I'm curious what's an irishman doing in Corsica as part of an Italian army?

Why, making a living, just like the rest of us laddie!

The Genoese officer corps was quite eclectic, in part because the Genoese aristocracy appears to have had very little interest in military service. Unlike some of the greater powers of Europe to whom war was considered to be the highest and most honorable vocation of a gentleman, the Genoese considered a military career to be undignified and unprofitable compared to business and politics. Only the poorest of the nobility seem to have given much thought to the military as a career choice. This may be one reason why the commissioner-generals of Corsica in this period were generally ex-diplomats and former politicians, not military officers; the Republic’s bench of native-born field officers was not very deep, and those Genoese noblemen who were officers generally came from poorer and less politically connected families who probably couldn’t have gained an important administrative post like that of general-commissioner.

The Genoese preferred to hire experienced foreign officers rather than recruiting them from their own population, and they didn’t really care what country they got them from. Varenne/Warren wasn’t even the only Irish colonel on Corsica at this time; there was also Patrizio Geraldini (“Patrick Fitzgerald”). In fact, until the arrival of Colonel Restori in late 1741 (who by 1743 was replaced by another Italian, Colonel Bembo), not one of the battalion commanders on Corsica was actually Genoese, or even Italian - Varenne and Geraldini were Irish, Jost was Grison, Andergossen was German, and Crettler was Swiss. Jost and Andergossen commanded foreign units (of Grison and German infantry, respectively), but Crettler, Varenne, and Geraldini commanded Italian units despite their foreign background, and their company captains were a mix of foreign and Italian officers.

If you’re asking about Varenne’s story specifically, I’m afraid I don’t have a biography for him. He may have been one of the “Wild Geese,” Irish Catholics who fled Britain as a consequence of the fall of the Stuarts (or were descended from those who had fled) and sought military employment among the Catholic powers of the continent. He may also have been recruited from Ireland more recently, which was at this time still a common practice. Irish expatriates most famously fought for Spain and France, but some Irishmen made their way into the service of other powers, including little states like Genoa. If you were a Catholic man with noble blood and some military experience who wanted a colonel’s salary and a cushy job, it probably wasn’t a bad gig, although presumably the job got a lot less cushy once the revolution flared up in Corsica. The Genoese didn’t exactly get the cream of the crop - real stars got hired by the Bourbons or the Habsburgs - and accordingly the Republic’s foreign officers seem to have been a bit mediocre, albeit certainly no worse than their native officers. Some were reasonably competent (Crettler), and some less so (Jost).

Just checking -- we’re at May 1743, right?

Late March 1743.
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The Austrians had quite a few Irishmen, too, including some Butlers, and the Counts O'Donnel von Tyrconnel and Wallis von Carrighmain (germanized from Wallace- yes, descendants of that Wallace)
Indeed - and let us not forget Maximilian Ulysses Browne, the son of an Irish Jacobite family, who fought against King Frederick in Silesia and was one of the principal Austrian commanders in Italy during the WoAS.

Speaking of which, I'm thinking I may use the next update to catch us up on what's been going on in the rest of Europe since the previous update about the wider war left off in late 1741. I've already covered the progression of the war in Italy over the course of 1742, but not in Germany, where the situation has changed drastically.
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Indeed - and let us not forget Maximilian Ulysses Browne, the son of an Irish Jacobite family, who fought against King Frederick in Silesia and was one of the principal Austrian commanders in Italy during the WoAS.

Speaking of which, I'm thinking I may use the next update to catch us up on what's been going on in the rest of Europe since the previous update about the wider war left off in late 1741. I've already covered the progression of the war in Italy over the course of 1742, but not in Germany, where the situation has changed drastically.

Do it! Do it!
Europe Goes to War, Part II
Europe Goes to War, Part II
The Empire Strikes Back


"The Queen of Hungary in Splendor, or the Monsiers Pounded in Prague." British satirical print, 1742. With besieged Prague in the background, a humble Cardinal Fleury pleads with Maria Theresa, on horseback, for mercy.
As 1741 drew to a close, the view from Vienna was depressing in the extreme. Even without the support of King Friedrich II of Prussia, who had momentarily backed out of the war with assurances from Austria that he could keep Lower Silesia, Franco-Bavarian forces had succeeded in taking Prague by the end of November with most of the rest of Bohemia falling under their control by the end of the year. The success was so swift and unexpected that it even startled Friedrich, who now feared that he had quit the war too early. Friedrich’s personal aim was Silesia, but he had his own reasons to desire the fulfillment of the claims of Bavaria and Saxony set out at Nymphenburg. With Bavaria in control of Bohemia and Saxony ruling Moravia, Prussia would no longer share a border with Austria, and thus these countries would serve as buffer states to shield Prussia from prospective Austrian revanchism in future years. The king abruptly tore up his agreement with Austria and invaded Moravia alongside French and Saxon forces, despite warnings from the French general Maurice de Saxe that such an attack in winter would be ill-advised. Initially, Friedrich’s gambit paid off, and by late December his army entered Olmutz (Olomouc), Moravia’s capital.

