(btw the fellow has my sympathies: he seems competent and is stuck in a difficult situation, with few chances of the proper glory he could get on a continental battlefield).

I don't have an in-depth biography of Villemur, but he was certainly a man of the French martial tradition (his father was a Lieutenant-General) and had a successful career. He made maréchal de camp in 1740, was appointed inspector-general of the infantry in 1741, and was promoted to lieutenant-general in 1744 shortly after his participation in the victorious Battle of Casteldelfino. He led the French right flank of 14 battalions at the Battle of Assietta, and while that battle was a crushing French defeat General Villemur's corps got further than any of the others. He led a corps in the French invasion of Hanover in 1757 during the SYW, and was appointed as the Governor of Montmédy in 1759. He received the Grand Cross of the Military Order of St. Louis in 1761, the order's highest rank, and died in 1763, the same year that France finally conceded defeat in the Seven Years' War.

This may not be the biography of a super-genius, but he does seem to have been a competent officer who enjoyed a swift career rise in the 1740s and performed decently as a corps commander. I certainly don't want to portray him as if he were a dullard. That said, however, the first French intervention on Corsica was before the WoAS and the SYW, which means that no French commanders and few soldiers really have the sort of anti-guerrilla/rough terrain/light infantry tactics under their belt that were developed over the course of the Franco-British conflicts in North America in the 18th century. Villemur is good at his job, but what he's being called upon to do right now ITTL is somewhat outside his experience.

It's too late, mercenary armies as a important factor in Europe had one leg in the grave at this point, so unless Theodore goes full Hessian and raise a massive army stay he rent out to different wars, the tradional mercenary Company was pretty much dead. Instead people was recruited French Foreign Legion style to national armies

My understanding is that the mercenary framework of the time was still the "capitulation" system, in which a king would grant a colonelcy and a stipend to a foreign officer/nobleman on the expectation that the new colonel-proprietor would raise a regiment of his countrymen and serve as long as their mutual contract provided. Certainly that's how the Savoyards and Genoese raised their Swiss/German regiments, and it's how Rivarola's Corsican regiment was raised as well (which IOTL prosecuted the failed attempt to conquer Corsica for the Sardinians in the WoAS). But I'm not well informed as to how and when that system finally ended, or in which states it lasted longest.
Last edited:
Bad Faith
Bad Faith


General Ceccaldi directing his troops [A]

As Brigadier Jean-Baptiste François, Marquis de Villemur fought his way northwards, a state of truce prevailed in the Balagna. King Theodore and his officers do not seem to have expected the diplomatic overtures which Lieutenant-General Louis de Frétat, Marquis de Boissieux made to them following the French victory in the north. Theodore admitted that it was "curious" that Boissieux, who so clearly had the upper hand, had not chosen to immediately attack the royalists in the Nebbio while they were weak. Still, if Boissieux wanted to talk, Theodore would talk, while his lieutenants scrambled to come up with some plan for the defense of the country.

Yet Boissieux seems to have resorted to negotiation precisely because he was the stronger party, and he knew it. The Corsicans had faced the French and lost badly; there was no reason to think they would do better the second time around with fewer men and a demoralized army. Perhaps negotiations gave them time to prepare, but it would not be enough time for the Corsican militia to transmute itself into a fighting force capable of besting the finest army in Europe. Boissieux also understood better than any of his subordinates that fighting the Corsicans in the mountains would be a different game altogether. While his overall strategic plan assumed that the rebellion could be strangled by capturing the coastal regions and cutting off all resupply, the strangulation would not be instantaneous, and some die-hards might well hold out in the mountains.

The best outcome—for himself, for his men, and, he believed, for the Corsicans—was a capitulation by the rebel command, and he was willing to offer generous terms to accomplish it. The leaders of the rebellion would, he wrote, only suffer exile; they would not be permitted to return to Corsica, but they would avoid any further punishment and would not be handed over to the Genoese. Even Theodore himself was included in this offer. Boissieux, however, was also firm. The terms of Fontainebleau were not open for negotiation, and the surrender demanded was unconditional; the Corsicans would have to consign themselves utterly to "the equity and clemency of His Majesty." Perhaps having learned from his earlier failed negotiations, Boissieux also set a time limit. Any of the Corsican rebel leaders who had not tendered their surrender within 20 days of his pronouncement would lose all hope of clemency, and those Corsicans who continued in their resistance would be subject to "the full rigors of war."

Again playing the would-be collaborator, Theodore tried his best to drag out the end date, telling Boissieux that he needed more time to bring the Corsican generals around. A consulta would have to be called, of course, and here Theodore appeared to place his monarchy on a surprisingly liberal footing. As he had been made king by the will of the people, he wrote to Boissieux, he could not very well take such a drastic step as surrendering the country without consulting them, which meant a fully constituted consulta of all the parishes. But Boissieux was not having it. If Theodore was king, went his dismissive reply, then he should order his subjects to surrender; and if he was not a king, then he was merely a rebel, and should surrender himself immediately or be treated as a common bandit.

