So is this embarrassment the Corsican Germantown?

I feel like trying to map the American revolution onto this war is a poor parallel. Ultimately Corsican independence is pretty much totally out of their hands I'd say. This isn't Britian trying to win a war across the seas while fighting across the Eastern seaboard of America - this is France fighting a tiny island in their backyard. They can't lose except by their own consent, imo - unless the Great Powers make France sign it away in a negotiation where the Corsicans certainly won't have a seat.
Notes on the Crown of Corsica
Really? That's interesting. I thought the King of Sardinia was the titular (although I suppose a claim does not make a de jure reality) King of Corsica?


Corsica and Sardinia were originally claimed by the Pope in the 11th century on the basis of the fraudulent “Donation of Constantine,” which purported to show that Constantine had donated lands of the Western Empire, including “the various islands,” to the papacy. The Pope never ruled the islands directly, but did at various times grant ecclesiastical control over them to the Archbishops of Pisa and Genoa.

In 1297, Pope Boniface VIII created the “Kingdom of Sardinia and Corsica” and granted it to James II of Aragon. James did not actually control any part of Corsica or Sardinia at the time, but Boniface gave him title to the islands in order to purchase his help removing his brother Frederick from the Kingdom of Sicily. James never actually got around to doing that, but he kept the title, and in 1324 made good on it by invading Sardinia. The conquest of Sardinia, however, took nearly a century to complete, and in that time Aragon made no attempt at Corsica. Only in the first half of the 15th century did Aragon actually try to wrest Corsica from Genoa (which had fully acquired it in 1347 after defeating the Pisans), but despite occasional success they were never able to permanently drive out the Genoese and eventually gave up. Other countries tried at various times in the 15th and 16th centuries, most notably Milan and France, but the isle remained Genoese.

Thus, while Sardinia remained under the control of the Crown of Aragon, Corsica did not, and this de facto split between the two islands eventually led to the split of the title, apparently in or around the reign of Ferdinand II of Aragon. In the early 16th century the Crown of Aragon became part of united Spain, and the Spanish monarchs styled themselves "King of Sardinia" and "King of Corsica," with the former being actual and the latter purely in pretense. They never stopped using it: “King of Corsica” is, in fact, still one of the titles used by the King of Spain in 2017.

When the Kingdom of Sardinia was formally ceded to Victor Amadeus II of Savoy in exchange for Sicily in 1720, it was very clearly just the Kingdom of Sardinia, as the old medieval composite kingdom of “Corsica and Sardinia” had been obsolete for centuries. As far as I know, the Savoyard kings never laid claim to Corsica and never styled themselves as Kings of Corsica, even in pretense.

The first Doge of Genoa to also be crowned King of Corsica was Giovanni Francesco Brignole Sale in 1637. This did not reflect an actual change in the status or ownership of Corsica; rather, the lapsed title was “revived” as a way to bolster the independence and stature of the Republic by elevating the Doge from a mere duke to a king, thus making him equal in principle to any other European monarch. While the Kings of Spain were still using the title “King of Corsica," this was understood to be a title in pretense only, and as far as I know no objection was raised in Madrid to Genoa using the title in fact. Thus, by the time Theodore arrived on Corsica, the Doges of Genoa had been crowning themselves kings of Corsica for 99 years.

In other words, Corsica was a well-established royal title with a medieval pedigree just as old as that of Sardinia, and which had been continually claimed since its creation by Aragon, Spain, and then Genoa (even if those claims had not always been exercised). One could dispute Theodore’s legitimacy as King of Corsica, but nobody could reasonably dispute that such a kingdom and title existed.

Theodore knew this history very well, and in fact wrote letters to the pope urging him to renew the papacy’s ancient claim to the island. He proposed that he would conquer the island from the Genoese in the pope's name, acknowledge Corsica as a papal fief, and rule as the pontiff's vassal king. All he wanted in return was pontifical recognition of his title (and, if possible, some monetary support), which even with the rather slight temporal power of the 18th century papacy would have been helpful in legitimating his rule. The pope, however, never gave him a reply.