Maria Theresa was still without effective allies in Germany. Diplomatic attempts to break up the alliance of France, Bavaria, Saxony, and Prussia failed despite the sometimes conflicting interests of these states, and Britain’s participation remained limited to subsidies, which were necessary but not sufficient on their own. Austria’s other ally, Russia, had been tied up by a Swedish invasion encouraged by the French. The miserable failure of this invasion and Russia’s swift victory over the Swedes (although a treaty would not be signed until the summer of 1743) was welcome news in Vienna, but hopes that a Russian army would soon come marching westwards were dashed in December when Elizabeth Petrovna, the daughter of Peter the Great, seized power in a palace coup from the infant Tsar Ivan VI and his German-born mother Anna of Mecklenburg. Elizabeth’s new court favored the French, and she was not particularly eager to ride to Maria Theresa’s rescue. Austria’s agony was given a ceremonial capstone in February, when Karl Albrecht, Elector of Bavaria, was crowned as Emperor Karl VII after having been unanimously chosen by the electors (Bohemia’s vote was denied to Maria Theresa on the dubious basis that the kingdom was presently contested). It was the first time in more than 300 years that anyone but a Habsburg had ruled the Empire.

Yet even at the apparent nadir of Austrian fortunes, not all was as it seemed. 1741 had been an unlucky year for the Austrians - to put it mildly - but the Queen’s enemies had mistaken her state’s misfortune for real weakness. They could not have been more wrong. Friedrich’s victories against the Austrians and the splendidly executed French conquest of Bohemia had led many to assume that Austria was nothing but a paper tiger, but her armies remained formidable, her finances were in reasonably good order thanks to Britain’s support, and Vienna had a singular coherence of purpose and leadership that was not possessed by the bickering and mutually distrustful French-backed alliance. The onset of winter had provided a brief respite from the Franco-Bavarian advance, and now all that was needed for a recovery was competent leadership. This was found in the person of Field Marshal Khevenhüller, whom Maria Theresa now entrusted with an audacious offensive. The last thing anyone expected was an Austrian counterattack in the dead of winter, but in January, Khevenhüller crossed the Enns river and invaded enemy-occupied Upper Austria, taking the French and Bavarians completely by surprise.

The French were swiftly driven from Linz, the only city in Upper Austria which was strongly garrisoned, and fell back over the Bavarian frontier. Khevenhüller then invaded Bavaria itself and inaugurated a brutal campaign of revenge upon the usurper’s country. A great mass of Austrian irregular troops - Croats and other light infantry from the Ottoman frontier (the so-called “Grenzers”) - swarmed into the electorate, looting and burning in all directions. In February, Khevenhüller’s troops occupied Munich itself, Bavaria’s capital, which was to change hands several times in the coming months.

Meanwhile in Silesia, Saxe’s warning to Friedrich was starting to look prescient. There was no Austrian army in the province which could oppose the King of Prussia, but the harsh winter coupled with local resistance from the Moravian peasantry and guerrilla warfare led by the Austrian irregular troops inflicted mounting casualties on the Prussians. Once his French and Saxon allies withdrew their contingents from Moravia to deal with Khevenhüller’s offensive, Friedrich realized that his Moravian expedition was a blunder he could no longer afford to continue. In April, despite being undefeated in the field, the King of Prussia withdrew from Moravia and retreated into Bohemia to rejoin his allies.

Friedrich was humbled, but far from vanquished. In May he encountered the Austrian army in Bohemia under Prince Karl Alexander of Lorraine, the younger brother of King-Consort Franz Stefan, and battle was joined at the town of Chotusitz. The sides were closely matched in numbers, and the fate of the battle seemed in considerable doubt for some time as the Prussians and Austrians mounted charges and counter-charges against one another. Ultimately Friedrich held the field and claimed another victory, but it was due more to the ineptitude of Prince Karl than any great deficiency in the Austrian army, and Prussian casualties were nearly as high as those suffered by the Austrians. Such victories against a comparable opponent were all well and good, but Austria’s manpower was vast compared to little Prussia, and both Friedrich and his allies were beginning to appreciate that Austria’s strength was not so easily depleted nor its leaders easily discouraged. “It is true that lovely feathers have been torn from [Austria’s] wings,” remarked Count Podewils, the Prussian foreign minister, “nevertheless that will not stop it from flying quite high.”