Boissieux's ultimatum was issued on the 26th of May, three days after the Battle of the Balagna, which made the deadline the 15th of June. On the 10th, however, a messenger riding hard from Orezza brought news to Theodore of the action at Alesani which had transpired over the previous two days. Ceccaldi's "victory" was most welcome, but Theodore seized at once upon the "atrocities" which Ceccaldi claimed Villemur had perpetrated. On the 12th, a letter reached Boissieux in which Theodore castigated him for ordering the plunder and burning of Corsican villages and the murder of innocent people (by which he presumably meant Villemur's summary executions of suspected rebels). He accused Boissieux of treachery, having extended an olive branch with one hand and then plunged a dagger into the back of the Corsicans with the other. How, indeed, could he entrust his people's fate to the "equity and clemency" of a king who represented himself with such faithless and barbarous servants?

Boissieux did not trust Theodore. He was beginning to see Theodore for what he was—that is, a highly accomplished liar—and suspected that his accusations were mere fabrications, a means to catch him off guard or trick him into giving the rebels more time. He did not reply to Theodore's accusations. He did, however, demand an accounting from Villemur, as this letter was the first he had heard about the Battle of Alesani. Villemur had not made contact in several days, and Boissieux dispatched a frigate to find him and bring him this urgent query.

Meanwhile, Villemur's progress was being delayed by the sick and wounded, and their number was rising every day as disease took its toll on his brigade and rations were gradually scaled back to stretch out supplies. Villemur wanted to leave the invalids behind with a battalion to supervise their evacuation while the rest of the brigade went on ahead, but Cervioni did not seem like the right place to do this—it was too exposed, too close to the enemy, and several miles from the coast. A single battalion posted there might be overrun by the rebels he fought just up the valley, and given what had happened to the doomed company of his own Bassigny Regiment at Milaria it seemed within the realm of possibility that the rebels would do the unthinkable and slaughter the invalids.

In Villemur's opinion, the better option was San Pellegrino, a Genoese watchtower less than fourteen miles up the coast. It seemed like the ideal place to relocate the invalids and for the whole army to pause and receive new supplies. Although no great fortress like Calvi, the Torre di San Pellegrino was a stout enough structure to have resisted a rebel siege for months even with artillery (though the rebel artillery was crewed by amateurs). It had fallen to the Corsicans, but so far the Corsicans had never stood and faced Villemur's brigade, and the brigadier suspected they were not about to start now. If they did make a stand and held the tower, Villemur's lack of artillery would be somewhat problematic, but it could be made up for by the naval gunnery of the French and Genoese fleets.

In fact Villemur had tried to arrange this well in advance. On the 4th of June, the day he departed from Aleria, he had given instructions to a Genoese captain to bring troops to occupy the fortress and to prepare warships to assist him against San Pellegrino if it turned out to be rebel-occupied. On the 10th—the day after the Battle of Alesani—he had submitted a report of the previous day's events, as well as his request for both fighting and supply ships to meet him at San Pellegrino as soon as possible, to the commander of a Genoese tartane. Unluckily for Villemur, that tartane was attacked by Corsican corsairs off the coast of Biguglia. The ship escaped, but only by beating far out to sea; it appears to have landed at Portoferraio on Elba and did not attempt a return to Corsica until several days later, when it was too late to make any difference. Villemur's first message on the 4th regarding armed ships did come through, and the Genoese had a flotilla of three galleys in the vicinity, but they were unsure where and when Villemur was going to be, and after seeing no sign of him at San Pellegrino on the 10th they were forced to sail south to take on fresh water.

Ceccaldi had no special knowledge of Villemur's plans, but any fool could have predicted Villemur's next move; there was no other way to go but north. After crossing the Fiumalto near San Pellegrino, the coastal plain widened significantly, and from there it was only 18 miles more to Bastia. If Villemur could not be stopped at San Pellegrino it seemed likely the next battle would be on the outskirts of Bastia itself. That proximity to Bastia, however, also meant proximity to the rebel forces in the Nebbio.

Theodore had been holding his forces back in the Nebbio in anticipation of an attack by Rousset, but Ceccaldi's letter arriving on the 10th changed his calculations entirely. Ceccaldi wrote that he was certain Villemur would be on the move north to San Pellegrino as soon as possible. Theodore, realizing that it was only two days to San Pellegrino and still five days until the end of Boissieux's deadline, did the math and announced a new strategy: he would steal a march on Villemur by leading the regulars and several companies of militia to San Pellegrino, joining with Ceccaldi's forces, and attacking the French with their combined forces. There would then be enough time to return to the Nebbio before Boissieux's grace period ended and before Boissieux received news of what had happened. It would, Theodore claimed, be a "stroke of lightning" as had been accomplished in 1736, when the rebels had force marched to Porto Vecchio, taken the defenders by surprise, and stormed the city.