Considering Theodore’s rather dubious commitment to Catholic orthodoxy, this might have made for an interesting relationship.
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I see. I would assume then that the interest of Francis of Lorraine in having his Royal title is based on that considerable medieval pedigree. Very interesting stuff!
I see. I would assume then that the interest of Francis of Lorraine in having his Royal title is based on that considerable medieval pedigree. Very interesting stuff!

Yep. The number of royal titles in Europe is essentially fixed (Prussia being the notable outlier here), so when one is up for grabs it can be tempting. Franz Stefan would love to get his hands on it, even though the imperial title is likely in his future as well.

Another man sorely tempted by the Corsican crown IOTL was Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, the Grandmaster of the Knights of Malta, who craved both the title of king and the island itself, which was vast compared to little Malta. Towards the end of the War of Austrian Succession, he devised a plan: he would try to get Corsican delegates seated at the eventual peace conference and encourage them to request that the powers give them a "neutral prince," whereupon his supporters would naturally suggest him as the best candidate. 1748 didn't go his way, but he didn't give up, and we find him again scheming with his ministers about ways to negotiate the cession of Corsica to the order in 1753, perhaps by purchase from the Genoese. There was some interest from the rebels, and meetings took place in Rome between rebel and Maltese agents; in one source I've read, Clemente Paoli himself (Pasquale's brother) expressed interest in the idea. The Order even became a clandestine supporter of the rebellion, giving the rebels 30,000 piastres in 1754. Yet Pasquale Paoli was quite opposed, and after his return in 1755 the idea was shelved indefinitely. Notably, however, the admiral of Corsica's little fleet under Paoli's rule was a Knight of Malta named de Perez.

"Hospitaller Corsica" was actually something I toyed with when planning this thread, but I decided that Theodore was too interesting to pass up. Also, I think Pinto's chance of being King of Corsica may have been even more remote than Theodore's.
  • The Spanish are really shit at updating their list at titles. Can't imagine what the Italians think of all these titles in pretense.
  • I thought about Hospitaller Corsica as well while reading this TL, Carp.
    • I think you'd have to go back to the expulsion from Rhodes at the very latest to manage something like Genoa giving the island to the Hospitallers as a means of accruing a valuable military vassal or something.
  • The Spanish are really shit at updating their list at titles. Can't imagine what the Italians think of all these titles in pretense.

The Spanish refused to give up the Order of the Golden Fleece after they gave up their Netherlands and Luxembourg, so that both they and the Habsburgs had their own version of it.
Even if they cared, I'm not sure the Italians would have much grounds for complaint, as their monarchs titled themselves Kings of Jerusalem, Cyprus, and Armenia. :p

As a general rule, once a European royal house gains a title, they never, ever let it go.
Even if they cared, I'm not sure the Italians would have much grounds for complaint, as their monarchs titled themselves Kings of Jerusalem, Cyprus, and Armenia. :p

As a general rule, once a European royal house gains a title, they never, ever let it go.

I cite George III and "King of France".
Even if they cared, I'm not sure the Italians would have much grounds for complaint, as their monarchs titled themselves Kings of Jerusalem, Cyprus, and Armenia. :p

As a general rule, once a European royal house gains a title, they never, ever let it go.

But we don't have monarchs anymore. ;)
La Caccia
La Caccia


A pagliaghju, a traditional drystone hut used as a dwelling and sheepfold, at the refuge of Puscaghia near the pass of Capronale.

Every village in the high mountains, in these days, was but one half of a whole. In the summer, when the mountains were warm and the alpine pastures lush with grass, the mountaineers and their herds dwelt in the Niolo and the other alpine pieves which formed the great natural citadel of Corsica. When the cold winds began to blow, the shepherds would lead their flocks down the slopes to the coast to greener pastures. These patterns of transhumance were well established over generations, such that each village in the mountains had a counterpart by the coast, a piece of grazing land to which they laid claim and made pilgrimage before every winter. Some led their sheep and goats high over the mountain spine of the island to Galeria and Chiomi on the rugged western coast. Many men of the Niolo, however, traditionally went north to the rich Balagna, for not all land there was under the plow and there was still enough grazing to go around.

