Judging from previous campaigns it'll look like the Austrians are about to be defeated and then the Gallispan army will fall apart and it's gains will be reversed.

Based on the actual history of the WotAS, this is not a bad guess.

The OTL 1745 campaign involved the Austro-Sardinians getting righteously stomped on by Maillebois and Gages, who forced Carlo Emanuele to agree to an armistice and occupied nearly all of Austrian Italy. Then, thanks to brainless French diplomacy and awful Spanish strategy, they utterly squandered this victory. In early 1746 the Austrians threw their full might into Italy (as they had accepted peace with Prussia in late 1745) and Carlo Emanuele promptly stabbed the Bourbons in the back, causing the unprepared, divided, and over-extended Gallispan host to collapse so quickly that they were driven out of Italy entirely. As a consequence, Genoa fell virtually without a fight, and for the first time in the war the Pragmatic forces invaded Provence (although this offensive was not successful and the Bourbons eventually pushed back into Liguria).

The main differences ITTL are that the Gallispan army is marginally smaller (IOTL Gages brought around 20k men to Genoa, while Campo Santo is bringing 7-8k who are rather beat up), and that Maillebois and Gages are replaced by Belle-Isle and Campo Santo. The effect of the leadership change is uncertain: Gages was a good general while Campo Santo was a comparatively undistinguished figure, so the Spanish have probably lost something there, but Belle-Isle was a commander of great ability and skill. On balance, I would say that the odds still favor the Bourbons in 1745, those odds just aren't quite as good as IOTL.
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Edit: And by the way, Napoleon's other grandfather Giovan Geronimo Ramolino was a Genoese officer at Ajaccio in 1743 (although since he was about 20 years old, presumably he couldn't have been very senior). He was at the siege ITTL, although I've made no determination as to his fate.
FWIG, he married Maria Letizia's mother later that year; have you decided if that much as still happened TTL?
FWIG, he married Maria Letizia's mother later that year; have you decided if that much as still happened TTL?

Not really, as without Napoleon Mr. Ramolino is just a minor Ajaccian nobleman of fairly slight consequence. As he was an officer at the time, it's very possible that he was evacuated with the rest of the Genoese garrison in June of 1743, which would make his marriage to Angela Maria Pietrasanta in October of 1743 rather difficult, assuming the marriage hasn't already been butterflied away somehow.

The families of Ramolino and Pietrasanta were very much loyalist houses. They had a long history of service to the Republic. The Ramolinos had produced a commissioner-general of Corsica in the 17th century, and the Pietrasanta boasted about how their ancestor had been involved in the death of Sampiero Corso, Corsica's proto-nationalist hero. That doesn't necessarily bode ill for them in the future - despite their loyalty, both families had no issues transferring their allegiance to France in 1769, and once independence is won there will probably be a lot of staunchly filogenovese families that abruptly "forget" their earlier allegiance. In the short term, however, they are unlikely to gain any great prominence or high position in the government, which is filled with naziunali (and mostly naziunali from the interior, at that).
It looks like everyone is primarily tied down by the egos and personal desires or ideals of various commanders and diplomats, causing a mess where almost every unit or at least army has it's own goals and agendas which don't really pay much attention to those of other units on their side.
It looks like everyone is primarily tied down by the egos and personal desires or ideals of various commanders and diplomats, causing a mess where almost every unit or at least army has it's own goals and agendas which don't really pay much attention to those of other units on their side.

Welcome to 18th century warfare.
What a lot of this war is reminding me of is Machiavelli's dictum to not piss someone off unless you then destroy them badly enough that they can't get revenge on you. A common type of bad play in Diplomacy (an awesome game for simulating intrigue and backstabbing) is a clumsy betrayal that nets one supply center (city basically) that then requires more resources to defend from the angry person you attacked then you gain from taking it.

It seems that this sort of thing is really endemic in the 18th century. Pretty much none of the main players get hit badly enough to prevent them taking revenge sooner or later so you get a constant cycle of betrayal and revenge going around and around.
The Embattled Allies
The Embattled Allies


Genoese troops at Bassignana

The Battle of Sarzana sent the Genoese into a sudden panic. They had anticipated that the Autro-Sardinian armies might attack them from the north, but an invasion from the direction of Massa and Lucca was totally unexpected. Quite without warning, more than ten thousand Austrian soldiers had appeared at Sarzana, defeated a Spanish army, and had seized a bridge over the Magra, which brought them within ten miles of Spezia. Spezia was no mere coastal village; it was the primary port of debarkation for soldiers, munitions, and provisions coming from Naples and the Papal States. The Genoese forces in the vicinity amounted to just over 1,000 Genoese and Corsican soldiers,[1] and Nicolò Alessandro Giovo, the commander of the garrison of Spezia, reported that the city’s fortifications were critically short of artillery.[A] No assistance could be expected from the battered Spanish-Neapolitan army of General Fernando de la Torre y Solís, Marqués de Campo Santo, which was quickly retreating past Spezia to reach Genoa as soon as possible.