The plan was not well-received. Chancellor Sebastiano Costa and Prime Minister Liugi Giafferi thought it quite mad, and Fabiani demanded that if it was to be done it should certainly not be led by the king, urging him to appoint Giafferi, Count Castinetta (Colonel Gio-Giacomo Ambrosi di Castinetta, military governor of Bastia) or Viscount Kilmallock (Adjutant-General Edward Sarsfield, Viscount Kilmallock, Theodore's brother-in-law) instead. All were reluctant to bet on another field engagement with the French forces that had already demonstrated in the Balagna that they could steamroll Corsican militia in open terrain with the greatest of ease.

The king, however, would not change his mind, and could not be overruled. Although Theodore had a sense of self-preservation and had flown from difficult positions in the past, he had also demonstrated personal bravery in battle. He told Fabiani and the rest of the war council that, as king, he would not allow his subjects to face peril for the national cause while refusing to face it himself. His English secretary Denis Richard offered an alternative and somewhat less flattering explanation, saying that the aesthetics of the noble king fighting a decisive battle for the fate of his country appealed to him. But Theodore demonstrated a certain fatalism as well; as he explained to the council with a wry smile, if Villemur defeated Ceccaldi at San Pellegrino, they would all be lost in a week's time anyway; it made no sense to not throw everything they had into stopping Villemur here and now. After quickly penning his outraged (and thoroughly hypocritical) letter to Boissieux, Theodore was on the move.

So it came to pass that on the evening of June 11th, when Ceccaldi arrived at San Pellegrino, Villemur was encamped six miles to his south at San Nicolao and Theodore was nine miles to his north at Borgo. Ceccaldi, having received a letter from Theodore, understood his duty very well: he had to hold back a French army twice the size of his own until his king arrived with reinforcements. "You must do," Theodore wrote him, "all that is in your power to do."

Timeline Notes
[A] Edit: Thanks to @eustacethemonk for the big version of this picture!
Last edited:
As a rule, I'm much more interested in the social and political make up of societies rather than the intricacies of military campaigning. I desperately want to see what this independent Corsica will look like.

Having said that, you're doing a really good job on making the campaigning tense and compelling. Can't wait for the upcoming battle.
From a narrative perspective, Theodore's gotta win here. From a plausibility perspective, it's a bit less likely.

He's got a tough task largely because he's working on a deadline.

He can't just bolster up the fortress and try to delay the French by forcing a long siege because he only has 5 days before the army in the west starts moving again.

He has to engage the French force in open battle and inflict enough casualties that they have to retreat so that he can then withdraw his army to defend in the west. That's something more impressive than anything the rebels have managed since Theodore arrived.

I mean he does have his best troops, the advantage of surprise (villemur can't be expecting reinforcements for ceccaldi) and he is fighting an army in some problems with diseases and hunger but yeah I can see why his advisors were against it.

The problem is like you say, a decisive loss there essentially ends the war and therefore the timeline so he has to have some success. Really looking forward to seeing how he can pull this off.
As a rule, I'm much more interested in the social and political make up of societies rather than the intricacies of military campaigning. I desperately want to see what this independent Corsica will look like.

Quite honestly, that's also what I'd like to do; I'm more comfortable writing politics than war, and to me the most interesting part of an alt-TL in which Theodore wins is how he would be as an actual king and how a truly independent Corsica would fit into 18th century history. I've been planning that for a long time, whereas the military campaigning is more update-by-update, seat of my pants stuff in which I try to come up with a plausible way by which the Corsicans might survive without turning it into a wank. In the end, however, a explanation of how the Corsicans gain independence is necessary to figuring out what they do once they have it.

From a narrative perspective, Theodore's gotta win here. From a plausibility perspective, it's a bit less likely.

I would agree that Villemur still has the upper hand, all things considered. As plausibility goes, the best we can do (aside from trying to apply "common sense" from a distance of nearly three centuries) is to look for historical comparisons.

As it happens, there are really only three historical battles between the French and the Corsicans with brigade-level forces (as Maillebois' three-week campaign in 1739 had no "named battles" and was generally restricted to relatively small engagements with isolated holdouts). They are:

1st Borgo, 1738: A battalion (~400 men) of French troops occupies Borgo and becomes surrounded by Corsican irregulars. Boissieux marches 2,000 men to their rescue. The initial battalion succeeds in turning back several Corsican assaults, but upon its arrival Boissieux's force is so overwhelmed by repeated Corsican attacks that he abandons Borgo and retreats all the way to Bastia, with the Corsicans hounding him the entire way back. Corsican numbers in this battle are unknown.
2nd Borgo, 1768: A roughly battalion-sized French force (~700 men, with three cannons) occupies Borgo and is besieged by around 4,000 Corsicans. A relief force of approximately 3,000 Frenchmen is sent from Bastia. The Corsicans not only defeat the relief force but completely wipe out the defending battalion, killing or capturing all ~700 of them.
Ponte Novu, 1769: Accounts of this battle differ, but what it boils down to is a numerically inferior Corsican force, part militia and part foreign mercenary, attempting to compensate for its inferiority by using a bridge as a choke point. Either because of treachery, confusion, or incompetence, the Corsicans screw up badly, the mercenaries open fire on their Corsican allies, and the battle is a complete rout that ends Paoli's republic.