These seasonal migrations were sometimes a source of trouble. As the mountaineers' coastal fields were abandoned in the summer, it was easy for those more accustomed to farming than herding to perceive them as vacant lands, left to the weeds by ignorant herdsmen who lived like savages amid the rocks. Corsican farmers tended nevertheless to observe the mountaineers' claims, for the shepherds could be dangerous, and feuds among the Corsicans had a tendency to end in violence. Genoese landowners, however - who were often absentee - were more interested in profits than long-term coexistence, and lacked the grudging respect the lowland Corsicans had for their upland cousins. At times their attempts to maximize returns at the expense of the shepherds turned violent. A few years before the start of the rebellion, a Genoese landowner in the Dila had fenced in "his" land to prevent it being chewed up by goats. A band of shepherds tore down his fences, gave his house a fusillade of musket-fire, and let their herds feast on his garden.

The Corsican rebellion had on occasion disrupted these patterns of migration, but its overall effects had been mixed. Certainly some shepherds had suffered from confiscations of their animals by the Republicans or Royalists, but the uprising had also forced many of the Genoese landlords and their agents to abandon their lands to the benefit of the highland pastoralists. The winter of 1739-40, however, was different. With a French army in the Balagna backed by Genoese occupation forces, the traditional migration of the Niolesi to the north was made all but impossible. The Genoese suspected them all to be rebels and infiltrators, in part because of the raids of General Rauschenburg's mountaineers earlier in the year. The pack animals and hussar mounts of the invaders took the best of the coastal grazing lands, and the shepherd's flocks were frequently taken from them at the point of a bayonet, either out of "military necessity" or, more often, as an act of economic warfare against the rebellion to starve Theodore's followers of all resources. Some of the Niolesi drove their flocks west instead, but came into conflict with other shepherds over scarce grazing land. Many retreated to the mountains and foothills and tried as best they could to feed themselves and their flocks, resulting in significant die-offs of livestock. All blamed the Genoese and the French. When the snow began to thaw and rumors of war again began to circulate around the island, they came down from the mountains with hollow cheeks and angry eyes, demanding bread and justice.

Rauschenburg was the chief beneficiary in spite of the fact that he was in some sense to blame for their troubles. He had been raiding the Balagna for months; his success had been mixed at best, but the Niolesi knew that his business was vengeance on their enemies. Although most of his force had vanished during the winter, he retained a few loyal followers, and with them traveled to the Asco valley in western Caccia after the council of war in March. The valley was full of shepherds and wanderers, many destitute save for their old guns, and he was quick to realize the recruiting potential. While he had only just heard his "uncle" Theodore refuse to authorize an attack against the French at the council, Rauschenburg reasoned that if he did not make use of the Niolesi they would simply become bandits and be of no use to anyone. The word went out that men of the mountains who wished to fight for the king—and plunder the Genoese—were welcome at Asco. On the 22nd of March, only a week after the failure of Brigadier Castinetta at Alesani, Rauschenburg and some 400 fighters descended the mountains into the eastern Balagna. The villages of Speloncato and Belgodere were sacked, and the Niolesi took flour, livestock, and anything else of value. At Belgodere, a company of Genoese soldiers was overwhelmed and forced to flee; the French reported eleven Genoese killed and more wounded.

The strategic effect of this raid was minimal. The new French commander Daniel François de Gélas, Vicomte de Lautrec, however, felt obligated to respond despite that preparation for a campaign into the interior was still ongoing. Convinced that Boissieux's coddling of the rebels had bred contempt for the French forces and stoked resistance, Lautrec had determined that no outrage against the occupying forces would be tolerated. He ordered Brigadier Claude François d'Alboy, Sieur de Montrosier, then at San Fiorenzo, to lead a battalion into Caccia and make a punitive demonstration. Reinforced with several companies of the garrison at Pietralba and the miquelets de Roussillon, Montrosier marched on Castifao with around 600 men.