Prussian infantry at Chotusitz

Yet though Chotusitz was but a momentary setback for Austria, the defeat changed the strategic calculus in Vienna. By the summer of 1742, Austrian armies were advancing victoriously both in Bavaria and in Italy, where an Austro-Sardinian force had driven the Spanish and Neapolitans back over the length of the peninsula. Only Prussia and its army had provided meaningful resistance to Austria’s campaign of recovery. It seemed sensible, then, to seek out a new accomodation with Prussia despite Friedrich’s duplicity, for if Prussia was removed from the equation Austrian armies would be able to concentrate their full strength against the French in Bohemia and presumably carry all before them. Moreover, Maria Theresa was no longer so strongly attached to the absolute preservation of the Pragmatic Sanction, for the Spanish failure in Italy seemed to suggest that she might be able to gain compensation for the loss of Silesia with the prize of Naples.

Thanks to the combined military minds of Marshal Belle-Isle, Marshal Broglie, and Maurice de Saxe, the French succeeded in inflicting several tactical defeats upon the Austrians in Bohemia that spring, but by June they were nevertheless falling back in the face of vastly superior Austrian numbers fielded by Prince Karl and Field Marshal Lobkowitz. Their retreat to Prague was devastating; harried by Austria’s famed hussars, the French were badly bloodied and abandoned an enormous amount of materiel. Once at Prague they found themselves trapped, as the Austrians had cut off every avenue of retreat. Compounding the distress of the French was the cessation of hostilities between Prussia and Austria which was formalized in late July by the Treaty of Berlin, in which which the Austrians accepted the cession of most of Silesia to the Kingdom of Prussia in exchange for Friedrich’s withdrawal for the war. For the second time in less than a year, Friedrich had signed a separate peace and left his allies in the lurch, and it could not have come at a worse time.

Now it was France’s turn to face isolation. Saxony’s vacillating king-elector Augustus III, never a very enthusiastic participant, had followed Prussia's lead and made peace with Austria, for with Prussia out of the war the annexation of Moravia which had been promised to him at Nymphenburg now seemed a very distant dream. Bavaria was still in the fight, but they had lost nearly all their territory and the army they still had was wholly dependent upon French subsidies (as it had admittedly been from the start of the war). Driven even from his own capital, the Bavarian Emperor had become something of an international joke, and he had clearly lost touch with reality. Despite not even controlling Bavaria, he announced loftily that he would deign to make peace only if he received Bohemia, Further Austria, Tyrol, and either Upper Austria or the Austrian Netherlands (as presumably he did not want to seem too greedy).

Reeling from Prussia’s betrayal, Cardinal Fleury instructed Belle-Isle to sue for peace. Even willing to throw France’s pet emperor under the proverbial bus, Fleury quietly proposed through Belle-Isle that France would not object to the continued Austrian occupation of Bavaria so long as the French army was allowed to vacate Bohemia. Yet the British chief minister Lord Carteret urged a continuation of the war, determined to bring the Bourbon powers to their knees, and Maria Theresa was happy to oblige. At the very least she still needed to extract compensation for her loss of Silesia, but she was also driven by a more personal and emotional desire to see France pay for their aggression and insolence. When Fleury sent the queen an apologetic private letter in which he attempted to lay the blame for the war on the over-exuberance of Belle-Isle, Maria Theresa responded by having it published in the newspapers, merely as a means to publicly humiliate the cardinal.

With the British and Austrians unwilling to negotiate, the French were forced to pursue military means to rescue their besieged soldiers, who by the end of the summer had been reduced to eating their horses. To muster the forces necessary to relieve them, 40,000 men previously stationed in northeast France were sent to Germany under Marshal Lautrec.[A] This left a greatly diminished force to guard the French frontier from potential Anglo-Dutch aggression, but the British and Dutch were at odds over the wisdom of a joint offensive against France and the French correctly guessed that the British would be unable to make anything of the opportunity. Lautrec’s force was joined in the Palatinate by Saxe and his 20,000 men. Saxe suggested a simultaneous drive by this so-called “Army of Redemption” towards Prague while Broglie, in command of the besieged force, would lead a breakout towards them. Broglie made some initial headway, and it seemed for a moment as if this plan might work, but it was foiled by the prompt mustering of an Austrian army of 60,000 men which interposed itself between Broglie and Lautrec. Broglie was forced to retreat back to Prague, although this Austrian victory came at a cost, as in their absence a Bavarian army under Count Seckendorff was able to liberate most of Bavaria.

