The Austrians Arrive
Imperial German Regiment "Deutschmeister" in 1740
On June 4th, Feldmarschall-Lieutenant Otto Anton, Graf von Walsegg
disembarked at Porto Vecchio with three battalions of infantry. On the 7th, the Austrians had their first taste of combat, with Walsegg's battalions driving out a group of militia from La Rocca who menaced the village of Ferruccio just a few miles from the port. The performance of this small royalist band was unimpressive, but Walsegg chose to not immediately press inland. Probably under instructions from Vienna, he determined that the assertion of Austrian rights in the north, particularly Aleria and Corti, had the highest priority. Correspondingly, on the 9th he detached a battalion under Obrist-Kommandant Anton, Graf von Colloredo-Melz und Wallsee
, to proceed north to Aleria and then inland along the Tavignano to relieve the French occupying forces at Corti.
The Corsicans did not offer resistance to Colloredo in Fiumorbo, and he was allowed to pass unmolested to Aleria. From there he was in more or less "friendly" territory, and proceeded swiftly to Corti, reaching the town on the 15th. Although undoubtedly annoyed at having to return his conquest, Lieutenant-General Daniel François de Gélas, Vicomte de Lautrec
was ready to respect his country's diplomatic agreements. More upset than Lautrec was Gianpietro Gaffori
, who in the few weeks since his capitulation had been living a rather quiet life of a collaborator in French-occupied Corti. Gaffori had managed to gain very generous terms from the French in exchange for his capitulation, most critically the exclusion of Genoese forces from the town. He was not pleased to hear that the French would be handing the town and its citadel over, quite without his input, to the Austrians, who had not given him any such guarantees.
As it turned out, however, Count Colloredo was quite willing to indulge him. The young colonel, at time 32 years of age, was a fine officer but somewhat out of his element in the middle of highland Corsica. Although was initially suspicious of Gaffori and dismissive of the rough natives of the country, Gaffori worked to make himself indispensable, assisting Colloredo with billeting and provisioning the garrison while managing the civilian administration of the town in his capacity as podesta
. Colloredo quickly came to appreciate his efficiency, and for the time being at least was persuaded by Gaffori’s argument that the introduction of Genoese troops into Corti would only make the Austrians less secure by encouraging civil unrest. Gaffori, who restricted himself to the management of civilian affairs beneath the notice of a military commandant, was much less threatening to Colloredo’s position than a Genoese officer who would presumably try to assert his own government’s prerogatives over the town.
The transfer of Corti also meant the transfer of a considerable arsenal. Although many guns had been left behind during the retreat in the interior, particularly the lion’s share of the heavier 24-pounders, Lautrec was still stunned by the number of guns the rebels still possessed. Following the capitulation, he inventoried a total of 29 guns, as follows:
- Four 24-pounders
- Two 18-pounders
- Fifteen 12-pounders
- Two 8-pounders
- Two 6-pounders
- Four 4-pounders
Three weeks later, at the time of the Austrian arrival, most of these guns were still at Corti. By agreement, the French were required to turn over all surrendered arms to the Genoese, so there was no question of France profiting from the confiscation. Lautrec was furthermore facing a shortage of manpower, animals, and supplies. His forces were fully engaged holding territory, mopping up remaining rebel enclaves in the west, and dealing with the guerrilla forces of Lieutenant-General Johann Friedrich von Neuhoff zu Rauschenburg
. There was a dearth of pack animals, and in fact Lautrec had already requested the return of the hussars to France because of problems finding enough forage. Thus, for reasons of motivation, logistics, distraction, and time constraints, only eleven guns—about a third of the Corti arsenal—had been removed by the 15th (along with an unknown amount of powder, shot, and so on). As the Austrians were also in principle obligated to return confiscated arms to the Genoese, the French presumably did not consider them a strategic asset to keep out of imperial hands. With only a single battalion to protect Corti and the whole Tavignano valley, however, Colloredo was even more logisically limited than the French, and for the moment the remainder of the arsenal wasn’t going anywhere.
The Scala di Santa Regina. In 1740, of course, the paved road did not exist, and the narrow path which can be seen just above it was the only means of ascending the valley.