Ponte Piana, north of Castifao

Marching among the maquis-covered hills of Caccia, the French soon found themselves subject to harassment by local shepherds and irregulars. Such attacks, however, were mostly just an inconvenience. It was not until the valley of the Tartagine—a sub-tributary of the Golo—that the French met any kind of massed resistance. Once again, a Genoese bridge was the focal point of the fighting, as just over a hundred local militiamen had gathered to defend the Ponte Piana from the invaders. Although they put up a respectable resistance for a hastily-gathered band of militia, Ponte Piana was not Ponte Novu, and the French were able to force the bridge. Castifao was taken thereafter, and the French moved on to the nearby village of Moltifao only a mile to the south. Between them was the Convent of San Francisco di Caccia, where some local militia and Niolesi irregulars had holed up. The convent, defended by only thirty men, nevertheless took several hours for the French to capture it; nearly all of its defenders died in the fighting.
Having occupied Castifao and Moltifao, the French found that there was not much punitive action to take—some thin-looking sheep were taken and some olive trees cut, but Caccia was a poor district even in the best of times. The mountains, however, were full of enemies, and while Rauschenburg's men and other bands of irregulars could not face the French head to head, they could continually annoy Montrosier's battalion by creeping through the brush on the mountainsides and taking potshots at the French soldiers. Montrosier sent patrols up the slopes which succeeded in driving them off, but only temporarily. The French remained at Moltifao overnight to complete their "work," and then Montrosier would return to Pietralba.

The royalists quickly learned of the French occupation of these towns. Captain-General Marquis Simone Fabiani counseled patience; his faith in his new army, such as it was, had been shaken by recent events, and in any case he felt that all possible strength should be held in reserve for an attack on the interior. Although he was unsure of Montrosier's strength, he suspected that this was not that attack. As it happened, however, the colonels of one of the new regiments was Carlo Felice Giuseppe, a native of Pietralba who had formerly been the militia commander of Caccia. Giuseppe, a longtime veteran who had been wounded at Ponte Novu, had been against the Aleria expedition (he agitated for his hometown to be liberated from the French instead) and his regiment had remained behind to defend Ponte Leccia. Now, he demanded action. Although Fabiani opposed the idea, the morale of the troops and their officers worried him; Lieutenant-Colonel Antonio Buttafuoco of the guard and Colonel Paolo Francesco Giannoni were already at each others' throats, having been on opposite sides over the Castinetta controversy, and he could not afford to alienate Giuseppe as well. Reluctantly, he agreed, but insisted on leading the troops personally rather than entrusting supreme command to Giuseppe.

Advancing up the Asco river from Ponte Leccia towards Moltifao, the royalists came within the sight of the French just after noon on the 28th. With three battalions and the foreign troops, the royalists numbered just under a thousand men compared to fewer than 600 Frenchmen split between the two villages. With around half of his force, Montrosier made a line of battle on the road between Moltifao and the bank of the Asco, a strong defensive position between two hills. An initial attack by the royalists left much to be desired and was easily repelled despite the inferior numbers of the French, and soon Montrosier was further reinforced by companies marching from Castifao. Giuseppe, however, was a local; he knew the terrain better than the French, and got Fabiani's permission to lead a battalion on a shepherd's path around one of the hills upon which the French flank was fixed. Realizing that his flank was turned, Montrosier ordered a retreat. The French withdrew in good order, although picked at by the regulars and a growing number of irregulars coming down from the mountains to join the fray. Considering himself greatly outnumbered, Montrosier soon decided to abandon the position entirely, and withdrew towards Pietralba as he had originally planned, albeit a bit earlier than expected. He was once more stymied at Ponte Piana, where another band of irregulars had seized the bridge from his pickets, but once more the French smashed through and managed to secure their retreat. The victory was a much-needed shot in the arm for the royalists, but the force they had been up against was only battalion-sized, and although Montrosier's force was given a bloody nose the Corsicans had not been able to cut off and destroy them.

Lautrec was planning a much more substantial advance. On April 6th, forces from five regiments—Montmorency, Auvergne, Flandre, Forez, and Nivernais—gathered at Pietralba under Lautrec's command, along with a squadron of the Rattsky hussars. In total, this amounted to some 2,500 men, considerably smaller than Boissieux's four thousand troops at Ponte Novu but nevertheless a very significant force. Lautrec sent Montrosier back to Moltifao with a battalion of infantry and the hussars, where he once more made short work of the local forces, while Brigadier Jean de Saignard, Sieur de Sasselange was given operational command over the main body of the force. Against him the royalists had around 1,000 regulars, 150 foreigners, and approximately 800 militiamen from surrounding pieves. The Guard was held in reserve near the Asco-Tartagine fork, while Rauschenburg, with several hundred more Niolesi irregulars, was prevented from joining the army in a timely fashion by the presence of Sasselange in the west.