The size of Lautrec’s force and the fall of Bavaria caused some concern in Vienna, but the combined Austrian army nevertheless offered a stout defense of Bohemia. Obstructed by mountainous terrain, a lack of supplies, the harassment of Austrian irregulars, and the prudent disposition of the Austrian forces, Lautrec was unable to make headway into the kingdom. An engagement was possible, but both sides were under instructions to avoid battle; the French feared risking their only effective army left in Germany, while the Austrians reasoned that a battle was not necessary if a French surrender at Prague could be gained by mere patience. Lautrec ultimately found his task impossible and withdrew into the Palatinate.

As the situation in Prague grew desperate, the French attempted to shake things up with a leadership change. Broglie left Prague, disguised as a courier, to relieve Lautrec of command, while Belle-Isle was left in charge of the besieged army. Broglie did not turn out to be of much help; having gained control of the “Army of Redemption,” he promptly went into winter quarters in Bavaria. Nevertheless, Belle-Isle had been instructed to extricate his army at all costs, a goal which he pursued with great shrewdness and energy. He concealed his preparations even from his own men, and convinced everyone that he had decided to hold Prague through the winter. In mid-December, leaving only 5,000 soldiers (mostly invalids) at Prague, Belle-Isle slipped out of the city with 14,000 men. His army marched through the night to gain as much of a lead on the Austrian cavalry as he could. Then, against all expectations, he departed from the lowland roads and took his army straight over the mountains, which the Austrians had presumed was quite impossible for such a force.

Belle-Isle’s march was ten days of utter misery. Hungry and shivering, the French army trudged upwards through the snow; tales were told of men freezing to death on their feet. Belle-Isle himself fell seriously ill. In all, the army lost around 1,500 men, mostly to the harsh conditions. On the day after Christmas, however, the marshal and his exhausted army finally reached Eger and were out of danger. Belle-Isle had succeeded in rescuing some 12,500 French soldiers from almost certain doom, and had mitigated the loss to French honor by avoiding the humiliating capitulation of an entire French army.[1] Retreats are seldom celebrated as much as victories and Belle-Isle’s feat won him little acclaim at home, but it was a masterpiece of misdirection and maneuver, and arguably the greatest single military achievement of the entire war.

Thus, for all the ups and downs of the war thus far, the end of 1742 saw the return of something like the status quo ante bellum - at least in terms of territory.[2] The Bavarians had recovered Bavaria, the Austrians had recovered Bohemia, and the Spanish had accomplished nothing of note aside from the occupation of Savoy. Nevertheless, there was no prospect of peace on the horizon. Maria Theresa still desired compensation for Silesia, Lord Carteret still dreamed of a great abasement of the Bourbons in Europe, and King Felipe V - or, perhaps more accurately, his wife Elisabetta Farnese - still yearned to make gains in Italy at Habsburg expense. Cardinal Fleury cursed the day Belle-Isle had lured France into war with dreams of German dominion, which he now regretted as misguided and ruinous, but he was mercifully spared from having to watch the conflict drag on for years to come. The ancient cardinal, who had directed French policy since 1726, died early the next year.

As the year drew to a close only King Friedrich appeared to be a clear winner, having gained both peace and his coveted Silesia. Yet he was uneasy in victory, for every success of Austrian arms reminded him that Maria Theresa ruled a powerful state and might yet grow confident enough to tear up the Treaty of Berlin and reclaim her lost province. If the Bourbons were defeated and Prussia was compelled to face Austrian might alone, how long would he be able to preserve his ill-gotten gains?

[1] Another 4,000 men left behind in the Prague garrison were later repatriated when Chevert, the French commander there, threatened to burn down the city unless those men who could walk were allowed to leave.
[2] The war overseas had also stalled, largely due to Britain and Spain turning their attentions firmly towards European battlegrounds. The only significant operation in the Americas in 1742 was a Spanish invasion of Georgia which was decisively repulsed by the British.