So we have one decisive Corsican victory, one decisive Corsican defeat, and one draw or marginal Corsican victory in which the French hold their ground against initial attacks but are forced to retire under pressure. All things considered, this is not that bad a showing for an all-militia army against French regulars; in fact the only battle where the Corsicans have the use of European professional forces, in the form of German mercenaries at Ponte Novu, was also the one they lost. 2nd Borgo also gives us an example of a battle in which the numbers were close to equal and the French had clear advantages (artillery and dug-in fortifications at Borgo) and still managed to lose.

I mean, man for man, I'd still bet on the French soldier over the Corsican militiamen; he's got better training, marginally better equipment, and presumably more experience in "true" battle. The record, however - with the caveat that a sample size of three is not very statistically significant - suggests that the deficit was not so great that it could not be made up by other factors like morale, terrain, and leadership.
Last edited:
[A] Yes, I am aware that this picture is ridiculously tiny. Alas, this is the only picture of Ceccaldi/Ciaccaldi I have ever found, in the largest size I have ever been able to find it in. I'd love to have a larger picture, particularly to get a closeup of those costumes.

A gift.
Maybe Theodore is our (mine, yours) General of Wonders, Belisarius reborn, the greatest of the Great! Well, I'm joking, but wouldnt that be cool (and implausible, no need to explain it to me!)?
Our favorite con artist is a bit over his head I expect...

Although it's definitely interesting to note the successes that Corsican militias had over regular French troops OTL. I assume the fact that they all wear hoodies and carry three guns at once has something to do with that?

Please accept this knighthood in the Order of Deliverance for your valiant contribution to this thread


Although it's definitely interesting to note the successes that Corsican militias had over regular French troops OTL.

I say this a bit cautiously, as again, I don't consider myself an 18th century military expert, but based on what I've read, one ought not be too bullish on the French army of the 1730s.

Certainly it was a very large army, which always helps in continental wars. Its men often performed well and it had its share of very competent commanders. But there are plenty of things to criticize, too, from the general staff down to the soldiers themselves. In the first place, it was a monumentally inefficient army; apparently it cost France 500 livres per annum to maintain a soldier in the SYW, while Prussia only paid 300. It had competent generals, but it also had a tremendous amount of do-nothing incompetents for whom a general's post was just a sinecure. As for commissioned officers, since commissions were readily sold it was something of a crap shoot whether any given lieutenant or captain was any good at all; a young gentleman's yearning for la gloire is all well and good, but it doesn't necessarily make him a competent officer. (Of course, France was hardly the only country which sold commissions.) The logistical system was primitive and highly decentralized, reliant on private contractors to supply the army's bread without any central logistical authority, which created inefficiency, waste, and a tremendous opportunity for corruption.

The infantry battalions at this time had neither light companies nor battalion guns, limiting their flexibility. The artillery was of good quality but even the "light" 4-pounders were too heavy and cumbersome for proper field use, a problem that would not be truly fixed until the introduction of the Gribeauval system after the SYW. The soldiers were drilled in the handling of their arms, but live-fire exercises seem to have been rare (to say nothing of target practice); as the Corsicans were specifically noted for their marksmanship, the Corsican militiamen probably were at least as good shots as their French opponents, and quite possibly better. French soldiers were volunteers, but a not-inconsiderable number of them chose the military life because it was the only alternative to famine, poverty, and unemployment. Discipline was harsh and pay was poor, little different from that of an unskilled laborer. French cavalry was excellent, but they can't realistically use it on Corsica except for a few squadrons of hussars.

It's true that rigorous discipline counts for a lot, and the Corsicans were not very good at continental line tactics. Yet the Corsicans were using essentially the same weapons as the French (and in fact are much better armed ITTL than IOTL owing to the syndicate's success), they are fighting in familiar territory, the terrain often favors their approach, they were (as noted) arguably better shots than the French, and their morale was often high. It's notable, for instance, that there seems to have been no overall commander or even any overall plan at 1st Borgo in 1738; the French presence at Borgo was so outrageous to the people of Rostino and their neighbors that they had some quick village meetings and marched out en masse to throw themselves repeatedly against a fortified position and then skirmish with a whole French brigade for miles. There are also more "experienced" soldiers among the Corsicans than you might think; because so many Corsicans served as mercenaries, Corsica was arguably (on a per capita basis) one of the most heavily militarized populations in Europe, with a soldier-to-noncombatant ratio possibly comparable to that of Prussia, that famous "army with a state." Virtually all of their generals and many of their officers are veterans of continental armies (mostly Genoese, Venetian, Neapolitan, and Spanish).

I don't want to make the French out to be bumbling 18th century Imperial Stormtroopers fighting the plucky Corsican Rebel Alliance. The French army is strong and has considerable advantages; Corsican discipline is poor and their clan society was often fractious and self-defeating. In the end, however, the chief advantage of the French - more important than discipline, weaponry, tactics, or anything else - is that they have more men. There's no way Theodore could raise a 10,000 man army, let alone keep it in the field; Fabiani can barely get 3,000 when he's in the middle of the Balagna, the most populous part of Corsica, and that wasn't so much an "army" as a loosely connected bunch of autonomous battalions which struggled to stay in contact with each other. The French conquest of Corsica, by comparison, was accomplished with a force of 30,000 men.

