers came to Corsica in little tartanes and barques, not in Indiamen and convoys escorted by Dutch ships of the line.

Boissieux took his strongest action yet and issued a proclamation against Theodore. The rebels, he said, only endangered themselves and risked forsaking the friendship of the King of France if they had dealings with this charlatan. Boissieux threatened severe consequences to those that followed or harbored the so-called king. He no doubt remembered Theodore's letter, in which the baron had seemingly had been most conciliatory and desirous of preserving his own safety, and thought that stern threats might flush him out. Had this proclamation been made earlier, perhaps he would have succeeded. Before it was drafted, however, there were already rumors spreading throughout Corsica that Theodore's long-promised aid had finally come. It was said that a heavily armed "Spanish fleet" had come to Theodore's succor, and that the king had finally brought his great fortune from abroad along with a great arsenal of weapons. The Genoese had long threatened to put Theodore's head on a pike and destroy those who consorted with him, to no avail, and Boissieux's threat was scarcely more effective.

The count was hamstrung by a lack of orders from Paris. He was waiting on a settlement being negotiated at Fontainebleau between French, Genoese, and Austrian representatives regarding the terms that were to be imposed upon the Genoese and Corsicans. The fleet had arrived on the 29th of August, but the "Terms of Fontainebleau" would not be ratified for three more weeks, and Boissieux would not receive them until the 4th of October. He was loathe to begin hostilities until the final terms arrived and an ultimatum could be delivered to the Corsicans. He did, however, order his troops to expand their holds on the two beachheads they possessed, and the French forces occupied several strategic villages around Calvi and Ajaccio. In the north, Fabiani obeyed Theodore's commands not to confront the French and there was no armed resistance, but sporadic fighting began in the south, where militiamen in Celavo skirmished with the French and their allies. Boissieux was cautious; he did not want his companies to run headlong into an ambush like the Genoese had done quite recently, and the French stuck largely to the coastal zones. The first blood, however, had been shed.

Captains Peresen and Roos did not want to be in the middle of a rebellion and doubted that Theodore actually intended to pay them. Keelmann was having increasing difficulty keeping them in check. They had their own ships, after all, and the sailors were largely of the same mind as their captains. Keelmann was also afraid that the growing crowds of Corsicans, gathering to gawk at the "Spanish fleet" or impatiently awaiting their long-promised guns and money, might try to take the cargo by force. To placate his comrades, Keelmann promised Peresen and Roos that he would allow them to depart in one week if there was still no sign of payment.

Although often passed over in modern Corsican historiography, Fabiani's extraction of the Balagna's agricultural wealth was frequently neither voluntary nor compensated. The Balagnese had always been mixed in their sympathies and allegiances, and as the rebel forces withdrew eastwards in the face of the creeping French advance, rounding up livestock, looting storehouses, and otherwise taking everything which might settle the bill with the syndicate or sustain the rebel army, some locals must have wondered whether it would not be better to be under the rule of the French. No doubt Boissieux's troops lived off the land where practicable, but at least the French were not selling off the fruits of the country to foreign merchants, as they were already quite well compensated by the Bank of St. George.[1] On the 18th of September the French occupied Calenzana, a key town which was the site of two major rebel victories, and reported being greeted warmly by the populace. Boissieux probably could have recruited auxiliaries from the population if he had been of such a mind, but he continued to demand disarmament and rejected appeals from some Balagnese who asked to be able to keep their weapons to protect themselves against the "men of the mountains" (probably the Niolesi), believing this to be a ploy.

Soon the produce of the Balagna was trickling through the mule-tracks of the Agriate to the Nebbio. Keelmann wanted to trade as the supply came in—a certain number of barrels for these muskets or those cannons—and at first Theodore was willing to go along with that, but soon he started withholding his supply. He wanted, he said, to settle the bill, and buy all of what the syndicate carried. Theodore seems to have known that he could not deliver all the oil the syndicate had hoped for. Perhaps it was a bluff—Theodore may have known that although Roos and Peresen suggested sailing to Naples instead, there was no guarantee that the Neapolitan government would simply buy up such a large quantity of munitions (for certainly no private individual would be making that purchase). Nor could they be confident that they would get a good price at Naples. They could take Theodore's offer, which was below expectations but still significant, or they could leave with nothing and possibly get even less elsewhere.