Timeline Notes
[A] This is the first bit of alt-history so far in my account of the WoAS. IOTL, the “Army of Redemption” was under the command of Marshal Maillebois, the conqueror of Corsica. ITTL, Lautrec was sent to Corsica instead of Maillebois, and as a consequence Lautrec received the marshal’s baton that Maillebois got historically. (IOTL Lautrec did eventually become a Marshal of France, but not until 1757 when he was 71 years old.) Accordingly, I gave Lautrec command of the army Maillebois led in 1742. That said, however, the course of history in this “update” is not otherwise changed. My feeling is that the replacement of Maillebois with Lautrec would not make a meaningful difference in the conduct of the relief army, which was was cut off from Prague by a strong Austrian army which held all the mountain passes. Perhaps a commander with exceptional ambition or genius, like Saxe or Belle-Isle, would have ignored the orders from Paris and sought battle or found some ingenious way of circumventing the Austrian defenses, but Lautrec - while competent - is not that man. His ascendance over Maillebois is more likely to have an impact later in the war, as Maillebois was subsequently a major French commander in the Italian theater. 1742 may end up being the last year in which the war remains pretty much identical to OTL.
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So the first butterfly begins flapping in Europe.

Thank you for the broader update; I had no idea about most of this detailed history.
Great update as always Carp!

I am curious to see how Lautrec fairs in the Italian theater ITTL compared to Maillebois' rather mixed performance in OTL.
If Austria ends up coming out of this better than OTL, given just how badly almost everyone tried to screw Maria Theresa over, then I for one would be pleased.

That said, losing a majority-German speaking province will inevitably hurt Austria in the long run, at least if they don't get a piece of Bavaria in the peace deal. This is particularly true as Silesia was a part of the Bohemian crown and thus would have worked to retain Bohemia-Moravia as part of Austria once the idea of nationalism arises.
The War of Austrian Succession. If it were a tv show, it would be a long-running soap opera where you wind up hating the entire cast by the time it's over.
As an aside, one of Theodore's cousins may have been in the Prussian army at this time. Friedrich Wilhelm Franz Heinrich von Neuhoff zu Pungelscheid, the son of Theodore's favorite uncle Franz Bernhard (who raised Theodore after his father's death), doesn't seem to have a detailed biography. One of my sources, however, claims that he was a Fähnrich (cadet/ensign) in the Quadt infantry regiment (No. 9), which was recruited from Prussian Westphalia. The problem is that von Quadt didn't take command of the regiment until 1747, while Friedrich was born in 1725; that would make him 22 by 1747, and from what I can tell a Fähnrich was at this time generally a teenager. It seems more likely he was a cadet under the previous colonel, von Leps. The 9th Infantry was on garrison duty in the First Silesian War and didn't participate in any of the campaigns described in the previous update, but they were deployed in the Second Silesian War and took part in the Battle of Kesselsdorf in December 1745. I have no information on what rank Friedrich ultimately attained, or whether he was at Kesselsdorf, but clearly he lived out the war.

Friedrich has not appeared in this story so far because he's too young - he was only 11 years old when Theodore became king - but we'll see more of him later. He's mostly notable because he's the genealogically senior Neuhoff. Most of the family property rests with Franz Bernhard, who historically died in 1747, and Friedrich appears to have been his only surviving son and heir. He's a plausible successor to the crown if Theodore has no children of his own, but presumably his suitability depends on what he ends up doing after the war ends. At this moment Rauschenburg, who has been fighting the French and Genoese for years, is a much more obvious choice. For those of you who want a Prussian officer for Corsica's king, however, Friedrich's your man.

IOTL Friedrich had no children and the Neuhoff-Pungelscheid line died with him, but since he lived until 1806 he presumably could have plenty of time to get that done in an alternate timeline.
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Except maybe Prussia who despite being an early villain is such a magnificent bastard that they generate a cult-following.

Meh, they weren't any worse than anyone else for the time. (What justification had Austria for Venice, or Galicia? What right did britaon have to Ceylon or Gibraltar?) And had some justification aside from power politics (which in the context is it's own justification) given Austrian duplicity over the Rhenish duchies. Of course we see in Prussia's actions the germ of Schlieffen and those also of Hitler....

I admit to being a Veneto-phile and Italophile as well as a Prussophile so Austria is my natural enemy...
The Republic in Retreat
The Republic in Retreat


A Corsican bandit firing his gun

The withdrawal of Colonel Pietro Paolo Crettler and his garrison from Corti had momentarily united a considerable number of Corsican rebel factions, ranging from local militia companies and bands of banditi to the highland fighters of Johann Friedrich von Neuhoff zu Rauschenburg and the Balagnese militiamen of Marquis Simone Fabiani and Nicolo Poletti. Their cooperation had been fruitful at Morosaglia, but one of the lubricants of their relationship had been the desire for plunder. Crettler’s men had emptied the arsenal of Corti and carried with them a considerable amount of war materiel, non-military supplies, and pack animals (which the Corsicans were even more eager to procure than muskets). Looting had begun before the Battle of Morosaglia on the 4th of March was even over, and as soon as the Genoese had fled the rebels descended on their baggage and utterly ignored Fabiani’s commands to pursue the foe. By the next day, the majority of the national force had dispersed so as to return home with their profits. Given that a considerable number of the rebel “soldiers” had been little more than professional bandits for months or even years, this behavior was hardly surprising, but intensely exasperating to officers like Fabiani who had hoped to coalesce the anti-Genoese Corsicans into some kind of capable fighting force.