It's no coincidence that in the First Intervention in 1738-40 and the Conquest in 1786-9 the operation basically went the same way both times: The French send men, they get completely humiliated (and both times at Borgo, as luck would have it), and then they send a shitload more men and the Corsican resistance collapses under the weight of the French army. Lest you think I'm picking on the French here, that's pretty much also what happened to the Austrians during the imperial intervention in 1732 - the emperor sent men, they got dunked on at Calenzana, and then he sent a shitload more men and the Corsicans sued for peace.

I assume the fact that they all wear hoodies and carry three guns at once has something to do with that?

Why, It's a little known fact that Napoleon was actually a very mediocre general, whose victories were due to the secret Corsican three-gun technique ("la technique des trois fusils") which he introduced to France.

In battle, you see, you hold one musket in each hand, and the third in your teeth...
Last edited:


It had competent generals, but it also had a tremendous amount of do-nothing incompetents for whom a general's post was just a sinecure. As for commissioned officers, since commissions were readily sold it was something of a crap shoot whether any given lieutenant or captain was any good at all; a young gentleman's yearning for la gloire is all well and good, but it doesn't necessarily make him a competent officer. (Of course, France was hardly the only country which sold commissions.)

"I fear more an army of lambs led by a lion than an army of lions led by a lamb."
Bio: Andrea Ceccaldi
(I know what you really want is a BATTLE, but here's a bio of Andrea Ceccaldi instead, since he's been at the center of the narrative recently, and some background on his mentor Luigi Giafferi. As with my previous discussion of Saviero Matra, this is based on the real facts of Ceccaldi's life but subject to my own interpretation and elaboration as best as I can manage. Fortunately a bit more is known about Andrea than Saviero.)

Count Andrea Ceccaldi: A (Partial) Life

Andrea Ceccaldi was born in 1692 in the village of Vescovato. The Ceccaldi family were important landowners in the region and had an important role in Corsican history; Andrea's relative Marcantonio Ceccaldi was perhaps the first historian of the Corsican people, a peer of the famous patriot Sampiero who acquired considerable wealth and status from his marriage into the Genoese family of Da Mare, which held the lordship of Capo Corso. Marcantonio had been a partisan of the Genoese against the French, who at that time were contesting Corsica, but his brother Gio Paolo was his political opposite, and for his opposition to the Republic his house in Vescovato was razed by the Genoese commander Stefano Doria. Andrea was Gio Paolo's direct descendant. The Ceccaldi family legend was that they were descended from the renowned Roman family of Colonna, but Marcantonio had questioned this, thinking it more likely that the family was descended from simple shepherds and the Colonna link had been invented to give the family a less embarrassing origin story.

Although wealthy and privileged (at least by Corsican standards), Andrea's early life was darkened by tragedy. In 1699, when he was seven years old, his father and grandfather were both murdered. The circumstances are unclear and the primary impetus was probably personal or familial, but even family vendettas were often tied up with politics in Corsica. Whatever the details of the matter, Andrea took up the anti-Genoese politics of his ancestor Gio Paolo early in his life and never wavered from them. He was raised by his uncle, and in 1715 married Bastiana Bagnaninchi. This was particularly notable because Bastiana's elder sister, Paola Giacinta, was the wife of Luigi Giafferi. Ceccaldi's early career would be dominated by his association with Giafferi, a man who was 24 his senior, and until Theodore's arrival the singular man of the Corsican revolution.

By the time Andrea was a young man, Giafferi was already one of the greatest personages of the island. Giafferi was a native of Talasani, just six miles south of Vescovato, and one of the Council of Twelve, the Genoese-supported body of Corsican noblemen which was allowed a modicum of limited local authority and which was famously denounced by Simone Fabiani in 1730 as "the assassins of Corsica." Giafferi was evidently elected to the position of "speaker" in 1706, the main advocate for the Corsican people (or, more cynically, the Corsican nobility) in Genoa. In this capacity he advocated for reform of the Corsican administration, particularly of the onerous tax system, but with little success.

Giafferi retained this privileged place for many years. The accession of Gerolamo Veneroso to the position of Doge of Genoa in 1726 seemed to bode well for Giafferi's cause, as Veneroso had been a well-liked governor of Corsica in 1708-1710, but Giafferi was unable to get the Senate to undertake his reforms. Veneroso's replacement in 1728 was the hard and unyielding Luca Grimaldi, under whose tenure many Corsicans perished in the famine of 1728, and who responded to the outbreak of the Corsican revolt in 1729 with violent repression. Giafferi, who had since returned to Corsica, aligned himself with the rebels early on and deserves the lion's share of the credit for developing a spontaneous rebellion against arbitrary taxation into a cohesive patriotic movement.