The Austrian commander, FZM Ludwig Ferdinand, Graf von Schulenburg-Oeynhausen, was certainly aware of the strategic importance of Spezia. But his orders were to defend the Milanese, not to invade Genoa, and circumstances probably precluded him from seizing the opportunity even if Vienna had approved. He had no artillery, and to wait for a siege train to be brought over the mountains was quite impossible given that the grand Gallispan army was at that very moment marching eastwards through Liguria towards Genoa. British naval bombardment was a possible alternative, but they too would take time to summon, and given how thinly the Ligurian fleet was stretched it may not have been practicable for Vice-Admiral William Rowley to amass a sufficient force to bombard Spezia while also attempting to interfere with the ongoing Gallispan invasion. The possibility of attacking the fortress of Sarzanello, which overlooked and protected Sarzana, was dismissed for the same reasons. After pursuing the Spanish as far as was practicable, Schulenburg recalled his forward units and scorched the Magra valley before withdrawing, letting the Catalans and Croats plunder the local villages and setting fire to the outskirts of Sarzana. The Austrian army skirted around Sarzanello with no interference from the Genoese garrison and proceeded northwards into the Lunigiana, and thence into Parma by way of the Brattello pass.

The Bourbon host which marched into Liguria in May of 1745 was the largest army yet fielded in the Italian theater. The main Gallispan armies totaled approximately 68,000 men; Campo Santo led another six or seven thousand men, although they would not be available immediately, and the Genoese had agreed to contribute around 4,000 men to operations outside their territory, while the remainder of the Genoese army would be relegated to garrison duty within the Republic. In all, this force approached a paper strength of 80,000. Against this force were approximately 40,000 Sardinians and nearly 20,000 Austrians, although neither of these armies could commit their full strength in the field as they were obligated to garrison fortresses along the Ligurian frontier.

With a sizable advantage in numbers, arguably the greatest impediment to the Bourbon cause in Italy that year was not the enemy but the continued disunion between the French and Spanish. The French commander, Marshal Charles Louis Auguste Fouquet, duc de Belle-Isle, was a man of numerous talents; although he had been recently rehabilitated after a few years of political disfavor, he was both a skilled military leader and an influential diplomat whose policy in Germany had been principally responsible for leading France into war in the first place. He regarded his Spanish counterpart, General Jaime Miguel de Guzmán, Marquis de la Mina, with considerable disdain, and the feeling appears to have been mutual. The two men bickered over which one of them actually held supreme command, and in the end the question had to be referred to the Bourbon monarchs. The matter was resolved by King Louis XV, whose lingering guilt over not fully supporting his Spanish uncle made him determined to bow to Spanish wishes in the matter. He informed Belle-Isle that he was to be subordinate to the Infante Felipe de Borbón, the nominal leader of the Spanish army, and thus to la Mina, Felipe’s military advisor and the de facto supreme commander.

This formal arrangement did not resolve all the fundamental disagreements in strategy between the two commanders and their respective governments. Belle-Isle, alarmed by the Sardinian reconquest of Ceva and concerned by the prospect that the Sardinians would fall upon the Gallispan army as it passed through Liguria or its supply routes once the army was through, insisted that retaking Ceva had to be the allies’ first priority. He was backed up by his government, which - notwithstanding Belle-Isle’s subordination to the Spanish - had given the marshal clear instructions to lead the French army into the Milanese only once Piedmont was pacified and the army’s line of communication and supply through Liguria was secure. La Mina too had royal instructions, which differed very little from those he had acted upon in the previous year - to prioritize the Milanese and take this province at all costs. In Madrid, the failure of the previous year’s campaign was attributed to a general insufficiency of forces (which in turn was blamed upon Gages’ failure at Monterosi), not any deficiency in strategy. For the moment, the commanders were able to agree; their primary attack would be towards Tortona and Alessandria so as to divide the Sardinians from the Austrians, and then resources would be shifted towards Ceva and southern Piedmont. Yet Belle-Isle feared, not without reason, that once Tortona and Alessandria were taken the Spanish would abandon him in another headlong rush for Milan.