Although the battlefield was thoroughly picked clean of muskets, boots, cloth, gunpowder, mules, provisions, and almost everything else, the artillery was another matter. The average Corsican militiamen had no use for a cannon nor the means to drag it back to his pieve, so the most consequential prize remained on the field. Corti’s arsenal had been greatly diminished from its height in late 1739, but the Corsicans nevertheless found 16 intact pieces which Crettler had been forced to leave behind. Although some of these were presently inoperable, as the Genoese had spiked them in their hasty retreat, Crettler does not seem to have had the opportunity to permanently cripple more than a handful. Shot and powder were also seized; the powder was admittedly wet, having suffered through a long march in a rainy spring, though that may very well have discouraged Crettler from simply blowing it all up.

The Balagnese militia were largest and best-organized element of the remaining forces at Morsaglia, and their leaders considered the artillery to be theirs by right of conquest. Their chief rival for control over the guns was Count Gianpietro Gaffori, who was solely concerned with the recapture of Corti, his hometown. The problem, as many of the rebels saw it, was Gaffori himself. Although his attitude was changing as a consequence of Morosaglia, Gaffori had stood apart from the inconciliabili and advocated negotiations over outright rebellion. While Fabiani could see the wisdom in laying siege to Corti, a key position in the interior and the former royalist capital, Poletti insisted that the guns should go with him, and the rough-necked inconciliabili - represented chiefly by Rauschenburg - objected to Gaffori being “rewarded” for his vacillation.

Despite his absence from the fight, however, Gaffori was quick to mobilize support. He benefited most of all from the relationship he had cultivated with Captain Clemente Paoli, who had recently returned from exile in Naples. Paoli was distrusted by Fabiani and Rauschenburg; although a brave soldier who had lost an eye at Ponte Novu, he had been named in the infamous Good Friday Plot (but had denied any knowledge of the conspiracy). What mattered most to Gaffori was that Paoli was a Morosaglia native, and enjoyed substantial influence among the militia of Rostino which had turned out in considerable numbers for the recent battle (as it was on their own territory).[A] As tensions rose, Fabiani feared that the situation might soon degenerate into shooting. Poletti threatened to abscond with the artillery at once, but he was stymied by the logistics of the matter; he had brought neither carts nor mules to Morosaglia, and although sufficient animals had been seized it would take him some time to repair carriages and find fodder sufficient to move the guns and all their equipment and ammunition overland through Caccia and into the Balagna.

Gaffori’s intention was not to wrest the artillery from the Balagnesi by force; he was merely playing for time. Most of the Balagnesi had only reluctantly come to support their Castagniccian brethren and only on the urging of Fabiani. Now that the battle was over and the Genoese had vacated the interior, they wanted nothing more than to go home. Their interest in fighting with the locals in their own territory over the fate of the arsenal was limited. Poletti, finding his support within his own ranks rapidly eroding, was ultimately pressed by Fabiani and Gaffori into making a deal. Four guns, two 6-pounders and two 12-pounders, were to be given to Poletti and his men along with a “fair” quantity of gunpowder and shot; the remaining dozen guns would remain with the men of Rostino, which meant they were ultimately in Gaffori's hands. Rauschenburg fumed, but without Poletti’s support he was heavily outnumbered, and his mountaineers were not particularly interested in artillery anyway. He quit Morosaglia in protest and took his band with him.

It was not until mid-March that Gaffori arrived at Corti with his new artillery. The garrison there was now fewer than a hundred strong, as many of the militia had deserted after the Genoese withdrawal. This was just as well for Gaffori, as he had been unable to spare the time to bring most of the guns into working order; many of them remained spiked and some of the field carriages were broken or destroyed. Evidently his battery at Corti amounted to just three effective guns. Nevertheless, Corti and its citadel were not well-fortified against modern artillery, and the sympathies of the citizenry were with Gaffori. On the 23rd, after a week long siege, the garrison surrendered the citadel to Gaffori on the condition they would be allowed to go free. The fall of Corti passed without much comment in Bastia and Genoa, as it was considered a foregone conclusion after the evacuation of the better part of the garrison under Colonel Crettler.