In 1730, Giafferi was elected to be one of the first "generals of the nation," an honor which he shared with Domenico Rafaelli and Andrea Ceccaldi. Giafferi was indisputably the most influential and powerful of the first triumvirate, and led the Corsicans in several engagements. The rebellion seemed to falter in 1732, when imperial troops arrived and broke the rebel siege of Bastia, but Ceccaldi achieved fame that year by crushingly defeating a Genoese-Imperial force at Calenzana under Lieutenant-Colonel de Vins and the Genoese governor Camillo Doria. The memory of ancestral slights was always long among the Corsicans, and Ceccaldi relished the defeat of Camillo, whose Doria ancestor had destroyed his ancestor's house centuries before. The emperor, however, would not be dissuaded by a single defeat, and after thousands more imperial troops were dispatched the Corsicans accepted Vienna's terms. Ceccaldi was among those Corsican leaders who agreed to go to Liguria as hostages and were then traitorously imprisoned in Savona and sentenced to death. It was this matter in which Theodore first entered the Corsican scene, allegedly playing a key role in gaining freedom for the prisoners of Savona.

Ceccaldi did not immediately return to Corsica. Instead, he entered the service of the newly-crowned King Charles of Naples in 1734 and was granted a colonel's commission. One wonders if the appointment was not more political than military, for in early 1735 he was back in Corsica arguing for Spanish-Neapolitan annexation, and he visited Madrid along with Orticoni to petition that his employer King Charles take the Corsican crown. Although grateful to Theodore for his role in saving him from execution, Ceccaldi was still pro-Spanish enough in 1736 to suggest during the negotiations over Theodore's coronation that the Corsicans should try once more to appeal to the Spanish, a suggestion which was famously shut down by the reply of his own brother Sebastiano that "the King of Spain thinks of Corsica as much as the Emperor of China."

Not long after besieging Bastia, Theodore dined at Ceccaldi's house, and this dinner seems to have been a pivotal point in their mutual relationship. Ceccaldi's Spanish allegiance was soon forgotten, and he became a strong partisan of King Theodore. The two men were nearly the same age—Theodore was two years younger—and got along well, and Ceccaldi had been impressed by the king's decisive leadership and his personal bravery at the Battle of Furiani. During his stay with Ceccaldi, Theodore granted him a nearby estate seized from the Genoese, and it was not long thereafter that Theodore chose Vescovato to be his new provisional capital, replacing Cervioni, ostensibly because it was closer to the action in the north. It may also be that he felt secure in Ceccaldi's home territory, demonstrating a trust that Ceccaldi never betrayed. When Colonel Marchelli invaded the Nebbio, it was Ceccaldi whom Theodore charged with stopping his progress, and he delivered the victory that crushed the last Genoese hopes of reversing Theodore's success on their own. His role in the siege of San Fiorenzo was less spectacular than his performance at Rutali, but still demonstrated his competence and ended in another important victory.

Giafferi was still the grand old man of the national cause, but his direct influence was waning. He had devoted his sizable political capital to Theodore in 1736, and is credited with ensuring the king's smooth election and convincing the powerful Matra clan to join the royalist and nationalist camp. By the time of Boissieux's conquest of the Balagna in mid-1739, however, Giafferi was 71 years old. He still had years of life ahead of him, but his physical condition no longer allowed him to endure the rigors of campaigning. Even his political sense seemed to be ebbing somewhat; his regency during Theodore's stay in Amsterdam had been idle and ineffective, and although he was formally Theodore's prime minister men like Costa and Gaffori seem to have had more influence on the king's policy. With Giafferi in his twilight and having built his own reputation as a commander, Ceccaldi was finally emerging from the shadow of his elder brother-in-law.
Last edited:
I like pieces like these just as much as the battles, to be honest. It touches on the ripples of a more successful Theodore and helps humanize Corsica beyond the Braveheart-esque escapades of it's denizens.
For those interested in the OTL postscript on Ceccaldi: After Theodore left the island in late 1736, Ceccaldi remained in the rebel movement until Maillebois crushed the rebellion in 1739, at which point (like many rebel leaders) he accepted the French offer of perpetual exile. He went to Spain and was given a colonel's commission, but did not hold it for long, as he died in Madrid in 1741 at the age of 51. He had no surviving children that I know of. His brother Sebastiano continued the family line, but was apparently reconciled with the Genoese, as he married a woman of the Genoese noble family of de Mari. Sebastiano's son Andrea (more usually known as André, as he became a French officer) ended up marrying Gaffori's daughter.

Incredibly, Luigi Giafferi actually outlived his brother-in-law. The grand old man of the revolution died in 1748 at the age of 80. Giafferi was also pushed into exile by Maillebois in 1739 and received a colonel's commission, although in Naples rather than Spain. King Charles was interested in raising a regiment of Corsicans and welcomed all the former rebel captains he could get; Giacinto Paoli and his sons Clemente and Pasquale were also in Neapolitan service for a time. Giafferi remained there the rest of his life and died in Naples.