The syndicate had not appointed Keelmann as the fleet's leader because he was easily persuaded. The longer he waited, however, the more disgruntled his captains and crewmen became. He was dependent on Theodore for food, too, as his ships had not been supplied with the expectation that they would remain at Corsica for weeks on end. Roos and Peresen, after all, were not investors; they had no skin in the game. He held out for a while, pressing Theodore for more and threatening to take his cargo elsewhere, but ultimately Keelmann agreed to disgorge all the cargo in exchange for the oil Theodore had amassed. He procured from Theodore a promise to repay the difference at a later date. Presumably Keelmann knew that such a promise from Theodore didn't mean much, but it was better than nothing. When a favorable wind finally came and the coast seemed clear, the syndicate ships left San Fiorenzo on a northerly heading, intending to come around Capo Corso and make for Livorno rather than to return through the waters between Calvi and France.

On October 5th, Boissieux made the terms of Fontainebleau known to the Corsican delegates. They were not dramatically different from those which Fleury and Boissieux had already offered. The only major additional concession offered was the abolition of galley slavery as a judicial punishment, which was right out of Theodore's playbook. The bottom line, however, was that Boissieux's ultimatum—for that was what it was—still required the Corsicans to accept Genoese sovereignty and give up their weapons. Gaffori and Orticoni knew this to be unacceptable, but they nevertheless promised to take the proposal back to the "Corsican nation." Another consulta was convened, this time as Corti, on the 13th of October. Once more it was chaired by Theodore, but this time the king was in better spirits, for he was armed.

The mood of the delegates arriving at the consulta varied between desperation and resignation. The Corsicans very sensibly feared French power, but rumors of the terms of the Fontainebleau ultimatum had filtered out and the rebel leaders could see no alternative to resistance. Rumors of Theodore's foreign aid, however, had also spread. There was uncertainty as to whether this "armada" was real, or just another empty promise by the king who had already made quite a few. The delegates, from the staunch royalists to nationalists flirting with the indifferenti, looked to Theodore to see if he offered any hope.

It was one of the pivotal moments of Theodore's reign: this time, he delivered. The conciliatory king of the previous consulta was replaced by a defiant sovereign, accompanied by his recently-arrived cousin Johann Friedrich von Neuhoff zu Rauschenburg, Corsican guard officers, and his foreign leibgarde, dressed in the green uniforms which had been sent by the syndicate. He enumerated to the delegates the extraordinary quantity of weapons, money, and supplies he had procured, and promised that as long as he lived he would never cease fighting for the freedom of Corsica from tyranny and slavery. There was only one course of action remaining for a self-respecting people: to drive the French and Genoese out of their country once and for all.

The consulta drafted a response to King Louis which was soon to be marveled at by the European gazettes. It referred to the king with the greatest respect, but abandoned the conciliation of their last missive entirely. They rejected the terms of Fontainebleau, and indeed their very premise, as they had been negotiated with French, Imperial, and Genoese diplomats but without a single representative of the Corsican nation. They would never suffer to return to the Genoese yoke, and if necessary would fight the Genoese, the French, and indeed the whole of Europe to gain their freedom. They welcomed and prayed for the friendship of the King of France, but if he sent his armies against them and destroyed them utterly, so be it; they would at least die as free men. Their response ended memorably with a Latin quotation: Melius est nos mori in bello quam videre mala gentis nostrae; "It is better for us to die in battle than to behold the calamities of our people."[2]

Boissieux, exasperated by what he considered an overly dramatic reply, ordered the occupation of the Balagna starting with the recently-captured port of Algajola. His error was in assuming that these conquests would meet with the same lack of opposition which the French had encountered at Calenzana and elsewhere thanks to the pacifying influence of King Theodore. On the 20th, the French advanced on Algajola only to find several hundred Balagnese militia who were dug in and well armed with small arms and artillery. The French force, only about 300 strong, engaged the defenders but withdrew as it became obvious they had neither the numbers nor the preparation to take the position.

This first shedding of blood, alongside the words of the consulta and the king, animated the nation to action. Although the matter of who fired first at Algajola is uncertain, Theodore proclaimed that the French, in "attacking" the nationals at Algajola, had broken their own truce and were attempting to "enslave" the Corsicans by force of arms. Goaded into resistance, within days rebel militia struck French positions around Ajaccio and Calvi in near simultaneous attacks. In the Balagna, they were soon joined by Niolesi fighters streaming down from the mountains as well as Theodore's "regular" forces. On October 24th, French pickets around Calenzana came under attack, and by the following day the French commander there was reporting that his 500-man battalion was being assaulted by more than a thousand Corsicans. They included not only Balagnese militia but Niolesi fighters streaming down from the mountains. The French succeeded in holding their position after a full day of intense fighting, but although Boissieux sent another battalion the rebel attacks only grew more fierce. Rebel militias from further east arrived, and eventually so too did Theodore's "regular" forces, who came bringing muskets for the insurgents and with several pieces of artillery. The French, without any artillery of their own, had no response to this bombardment, and Boissieux wrote that the garrison was now in danger of being surrounded and cut off by more than two thousand Corsican rebels. Outnumbered and outgunned, the French withdrew from the town on the 28th, and were subject to aggressive skirmishing by rebel troops all the way back to Calvi.[B] A similar story played out in the south, where local miltias under Lieutenant-General Marquis Luca d'Ornano drove the French back to the safety of Ajaccio. In the space of one week, the French had been ejected from all positions they had "peaceably" seized from the rebels and had suffered more than 300 casualties.