Despite the collapse of the rebellion in the north, the fight was clearly not yet out of the Corsican nationals. On May 2nd, two days before Walsegg's arrival, a battalion-sized force of Frenchmen attempted to force their way into the Niolo by way of the Scala di Santa Regina, a long, winding ravine of the upper Golo, traversable only by an ancient and narrow shepherd's path cut into the rock. In the ensuing "Battle of the Stair," the French column was ambushed by a smaller number of Niolesi mountaineers—perhaps just a few dozen—and completely defeated, suffering more than 60 casualties while Rauschenburg claimed he had lost only two men. Advancing up the canyon in a single-file line, they had been easy targets for Niolesi sharpshooters in elevated positions, and the Corsicans were also said to have tumbled rocks down the ravine, sending them careening into the thin white line of soldiers below. Major de Villarois
, the second-in-command of the expedition, was shot in the chest and killed. Clearly the French could not force an entry into Rauschenburg's mountain fastness from that direction, and their efforts soon concentrated on the conquest of Vico and the northwest Dila
Although rugged, this region was thinly populated and not especially zealous in its support for the rebel movement. With the withdrawal of Antonio Colonna-Bozzi
and Matthias von Drost
to Zicavo, the only rebel commander of note in the region was Lieutenant-General Luca d'Ornano
. He had received Lautrec's demands following the surrender of Corti and had no desire to be the last holdout against the French, who seemed destined to be the victors in the struggle. Like Gaffori, however, he also had no interest in leaving the country. Having heard rumors of Gaffori's deal with Lautrec, Marquis d'Ornano was now angling for a similar deal. Instead of immediately showing up at Corti to submit himself, the marquis sent a messenger offering to hand over all the Dila
in exchange for some "modest considerations" like those given to Gaffori. In the meantime he pulled his militiamen back from the Franco-Genoese holdings on the coast as a gesture of good will. Despite his failure to appear in person as demanded, Lautrec was open to compromise, but what seemed like a probable capitulation was abruptly deferred by the arrival of the Austrians.
The Second Convention of Turin had not been particularly precise as to the line of delineation in Corsica. At the time, it had not seemed necessary, as the French and the Austrians were concerned mainly for the major strategic sites of the island—that is to say its ports, plus Corti—and cared little for which rustic village was possessed by whom. D'Ornano, however, occupied an ambiguous position between the two spheres of influence. His homeland, the pieve
of Ornano, lay south of Ajaccio and was clearly within the Dila
granted to the Austrians, but forces under his overall command also occupied Vico and Cinarca, which had been given explicitly to the French. The disposition of the valley of the Gravona, which ran northeast from the Bay of Ajaccio towards Corti and divided Cinarca from Ornano, was not altogether clear. Of course d’Ornano was not privy to the terms of the treaty, but he did take notice of the arrival of the Austrians at Porto Vecchio, and rumor soon spread that the Austrians were now to be in charge of the Dila
. It now occurred to d'Ornano that his position had become one of great significance, and that he might get even better terms from the Austrians than from the French, or might at least use that threat to get a better deal from Lautrec.
Accordingly, d'Ornano at last decided to come to Corti, albeit days after the town had been turned over to the Austrians. Count Colloredo felt ill-equipped to lay down conditions on behalf of the empire, not at least until he had conferred with Walsegg, but since he had no ability to remove d'Ornano from his territory to the southwest it was sensible to pacify him with favorable (if vague) assurances regarding terms of cooperation with the Empire. D’Ornano’s demands were more far-reaching than those of Gaffori - in particular, he wanted not only to remain, but to remain armed. The marquis lamented that it would be quite impossible to disarm his followers, and that the French demands that he do so had been ill-conceived and unjust; how, indeed, would he defend his home from bandits and rebels? Again, Colloredo voiced his sympathy and understanding but remained noncommittal, for disarming d’Ornano was quite beyond his power and there was no reason to make ultimatums that could not be enforced. D’Ornano left Corti considering his mission to have been a success. Nevertheless, he could not ignore the French completely, and as the French battalions advanced from Calvi into the northwest Dila in June the marquis was obliged to accept the loss of Vico and Cinarca, aware that he would receive no imperial support in keeping those territories.
Despite using the royalists as a bogeyman in his talks with Colloredo, d'Ornano was not fully severed from the King of Corsica. Theodore had sent him a letter after arriving at Zicavo requesting that he send men to aid the king, and while d’Ornano had failed to send the men—explaining, perhaps reasonably, that he could not further strip his defenses with the French still on his doorstep—he did assure Theodore of his fidelity and promised that he would not submit to the Republic or disarm his militia without royal approval. The value of that pledge, however, was questionable, as it implied no obligation to materially aid his sovereign and did not prevent him from submitting to the French or Austrians. Theodore was probably not impressed, but he continued to address d'Ornano as his loyal marquis, as even the bare profession of loyalty by such a man as d'Ornano made the rebellion seem stronger and more united than it actually was.
Walsegg, subsequently informed of d’Ornano’s approach, initially responded with little enthusiasm. Like Colloredo, he recognized that there was no sense in antagonizing d’Ornano at the moment, but he was disinclined by nature to treat with rebels and may have questioned the legitimacy of d'Ornano's supposed willingness to make himself an imperial asset. What reached Walsegg, however, inevitably reached Grand Duke Franz Stefan
, because Walsegg’s command was thoroughly penetrated by the Grand Duke’s spies. One of the units deployed to Corsica was the Wachtendonk regiment, named (as was custom) after its Obrist-Inhaber
, the very same Feldmarschall-Lieutenant Karl Franz von Wachtendonk
who presently commanded Austrian forces at Livorno and dutifully spun intrigues with the Corsicans and English for the benefit of the Grand Duke. Some of his officers—and they were his
officers, being the proprietor of the regiment—undoubtedly did double duty as Walsegg's soldiers and Wachtendonk's agents. But the Grand Duke could lean on Walsegg directly as well, for while Walsegg was loyal to the emperor he could hardly afford to ignore the emperor’s son-in-law. Aware that scorning Franz Stefan was probably not a good career move, Walsegg thus found himself in the sometimes difficult position of balancing his orders from Vienna with his “advice” from the Grand Duke.