Belle-Isle’s concern about a Sardinian counterattack was sensible, but misplaced. Carlo Emanuele considered striking at the Gallispan army while on the move, but the mountains of Liguria proved too difficult and devoid of forage for the Sardinian army to operate in. The French and Spanish were left free to advance to Genoa save for the interdiction of the British fleet. This certainly slowed the pace of the invasion, and reports from John Birtles, the British consul at Genoa, indicated that the Spanish army suffered from shortages of fodder and artillery on account of the blockade, but naval pressure could only delay and degrade the invasion, not stop it outright. In July, the French and Spanish converged on southeastern Piedmont with an incredible concentration of force, and Sardinian fortresses fell one by one as the season progressed. By mid-September, Novi, Acqui, and Tortona had fallen. A strong Sardinian garrison remained at Alessandria, and the united Austro-Sardinian army awaited at the strong defensive point of Bassignana at the junction of the Po and Tanaro rivers.

Belle-Isle was confident that with his superior numbers he could continue to force back the Sardinians by siege and maneuver, but the Spanish were not having it. La Mina was being bombarded with orders from Elisabetta Farnese, the Queen of Spain, to stop wasting time and invade Lombardy. Belle-Isle insisted that to divide their forces in the face of a united enemy army would be to repeat the errors of 1744. To satisfy the Spanish, it was agreed that a diversionary force would be sent eastwards to capture Parma and then move into the Milanese. This would accomplish both political and military ends: It would take the pressure of la Mina by giving the Queen some satisfaction, and it would put pressure on Schulenburg to withdraw from Piedmont and protect the Milanese, for the Queen of Hungary was as desperate to keep Lombardy as the Queen of Spain was to have it. The Spanish would then double back, and together they would annihilate the isolated Sardinians.

This strategy worked as well as could be anticipated. A corps of 7,000 Spanish troops quickly captured Parma and Piacenza, then crossed the Po and took Pavia, which placed them between the Austrian army and Milan. Schulenburg had remained in place as Parma fell, but he could not allow the capital of the Milanese to be endangered, and decamped from Bassignana despite Carlo Emanuele’s pleas. As soon as he was gone, the French and Spanish began consolidating their forces for an attack on Bassignana, gathering some 44,000 men to attack a mere 30,000 Sardinians. As it happened, among those soldiers present at Bassignana on October 6th was a single battalion of Corsican infantrymen.[2]

In late March, Major Pietro Giovan Battaglini had arrived in Livorno with a battalion of Corsican troops (nominally 600 men). After obtaining provisions from the Livornesi authorities, the battalion proceeded to Florence, where they were met by Feldmarshall-Lieutenant Johann Ernst, Freiherr von Breitwitz, commander of Austrian forces in Tuscany. Breitwitz had something of a history with the Corsicans, or at least some of them - a few soldiers in Battaglini’s unit were former members of the “Free Battalion” which had deserted from Tuscan service. Vienna’s attitude towards the “malcontents” had since evolved, however, and in any case these were notionally Sardinian troops. The British ambassador in Florence, Horace Mann, was not impressed; he described the Corsicans to his friend Horace Walpole as “ill-dressed, ill-equipped, and ill-mannered,” which was at least somewhat accurate. Although “uniformed” by Corsican standards, their uniforms were rather mismatched and of generally poor quality. King Theodore, aware that Sardinia was generally in the practice of arming its mercenary regiments from its own magazines, had made only a perfunctory effort to equip the battalion; most had muskets, but these were mismatched and often old-fashioned pieces, many men lacked bayonets, and they had only a scant supply of ammunition. It was probably for the best that they narrowly missed involvement in the match between Schulenburg and Campo Santo, marching through Modena less than two weeks before the Spanish arrived on the scene.

Their service in Piedmont did not have an auspicious beginning. The unit suffered from poor morale, probably exacerbated by their shoddy equipment and uniforms (evidently many of their boots were completely worn out by the time they reached Piedmont), and got in brawls with other soldiers. In one incident at Asti, where the Corsicans were garrisoned, a Corsican and a Croat got into an argument with ended in both of them drawing their knives. The Corsican was killed, and the dead man’s company started a riot which injured 14 people, some seriously.[3] When the Sardinian authorities jailed some of those responsible, Battaglini threatened to desert with the entire battalion, complaining that Sardinia’s other mercenary regiments (particularly the Swiss) were permitted to administer their own justice. Whether or not Battaglini’s demands were met is uncertain, but he seems to have backed off from his threats after the Sardinians released their Corsican prisoners. Nevertheless, the access of the Corsicans to weapons was restricted thereafter despite their status as regular soldiers, and 41 Corsicans deserted the unit within the first few months of service.

Despite these problems, the Corsicans were not as foreign to military instruction as the Sardinian officers had feared, and morale appeared to improve with the acquisition of new boots and muskets (and the removal of the Croats, who returned to Lombardy). Carlo Emanuele was advised that, while the Corsicans were probably unreliable soldiers, they would probably be serviceable as a garrison unit which could free up a more dependable Piedmontese battalion for front-line use.