As you may have noticed, all these elite houses - Matra, Giafferi, Ceccaldi, Gaffori, Fabiani, etc. - were closely intermarried. The Corsican nobility was in a sense just one big extended family. On an island of 120,000 people you only have so many choices for aristocratic pairings, the only other alternative being to marry into a Genoese house.
The Battle of San Pellegrino
The Battle of San Pellegrino


The River Fiumalto today, near the site of the Battle of San Pellegrino
In the early morning of June 12th, Brigadier Jean-Baptiste François, Marquis de Villemur ordered his army to begin the last leg of the march to San Pellegrino. He seems to have doubted that the rebels would make a stand there—they had avoided every opportunity to face him so far. If they did hold the fortress, however, it would present a problem, as he had no artillery and the warships he had demanded were not yet in sight. Nevertheless, it was possible that the fortification could be taken by storm—Villemur did not know the exact details of San Pellegrino, but was aware that many of the island's towers were 16th century edifices meant to serve as watchtowers against Barbary pirates, not actual fortresses—and even if it could not, he could at least begin its investment, and hope that naval aid would arrive soon.[A]

Villemur's plan was to make his advance as early and quickly as practicable. Of course, a swift advance could not be managed with his growing numbers of sick and wounded; they would need to remain behind temporarily. The better part of the Regiment d'Aunis under Lieutenant-Colonel René de Poilly, Sieigneur de Maresville, remained encamped near San Nicolao with those who could not make the quick pace. He would follow the rest of the brigade once Villemur secured San Pellegrino or at least completed its investment. This vastly improved the mobility and flexibility of Villemur's force, but it also further diminished its numbers. With all the casualties and incapacitated men thus sustained in the campaign, plus the absence of most of Poilly's battalion, the force which remained to Villemur was only around 1,500 men, just over half of what he had started with in Porto Vecchio.

Villemur's opponent, Lieutenant-General Count Andrea Ceccaldi, could not even boast that many. By the morning of the 12th, he had no more than a thousand men, a mix of Talcinesi and Castagniccian militia and several hundred local militia and volunteers from Tavagna and Casinca. Between the coastal tower of San Pellegrino and the mountains was a two-mile gap crossed from west to east by the river. The Fiumalto was of some value as an obstruction, but in June it was no longer swollen with melt-water from the mountains and fordable on foot along most of its lower course. Practically, however, the gap was narrowed in the east by thick marshlands around the river's mouth (to say nothing of the guns of San Pellegrino, if occupied), and in the west by woods descending from the mountainside, leaving a span of little more than a mile through which an infantry formation could feasibly maneuver.

That morning, Ceccaldi dispatched several hundred men south of the Fiumalto to waylay his enemy. The path that Villemur would have to take was squeezed between the coast and heavy woodlands, providing the Corsicans with an opportunity to flank and harass their column. Villemur, however, managed to surprise his opponents with the speed of his advance. The Corsicans were not ready for him, and their attempted "ambush" devolved into mere skirmishing. Villemur dispatched a detachment which soon drove them off. Another skirmish erupted at the bridge over the river d'Olme, only a mile south of the Fiumalto, but the French crashed through the small force of militia there and captured the bridge. Villemur's small force of dragoons, scouting ahead, came under fire from the Fiumalto and reported this to Villemur, but the tall shrubs and marsh grasses on the river's banks concealed the size and disposition of the enemy.

Corsican shooting from the rushes by the river's edge and the woods on the French left succeeded only in inconveniencing the French army. Colonel Armand de Bourbon, Comte de Malauze,[1] commander of the Agenois Regiment on the French left, detached several companies to hold off the skirmishers in the woods, and the main body of the French army pushed to the river. The Corsicans there soon fled, abandoning their position, and the French made their crossing. As they reorganized their line on the north side of the river, they continued to take scattered fire from the retreating Corsicans, but to little effect.

It was only after forming up on the opposite bank that Villemur realized he was up against a different sort of force than he had thought. King Theodore had also gotten an early start that day, intending to rendezvous with Ceccaldi at the Fiumalto and present a united force to the French. He had failed at that—the royal army was still about a mile north of the river—but as the gunsmoke began to clear around the river's banks, the Corsican column was made obvious. The "royal army" did actually seem vaguely like a real army; Villemur noted Theodore's "Moor's head" flag, the sound of drums and trumpets, and even a few hundred men wearing uniforms. Villemur felt he had no choice but to face them, and it seemed like a good enough opportunity to do it; the ground between the armies was largely open terrain, if marshy in places, which seemed to offer an advantage to the French.

For perhaps the first time in the war, the Corsicans sought a line battle and advanced in ranks against the enemy. Theodore's force outnumbered the French only slightly, with some 1,700 troops on the field compared to Villemur's 1,500 (though slightly degraded from this by the morning's skirmishing), including his "regulars" in the Guardia Corsica and the Reggimento Straniero, led by Adjutant-General Edward Sarsfield, Viscount Kilmallock and Lieutenant-Colonels Giovan Luca Poggi and Sir John Powers. Soon the battle was joined.