The Corsicans opted to make the first move, with Colonel Giannoni and a large body of militia occupying a ridge of hills behind a small tributary of the Navaccia on the morning of the 10th. Rather than allowing this force to entrench itself, Lautrec ordered an immediate attack. Although the French were hindered by the uneven local terrain, Sasselange nevertheless managed to advance swiftly against the Corsican position. The results were disastrous—Giuseppe's regiment, still coming up from the rear, was not yet in position, and Giannoni's men were intermixed with the undisciplined militia in a manner that negated the cohesion of his own men. When the French made a serious attack, many of the militiamen fled, creating confusion and opening holes in the Corsican ranks. The Corsicans were routed, and even Giuseppe's unengaged regiment began a hasty retreat.

Captain-General Fabiani seemed once again to be in the place of trying to manage the aftermath of a devastating defeat. The battle, however, was not yet over. As the story goes, Fabiani commandeered Giannoni's trumpeters and called for Buttafuoco to advance with the Guard. He rode to the Guard's standardbearer, waving his sword in his hand, and shouted for the Corsicans to rally around the king's flag. As the French had no cavalry present, the Corsicans had been retreating without close pursuit, and many of them stopped fleeing at the spectacle. When Sasselange reordered his troops after the assault and renewed his march southwards, he was surprised to find a new line of Corsican infantry forming up less than two miles to the south. He ordered a steady advance in battle formation across the gently rolling field between the two armies, bounded on his left by the mountain slopes and on his right by the Navaccia and the Tartagine. Fabiani, observing the French advance, was said to have regretfully commented that it was "the most perfect sight for an artilleryman." It was, alas, a battle without artillery.

Rather than intermix the regulars and the militia, which had proved disastrous a few hours before, Fabiani placed the militia as an advance line ahead of his regulars, perhaps hoping to utilize them as skirmishers. They were the first to meet the French advance, and did not do much better than the first time they had fought that day; according to a French officer present, they fired too early to have much effect, and then a French bayonet charge drove them from the field. Having seen off this force, however, the French found themselves facing the regulars on a low rise near the south end of the field. Although superior in numbers to the Corsican regulars, the French were constrained by the frontage of the field, and Fabiani had tried to even the odds by placing his men in two ranks instead of the three ranks of the French. Having just driven off one body of Corsicans with ease, Sasselange now ordered another advance with the bayonet. His troops proved unequal to his enthusiasm; they had already marched more than four miles that day, much of it painfully slowly while in battle order, and were winded from the charge they had just made. Unlike the militia, the Corsican regulars held their fire until effective range, and to the shock of all parties involved the French attack fizzled under the thunder of Corsican musketry.

The engagement then became one of volleys, as Sasselange sought to use the superior training and discipline of his troops to overwhelm the enemy. The Corsicans, after all, did not have a sterling reputation of standing and taking fire. Undoubtedly the French had the upper hand in firepower, but many of their shots seemed to have missed the mark. Fabiani later opined that, because of the slightly elevated position of the Corsicans, once the battlefield was obscured by smoke the French frequently either fired straight ahead as they were trained, thus hitting the ground, or overcompensated and sent bullets whistling above the heads of the Corsicans. Only after an extended firefight did Sasselange order another advance up the slope. This met with another heavy volley from the Corsicans, but abruptly Fabiani's right wing gave way, possibly because of the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Gio Paolo Giudicelli, commanding officer on the far right. Thinking that a general retreat was happening, Colonel Giannoni likewise withdrew. The Guard and Giuseppe's battalion held, and according to Costa actually repelled the French attack on their positions, but finding that their flank was turned and many of their comrades were fleeing they too fell into a retreat. Fabiani tried in vain to rally his army a second time, but the men were shaken, bloodied, and tired. The army only stopped retreating once it reached Ponte Leccia.