Franz Stefan von Lothringen, Grand Duke of Tuscany
The Grand Duke clearly saw d'Ornano as a potential recruit. The marquis had been in Campredon’s “French party” before Theodore’s arrival, but he was hardly committed to France. The Grand Duke’s men soon opened communications with him directly, and d’Ornano was not shy about hinting at his prestigious contacts with an “imperial prince.” Walsegg was reportedly dismayed to find such diplomacy being carried out without his input, but as a military man rather than a politician he felt obliged to keep his head down and concentrate on his task. With the arrival of two more battalions in the second half of June, Walsegg now felt ready to confront the rebels properly.
It could not have come at a better time for the Genoese. Realizing that Walsegg was not on the verge of an attack and confident in the security of Zicavo for the time being, Antonio Colonna-Bozzi had marched south with 300 men to assist Lieutenant-General Michele Durazzo
, who was struggling to maintain his control of Sartena against the Genoese regulars in Propriano. The rebels in the south had been bested the last time they had engaged the Genoese in the field, but the Genoese had since grown overconfident while the royalists now had Colonna and some of the king’s “elite” volunteers. On the 17th of June, Colonna, Durazzo, and a mixed force of regulars and militia caught the Genoese forces besieging Sartena with a surprise attack, completely routing the entire battalion and inflicting heavy casualties. Now Propriano itself seemed to be in danger, for though the rebels had no artillery the village was not heavily fortified. Austrian aid was needed.
On the 20th, Walsegg set out from Porto Vecchio with two battalions of the Wachtendonk and Gyulai infantry, plus a few companies of Genoese and some filogenovesi
irregulars to act as guides. The plan was to cross the Pass of Bacino and move westwards along the ridge of hills between the Fiumicicoli and Ortolo rivers directly to Sartena. By avoiding following the river valleys themselves, Walsegg hoped to reach Sartena more directly and avoid being caught in an ambush at the bottom of a valley. This worked as well as could be expected, and on the 23rd the Austrians reached Foce, a village on the highest crest of the ridge just two miles from Sartena. They skirmished with Corsican forces there, who succeeded in delaying Walsegg's advance by a day but fell back in the face of superior numbers. With Walsegg in a strong position on the ridgetop and with their flank exposed to the Genoese still at Propriano, Colonna and Durazzo doubted they could hold the town. On the 26th of June, after some desultory fighting around the town, the royalist forces withdrew and Walsegg captured Sartena.
Walsegg's swift and decisive advance had lifted the siege of Propriano and captured the largest town still in rebel hands. Within a week of this victory, the rebellion had been all but suppressed in the Ortolo valley in the south. It was certainly a better debut in Corsica than Boissieux, whose maiden foray had been getting his army mauled at Madonna della Serra. The Corsicans had withdrawn rather than face the Austrians in open battle, putting their hopes in the rougher inland terrain of the Dila
, but they could not withdraw eternally—there was only so much Corsica left.
Situation in Late June 1740
Green: Royalist nationals
Dark Green: "Ornanist" nationals
White: Neutral or Unknown
Red Line: Walsegg's march to Sartena
 A Feldmarschall-Lieutenant
(abbr. FML) was roughly equivalent to a Lieutenant-General. Obrist-Kommandant
is usually translated as “commanding colonel” and was the rank of the man who actually led the regiment, as opposed to his nominal superior, the Obrist-Inhaber
(“colonel proprietor”), who owned the regiment and might take an interest in its staffing and upkeep but generally did not lead it personally. British and French regiments were also often “owned” by an absentee colonel, but in that case it was the lieutenant-colonel rather than a “commanding colonel” who led the regiment. In the case of the imperial infantry regiment Deutschmeister
, in which Count Colloredo held the post of Obrist-Kommandant
, the ownership of the regiment was an ex officio
honor of the reigning Grandmaster of the Teutonic Order, at that time Prince Clemens August von Wittelsbach, Archbishop and Elector of Cologne.
 The inventory does not tell the full story of how varied the rebel artillery was. The rebels had obtained their guns from many different sources; this is why some were on the French scale (4-8-12) and some on the British (3-6-9-12). Some were iron, others bronze, and with varying bore/chamber types. In addition, since the value of a pound as a measure of weight varied between countries, even the “common” caliber guns like the 12 and 24 pounders actually had varying ammunition sizes. It must have been a logistical nightmare to find the correct ammunition for each gun.