The shocking news was impossible to suppress, and the continental newspapers began calling it the "Corsican Vespers" in analogy to the Silician Vespers, the 13th century island-wide popular rebellion against French rule in Sicily. In truth, they did not have much in common; although often described as a spontaneous popular uprising, the Corsican Vespers were substantially inspired and backed by Theodore's rebel government and its officers. Nor were they "island-wide," for the French had occupied only a small fraction of Corsican territory. Yet the similarities—a sudden and bloody rebellion by the people of a Mediterranean island against French occupiers—were similar enough for the journalists and coffee-house intellectuals. The name stuck on the continent, and soon on Corsica, for Theodore knew that the Sicilian rebellion had succeeded and actively encouraged the comparison.[C]

Depiction of a Corsican royalist uniform from the 1740s. Uniforms were always in very limited supply among the rebels, and generally speaking they were only worn by soldiers in Theodore's "regular" units (the Corsican "royal guard," the Leibgarde, and the foreign regiment) as well as some Corsican militia colonels and captains.[3][D]

[1] The state bank of the Republic of Genoa.
[2] A slightly abridged Maccabees 3:59.
[3] The first description of the "1738 uniform" describes it as "green with gold braid," but presumably the "gold braid" was only on uniforms for officers as it is hard to imagine the syndicate falling in for such extravagance otherwise. Green as the choice of color must have originated with Theodore. An earlier report mentions that his servants wore "green livery" and the ribbon of the Order of Deliverance was also green. As noted, the vast majority of rebel fighters did not have uniforms, but by early 1739 royalist militiamen often identified themselves with a green cockade.

Timeline Notes
[A] Today, the "Agriates Desert" is a dry, maquis-covered wasteland. In Theodore's time, however, the Agriate—the very name comes from its history of cultivation, as in "agrarian"—was a productive area where wheat, fruit, and olives were grown. In the early 20th century, abandonment owing to the general demographic collapse of Corsica and over-intensive land use (particularly the use of fire for land-clearing) led to desertification and desolation, to the point where the Agriates was apparently considered by France as a possible (underground) nuclear test site. Thus, while hauling barrels of olive oil through the Agriate on the backs of mules ITTL isn't exactly a walk in the park, it's not nearly as daunting as it would be today.
[B] For those keeping track, this is now the Third Battle of Calenzana.
[C] Analogous to OTL, although the key incident of the "vespers" IOTL was the rebel attack on the French garrison at Borgo, which unfolded in a similar manner—the French repulsed the initial attacks, but came under such pressure that even with reinforcements they had to retreat to Bastia. Spread out over various points on the island, Boissieux's 3,000 men was insufficient to defend any one point from a concerted rebel attack, particularly so near the Castagniccia. ITTL, Calenzana is further from the rebels' center of gravity than Borgo, but the rebels now have the benefit of Theodore's arms and "regular" troops.
[D] Blank uniform template courtesy of Not By Appointment.
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Have the French deployed most of their first wave troops, or are the majority still in reserve? If the troops falling back due to this sudden fervor represent the bulk of the French troops in theatre, it could be conceivable that the second wave would only find a safe harbour to unload at in Capo Corso.
Have the French deployed most of their first wave troops, or are the majority still in reserve? If the troops falling back due to this sudden fervor represent the bulk of the French troops in theatre, it could be conceivable that the second wave would only find a safe harbour to unload at in Capo Corso.

The original 3,000 is currently fully deployed in Corsica, although by the time of the "Vespers" these are split between the three garrisons/debarkation points. As a rough estimate I would say 3 battalions in Calvi, 2 battalions in Ajaccio, and 1 battalion in Porto Vecchio.

With around 1,500 men at Calvi (well, minus ~200 dead/wounded from the recent fighting), Boissieux is far from powerless; he was caught off-guard in the Vespers with his forces dispersed between multiple villages in the western Balagna, but his Calvi detachment is still a significant army in Corsican terms, and it's all regulars. The Genoese, too, have men at Calvi, and while the bad blood between Boissieux and Mari makes offensive coordination unlikely they would certainly fight together if Calvi itself were under attack, and the Genoese have the citadel's artillery. Dislodging them from Calvi may be impossible even with Theodore's new guns. A conquest of Ajaccio or Porto Vecchio is theoretically easier, but for reasons of population, infrastructure, and geography it's harder for Theodore to raise large armies in the Dila and Boissieux's force in Calvi forces him to maintain his standing troops in the north to protect his most economically valuable provinces. For the time being, Calvi, Ajaccio, and Porto Vecchio remain valid debarkation points.