For the Genoese government, the events of February and March forced a thorough reconsideration of the republic’s strategy in Corsica. Less than two months after his death, it was clear that Spinola’s grand plan was a failure. Certainly outside interference had played a role in compromising it; the commissioner-general could neither have predicted nor prevented the landing of Colonna’s battalion at Porto Vecchio or Theodore’s return to the island, both of which were accomplished with the direct support of British naval and diplomatic officers. But blame cannot be laid entirely on the shoulders of Britain and the royalists. Spinola had never received the support he needed from the Senate; he had too few troops and faced constant shortages of food, money, clothing, and armaments. A desperate need to economize had further undermined Spinola’s position by forcing him to attempt to recuperate the government’s losses through the re-imposition of taxes before the country was truly pacified. And Spinola himself deserved at least some blame, as his light-handed treatment of the exiles, particularly early in his tenure, had only encouraged banditry which destabilized the county and consumed precious resources.


Domenico Canevaro, 156th Doge of Genoa, 1742-1744

There was now a general agreement among the instruments of the government - the Senate, the Deputation of Corsica, the commissioners, and the recently-elected doge Domenico Canevaro - that the Corsican rebellion was beyond the power of the republic to subdue. The idea that Genoa should wash its hands of the island once and for all, unthinkable in years past, was now openly discussed, and Genoese diplomats were alleged to have broached the subject with French and Spanish ministers. This door, however, was promptly slammed shut by Britain, the very country whose interference in Theodore’s favor had contributed to the present crisis. Upon learning of these diplomatic approaches from his country’s representatives in Genoa and Turin, Rear Admiral Thomas Mathews sent a message to the Senate informing them that the government of His Britannic Majesty could not countenance and would not allow the republic to transfer Corsica to any other power under any conditions whatsoever. Endowed with plenipotentiary authority and backed by the Mediterranean squadron, there was no doubt that Mathews spoke for his government and possessed the means to enforce his demands. Genoa caved immediately and swore they had no intention of alienating the island from their possession.

If the republic could neither restore order on Corsica nor dispose of it, the only option which remained was to invoke the assistance of another power. Indeed, over the course of the rebellion - which was now approaching its 14th year - only foreign occupation had ever managed to quell the uprising. Unfortunately for Genoa, the continental war which now raged in Germany and Italy meant that no such foreign force was available. Peace in Corsica would have to wait peace in Europe, which seemed lamentably distant. Until the resolution of the greater conflict, the Genoese leaders agreed that the most important objective was to preserve the state's control of its key citadels on the Corsican coast, specifically Bastia, Calvi, Ajaccio, and Bonifacio. As long as they preserved a “toehold” in Corsica, they reasoned, they would be able to invite in foreign troops to pacify the island as soon as the present war concluded. Such a strategy was attractive to the Senate because it was efficient and economical; the withdrawal of Genoese troops to key coastal bastions would maximize the effect of the garrisons (as they were presumed to be most formidable when behind Genoa’s best citadels) and minimize their cost (as there would be no inland supply lines to consider, and fewer troops would be needed to hold these strong positions).

Accordingly, even before Corti’s fall, Commissioner-General Gian Benedetto Speroni was overseeing a graduated withdrawal from Genoese-held positions throughout the island. In the Dila, a withdrawal to the citadels was for the most part already accomplished; aside from a bare handful of isolated coastal towers, no garrison force remained outside Bonifacio and Ajaccio. In the north, however, Genoese regular forces still occupied considerable territory outside the citadels, including the eastern coast as far south as Aleria; garrisoned villages on the eastern fringe of the Castagniccia like Borgo, Cervioni, and Vescovato; and several posts in the Nebbio and the Balagna. Outside the four citadels, only two other positions - Algajola and San Fiorenzo - were considered worth holding by Speroni because of their strategic value and proximity to the citadels. All else was evacuated - or in a few cases destroyed, like the tower of San Pellegrino which was blown to pieces to prevent it from falling into rebel hands.

The “toehold strategy” made strategic and economic sense, but for Genoa’s loyalists among the Corsican population it was an unmitigated disaster. The Genoese presence in the interior under Spinola’s governorship, tenuous and fraught as it was, had done a decent job of protecting the Republic’s clients. While there was certainly violence against the filogenovesi perpetrated by pro-national “bandits,” the Genoese forces launched retaliatory raids against such outlaws and discouraged attacks by taking harsh measures against the perpetrators. Now that the Genoese troops were gone, there were no longer consequences for those who wished to deprive the “vittoli” of their goods, their property, and their lives. Moreover, the absence of order among the disparate national groups meant that even those leaders who urged restraint had no ability to stop neighbor from turning on neighbor.