To ward off the Corsican sharpshooters in the woods on the French left, Villemur had dispatched Lieutenant-Colonel Zsigmond David and his hussars, as well as two companies of the Agenois Regiment. Above the French left, however, hidden by the hills and woods, was not a few bands of skirmishers but an entire battalion-sized corps of militia under General Ceccaldi, who had devoted only a few hundred of his men to defending the river. It is unclear if this was a deliberate flanking strategy or an escape attempt; with the French hot on his heels and Theodore still at least a mile away, Ceccaldi may have reasoned that his best move was to withdraw up the Fiumalto valley into the mountains, where he was at an advantage, rather than retreating over the open ground of the plain. Theodore's arrival, however, created a situation where the French army was now fully engaged with a foe to its north while Ceccaldi was largely unengaged—and undiscovered—to their west. Realizing his position and the weak forces arrayed against him, Ceccaldi ordered a full assault. David's screening force now found itself facing not merely a few Corsicans sniping from the trees, but at least 600 militiamen charging downhill at them through the woods. David's force of two infantry companies and a severely under-strength hussar battalion, under a hundred men in total, was swiftly overwhelmed.

Up to this point, the French were holding admirably. Although somewhat outnumbered by the Corsican line, the superior drill and discipline of the French infantry was a considerable asset. But the Corsicans, too, were holding, and if their fire was more sluggish and ragged than their opponents they were nevertheless giving no ground. Kilmallock, not a stranger to combat, later called the engagement “the hottest fire I have ever witnessed.” The collapse of Lt. Col. David’s screening force, however, left Ceccaldi free to fall upon the Agenois regiment holding the French left. Ceccaldi’s militia did not merely flank Malauze’s regiment, but fully enveloped it, actually advancing from behind and to the left of the French line.

It was difficult in the best of times for close-ranked line infantry to shift their facing, let alone when under heavy fire from multiple directions. Malauze’s second-in-command, Lieutenant Colonel Chevalier de Ligny, was shot and killed trying to maneuver the companies on the far left to face the new enemy. Villemur, realizing that his position was compromised, attempted to lead a fighting withdrawal, but this intended retreat began to turn into a rout as the panicking soldiers thought of nothing but avoiding encirclement. As soon as the French line began to pull back, the royalist trumpets sounded a charge and the Corsicans surged after the enemy. The French line collapsed.

They were saved from annihilation by the fact that the Corsicans had no cavalry, and by the exceeding bravery of the French grenadiers, who made a stand at the single bridge over the Fiumalto while their comrades fled. They managed to hold back the tide for a brief but critical period, at the cost of being encircled and shredded by fire. Major de la Riviere of the Bassigny Regiment, who led this desperate holding action, was captured, but he had been shot four times and died of his wounds on the following day. Even with his heroics, however, it was a crushing defeat for the French army. Villemur’s force suffered nearly 600 casualties, more than a third of his attacking force, including 280 men taken prisoner. The prisoners included the Comte de Malauze himself, one major (other than de la Riviere), and six captains. Hundreds of muskets, bayonets, and swords were captured, to say nothing of boots, which Malauze recalled being eagerly stripped from the dead and dying by the militiamen. Malauze's regiment nearly ceased to exist; the Corsicans had captured or killed all their field officers and taken their standards, and at the end of the day Villemur counted only 68 men of the regiment who were present and able to bear arms, about two companies. The Corsicans, meanwhile, suffered just over 300 casualties, a little over half of the French count.[B]


Villemur was defeated, but not destroyed. After returning to San Nicolao, he estimated his total combat-ready force to be around 1,200 men. That was still a considerable amount, but clearly insufficient to turn about and face the Corsicans at San Pellegrino. Villemur decided he had no choice but to withdraw towards Cervioni. Theodore did not pursue him, instead entrusting the task of harassing the retreating French to Ceccaldi and his militia. Theodore's plan did not allow him to remain away from the Nebbio any longer than necessary, but he was also wary of causing too much injury to the French, on the basis that a truly catastrophic defeat, or indeed the loss of a whole brigade, would create an insult to French honor so great that Versailles would have no choice but to avenge it with thousands more men.

[1] The Counts of Bourbon-Malauze, as their name implies, were indeed cadets of the House of Bourbon, but they were not Princes of the Blood. Their line, also known as the House of Bourbon-Lavedan, issued from a bastard son of a 15th century Duke of Bourbon, before the Bourbons gained the French throne.

Timeline Notes
[A] I have no pictures of San Pellegrino to offer you. Many Genoese towers, or at least their ruins, are still around today, but the tower of San Pellegrino was blown up by the Genoese in 1762 to prevent it from falling into the hands of Paoli's revolutionaries. Nothing remains today except remnants of its foundation. All we really know is that it was square, unlike most Genoese towers on Corsica which were round.
[B] I didn't feel up to making another set of battle-maps, so please accept this Wikibox as a small consolation prize, because that's apparently a thing. It's like the same information already in the update, but less detailed and in a box!
Interesting that Theodore is reluctant to hit the French too hard. What's his end game then? He clearly doesn't think he can actually win but he isn't giving up.

So what's his plan? Keep fighting until the genoese run out of money and the French withdraw? If you're in a position where if you lose, you lose and if you win you also lose what is it he views as a win condition?