Capo Corso is certainly an alternative, and one the French may use if they scale up to their full 10,000 complement and want to open up another front, although the geography of the cape would make offensive operations slower and more difficult than they might think.

I believe it should be "Leibgarde" (body guard) not "Liebgarde" (loved guard).

Yes, thank you. The sad thing is, I actually knew that and somehow typed it anyway; German is the one non-English language I actually have some knowledge of.
I would guess that Boissieux is going to be getting the rest of his 10,000 men in the near future to punish the Corsicans for this insult.

The arrival of the Dutch munitions should do a lot to buoy the confidence of his supporters but how many men can Theodore reliably call upon to fight for him at this point? Even with these weapons, Theodore will be hard pressed fighting both the French and Genoese for the foreseeable future.
I would guess that Boissieux is going to be getting the rest of his 10,000 men in the near future to punish the Corsicans for this insult.

The arrival of the Dutch munitions should do a lot to buoy the confidence of his supporters but how many men can Theodore reliably call upon to fight for him at this point? Even with these weapons, Theodore will be hard pressed fighting both the French and Genoese for the foreseeable future.

France's problem is there's a limit to how much they can put into a sideshow.

Genoa's problem is that it's a shambles.
I would guess that Boissieux is going to be getting the rest of his 10,000 men in the near future to punish the Corsicans for this insult.

Probably; that's basically what happened in OTL. I considered having a more "restrained" response to the ultimatum ITTL, as that might prolong the period of détente, but I figured that if the Corsicans were that ardent IOTL, Theodore's presence as a unifying force and a (literal) boatload of weapons being dumped into the rebellion aren't going to make them less willing to fight. Once the French are stopped at Algajola and the militia have heard the consulta's pronouncements of "freedom or death" and comparing the Corsicans to the Maccabees, they're going to go for it, and Theodore must either stand with them or get left behind.

One major difference in this TL is that Boissieux will remain in command, at least in the near future. IOTL, he died in early February of 1739. It's not exactly clear what he died of - I've read dysentery, as well as general exhaustion/despair, and some sources claim he was wounded at Borgo which might be related. He was replaced by the Marquis de Maillebois, an energetic and highly competent general who in the WoAS went on to save the French army in Italy from probable encirclement and annihilation. ITTL, Boissieux is in a totally different city in a different part of the island, and was not wounded during the "Vespers," and thus doesn't keel over and die in winter. While Boissieux is not incompetent, he's not as swift and decisive as Maillebois, and the rebels will benefit from that.

The arrival of the Dutch munitions should do a lot to buoy the confidence of his supporters but how many men can Theodore reliably call upon to fight for him at this point? Even with these weapons, Theodore will be hard pressed fighting both the French and Genoese for the foreseeable future.

The Genoese are unlikely to take part, at least not beyond occupying any key citadels the French recapture, for two reasons. Firstly, by this point Boissieux and Mari have the worst working relationship on Earth; they personally despise one another, and Mari won't even let French troops in the citadel of Calvi because he fears the French might turn out to be his real enemies. Secondly, put yourself in the shoes of the Genoese Senate: You've just paid the French a massive, exorbitant sum that was so exploitative that you delayed agreeing to the terms for the better part of a year despite how bad the Corsican situation had gotten. Now that they're here, and actually fighting the Corsicans, do you a) let them take care of that on their own, since you've already paid them a king's ransom, or b) devote more of the state's blood and treasure to act as auxiliaries to a force that is vastly superior to your own and, if they scale up to 10,000, at least five times the size of your total regular forces on Corsica?

Regarding fighting men, Theodore does have one resource that he didn't have before, arguably more important than arms, which is money. Most of the population of Corsica consists of subsistence farmers and herders; even if they felt moved by patriotic duty to fight without pay, they couldn't do so for long without endangering their own livelihood. Thus, the pattern so far has been a small amount of regulars and rotating militia backed by large impromptu forces of irregulars who come out and fight for a few days/weeks and then go home. With money - and good money, not his crappy little Theodore-bucks - he can actually pay thousands of salaries, which means not only more troops in the field but the potential to actually keep them under arms long enough to give them some rudimentary training.

That said, there is no plausible way by which Theodore can match the French and maintain 10,000 men permanently in the field; that would be 8% of the island's entire population. If the French go all-in, the rebels can't have the advantage of numbers in a strategic sense which they always enjoyed over the Genoese (although they very well could in a tactical sense, as those 10,000 Frenchmen have to be stretched between a number of fronts and positions).