It is worth underlining that the Corsican Revolution was as much a civil war as a rebellion by the Corsicans against their Genoese masters. Not even the nationals themselves denied that, but as the eventual victors of the struggle they were entitled to write its story. Accordingly, Corsican history has tended to portray the Corsicans as natural patriots, and the filogenovesi as traitors in the pocket of the Genoese whose allegiance had been won by naked bribery. Yet the number of Corsican irregulars actually on the government’s payroll - called micheletti (“miquelets”) by the Genoese - was quite small; they numbered fewer than 150 at the time of the French and Austrian withdrawal in 1741, and despite Spinola’s efforts by the time of his death there were still fewer than 400 micheletti, not even a battalion, on the whole island. Some filogenovesi were indirectly tied to the Genoese government coffers, as the Genoese often gave stipends or commissions to loyal chiefs who had followings of their own, but it is unlikely such followers saw so much as a denaro from the Genoese exchequer. Still others had no fiscal relationship with the Republic whatsoever. The residents of Sartena, for instance, demanded only arms with which to defend themselves from the rebels. Many found themselves on the side of the republic because the Corsican Revolution exacerbated existing lines of clan rivalry and vendetta, turning factions which had feuded for generations into “nationals” and “loyalists” overnight.

To the nationals, however, they were all vittoli - traitors to the nation - and the time of vengeance was at hand. Even as the rebellion’s leaders bickered over who would take home Crettler’s artillery, a wave of violence began sweeping through the Corsican interior. The charge of “filogenovese” or “vittolo” - and to the nationals they meant the same thing - was levied against anyone suspected of siding with the Genoese, whether they were a micheletto or not, and the nominally “national” or “royalist” banditi and militia bands of the Castagniccia used the accusation as a license to rob and kill. Many accused vittoli were turned out of their homes and deprived of their land and livestock. Sometimes the nationals burned their houses down; sometimes they simply shot them. While the “honor” of the brigands generally dissuaded them from killing women and children, they had no aversion at all to making them into homeless widows and orphans.

Attempts on the part of the filogenovesi to fight back were sporadic and generally unsuccessful, and those that attempted it tended to have short careers. The most high-profile killing occurred on March 25th, when Antonio Francesco Gaffori, Count Gaffori’s brother - who had followed a different political trajectory than his brother, and was himself a micheletto - was ambushed in Casinca and shot dead by an anonymous brigand.[B] No other incident in the war so neatly demonstrates the internal dimension of the Corsican rebellion, which - sometimes literally - set brother against brother.

In short order, the filogenovesi faction in the interior completely collapsed. Certainly there remained those who disliked the nationals, and far more who simply wanted to be left in peace by both sides, but those Corsicans who had composed the organized and armed loyalist movement were either slaughtered or forced to withdraw to the last pockets of Genoese control along with the regular army. The only filogenovesi leader of note who was able to maintain his position without direct Genoese protection was Giacomo Filippo Martinetti of Fiumorbo, presumably by virtue of the relative isolation of his pieve and the unusual strength of his following (reported by the Genoese to be up to 300 armed men).

It was amid such chaos, and just a few days after the fall of Corti, that Theodore arrived on the scene. In some ways, the situation appeared promising: the Genoese had given up any pretense of controlling Corsica beyond their last few citadels (one of which was presently under siege in the south), their loyalists had been driven from the interior, fence-sitters like Gaffori and Luca d’Ornano seemed to have come over to the royalist faction, and substantial amounts of materiel - including vital artillery - had been seized at Morosaglia. At the same time, however, the rebel leadership was bitterly divided, support from the population was less than the exiles had anticipated, and it was an open question whether many of the “national” leaders and fighters would give renew their allegiance to the foreign king who had returned to their island. Before all of Corsica could be liberated from the Genoese, it seemed it would have to be liberated from division, mutual suspicion, narrow self-interest, and indifference.

Corsica in late March 1743
Green: Royalist controlled
Red: Genoese garrisoned
White: Non-aligned or contested

Timeline Notes
[A] IOTL, Clemente Paoli was a chief lieutenant of Gianpietro Gaffori. It was in the context of his struggle for power with the Matra clan after Gaffori’s assassination that he summoned his younger (and subsequently more famous) brother Pasquale to return from exile in Naples.
[B] Don’t feel too bad for Antonio. IOTL, he was part of the conspiracy to assassinate his own brother. ITTL, the shoe is on the other foot, although Gianpietro had no hand in Antonio’s death - as far as we know.