Sasselange had taken the field and claimed victory, but it was somewhat hollow. The Corsicans had proved surprisingly resilient and seem to have given as good as they got, with each army suffering in the neighborhood of two hundred casualties. Lautrec's intent that day had been for Sasselange's force to attack Ponte Leccia, but this was now quite out of the question. Not only was the day gone and the men exhausted, but the Battle of Pietralba had forced the French to reassess the situation. Reviewing the day's action with Sasselange and his other officers, Lautrec determined that trying to force Ponte Leccia with his existing battalions against the resistance he had just seen was too risky. Above all, he did not want another Ponte Novu. Thus, despite the French victory at Pietralba, the effect of the engagement was to delay Lautrec's invasion by nearly two weeks as additional battalions were moved up and the general focused on suppressing Rauschenburg's troublesome irregular forces which continued to menace his flank.


Otto Ferdinand von Abensperg und Traun, Austrian commander-in-chief in Italy
As the Corsicans grappled with one great power, the intervention of another was moving ever closer to reality. Although negotiations between Austria, France, and Genoa for the joint occupation were still ongoing, Emperor Karl VI determined to push ahead with the appropriate military preparations in expectation of a formal concord. In late March, instructions were sent to Feldzeugmeisters Otto Ferdinand, Graf von Abensperg und Traun, captain-general and governor of Milan, and Karl Franz, Freiherr von Wachtendonk, governor of Livorno, to prepare their troops for departure.

Although Vienna's latest proposed figure for the intervention force was 4,800 men, the imperial general staff estimated that only around 2,000 of those would actually be present and ready for service by May without stripping Austrian Italy of its garrisons. This initial force would consist of elements of the Deutschmeister, Gyulai, and Wachtendonk infantry regiments. For many of the soldiers of the Gyulai Infantry, a Royal Hungarian regiment, this would be their second tour on Corsica; the regiment had been part of the first imperial intervention in 1731-32. The emperor had insisted that the Austrian complement had to be represented by an officer of equal rank to Boissieux and Lautrec, and while the emperor delayed any formal appointment pending a final agreement he had informally chosen Feldmarschallieutenant Otto Anton, Graf von Walsegg, who presently commanded the garrison at Parma, to receive this honor.[A]

Timeline Notes
[A] It is even more difficult to find biographical information about Austrian generals prior to the WoAS than French ones. Walsegg is a pretty obscure historical figure, but he was definitely involved in the War of Polish Succession and at the death of Emperor Charles VI he was indeed in charge at Parma under von Traun's overall command. All I really have to flesh him out are some snippets of letters from him to his superiors and other officers in the early years of the WoAS. For example, on Tuscany: "The nobility and the people hate the present government more than the Devil." On the defenses of Mantua: "Everything was ruined in Mantua; the palisades were burned, stolen, and the fascines torn." On preparing for the Spanish invasion: "We are in the greatest tranquility... as if were not concerned with the arrival of the Spaniards, as we are with our four incomplete infantry regiments!" Most of the quotes I've found are in the same general vein of "everything is fucked;" he seems like a bit of a pessimist. He was promoted to FZM in 1741, but did not survive the war. There were some other options I could have gone with, including Wachtendonk himself, but given Wachtendonk's widely reported contacts with the rebels and English consuls I doubt the Genoese would have accepted him.
For those of you getting a bit tired of the grueling stalemate, I promise you that events will start moving much more quickly in the next update. 1740 will be an eventful year.

@Carp How much did Paoli's struggle with the French influence your portrayal of Theodores struggle with the French?

Not all that much, because the French conquest was a very different sort of fight. For one thing, the scale was much different; the French had 30-40 thousand men on the island. Perhaps more importantly, however, the French in 1768 were also acquiring the island for themselves. They weren't obstructed by quarrels with the Genoese, their troop commitment wasn't limited by treaty, and they were motivated to take what was theirs rather than simply enforcing Genoa's rule (which even the French commanders realized was witless and cruel, and if Bourbon France thinks your government is too retrograde and heavy-handed then you might have problems). I think the most influential thing about the 1768-69 conquest to me was the (Second) Battle of Borgo, which is proof positive that the Corsicans were capable of fighting the French on even terms with brigade-sized forces and winning. The French still have many advantages, and all things considered the safe money's on Lautrec to win this thing, but clearly the Corsicans were not just pushovers who could only win when up against second-rate amateurs like the Genoese. As long as the French forces are limited to a manageable amount, Corsican victories are at least plausible.
No real victories and French forces that are steadily getting closer to deliver a potential killing blow. I can't see how Corsican morale could survive news of Austrians landing on behalf of Genoa.