Had Sardinia’s military commitments remained limited, this may have been how they spent the entirety of the war. The Gallispan thrust towards Tortona, however, required the mobilization of all available units. Nearly three quarters of the kingdom’s soldiers were mustered in the vicinity of Bassignana, including the Waldensian militias of the Piedmontese Alps who had even less instruction in proper line warfare than the Corsicans. In September, the Corsicans were moved to Valenza, and subsequently to the army encampment at Bassignana. As fate would have it, the first continental engagement of the Corsican Army would be no mere skirmish, but the largest battle on Italian soil in the entire war.

Taking advantage of the low water level of the Tanaro, the Gallispan army crossed the river under cover of their artillery and mounted an attack against Bassignana on the 6th of October. Belle-Isle had done a marvelous job of preparing the attack and bringing his army across the river, but in the battle itself the Bourbons relied upon the weight of their numbers to break the Sardinian lines. Carlo Emanuele’s army certainly proved itself capable; the infantry mounted a stalwart and unflinching defense against repeated attacks, and his cavalry performed admirably in their task to relieve the pressure on the infantry by a constant harassment of the Gallispan lines. The Bourbon numerical superiority, however, could not be long denied, and soon the Sardinians were buckling.

When Carlo Emanuele realized that an enemy assault was imminent, he had sent an urgent message to Schulenburg pleading for him to return. For the moment disregarding the danger to Milan, the Austrian marshal promptly turned around and raced back towards Bassignana with all possible haste. The river Po separated Schulenburg from Bassignana, but the Spanish - who made up the right flank of the Gallispan army - had failed to seize and destroy the single bridge over the river. That afternoon, as the Sardinians were nearly spent, Schulenburg’s advance units seized the crossing. The main body of his force was still too far away to make any decisive impact upon the battle, but the arrival of several squadrons of Austrian dragoons and hussars forced the Spanish to break off their attack against the Sardinians and reposition themselves to deal with this new threat from the north. This had a cascading effect, for with the pressure relieved on his left flank, Carlo Emanuele reinforced the rest of his line and drove the French back with a counterattack. The Spanish eventually succeeded in repelling the Austrians and captured the bridge over the Po, but in the waning hours of daylight Carlo Emanuele was able to extricate his army from the field in good order while his cavalry ran interference. His opponents were too disorganized to launch a serious pursuit in the days ahead.

Bassignana was a Bourbon victory. They had won in a technical sense by holding the field, and they had gained a strategic victory by dividing the Sardinian and Austrian armies. Although they would remain in communication by way of a bridge erected further up the Po, thereafter the Sardinians withdrew into Piedmont and the Austrians fell back upon the Milanese. The sudden reappearance of the Austrians, however, probably turned what could well have been a crushing Bourbon victory into a marginal one. Although the main body of the Austrian army arrived too late to be of assistance, the attack over the bridge by the Austrian advance columns and the failure of the Spanish to take control of the crossing in time gave Carlo Emanuele an opening in which to disengage. The Sardinians suffered more casualties than their enemies (about 2,300 Sardinians and perhaps 400 Austrians compared to 2,000 Gallispani), but only because of captured stragglers; Belle-Isle had more dead.[B]

Unfortunately, information about the order of battle at Bassignana is too limited for us to know precisely what the involvement of the Corsican battalion was. Although in theory a reserve unit, the Sardinians were stretched too thin to keep many battalions in reserve, and even the militiamen saw combat. Battaglini reported 11 dead, 15 wounded, and 10 missing from his unit, a figure which (assuming a battalion strength of 550) is only slightly less than the average casualty rate of the army. The Corsicans won no special honors or distinctions on that day, yet among such esteemed company as the Sardinian army, one of Europe’s more efficient and disciplined military establishments, being unremarkable was itself something of an accomplishment. Their brigade commander, General Bricherasso, offered a terse but positive assessment after the battle: “As for the Corsicans, they fought, and did not run.”

The Bourbon cause was not everywhere successful. A French attack against Ceva failed owing to the lack of artillery (the Spanish had refused to let any of the heavy artillery be diverted there) and the effect of raiding by Piedmontese irregulars, while an attempt by 9,000 French and Spanish troops under Lieutenant-General Jean-Baptiste François Desmarets, Marquis de Maillebois to open a “back door” into Piedmont by attacking from the Dauphiné towards Exilles was likewise rebuffed. The victory at Bassignana, however, easily overshadowed these minor frustrations. Belle-Isle now thought it quite plausible that he could gain enough territory in eastern Piedmont and Montferrat to supply his army over the winter, which would free him from the troublesome Ligurian supply route and thus render the capture of Ceva far less important. These conquests were accomplished even without the assistance of the Spanish, who - as Belle-Isle had feared - decamped and marched for the Milanese almost as soon as the battle was over.

Despite Belle-Isle’s misgivings, the disjunction of the Spanish and French armies did not lead to any immediate negative consequences. Reinforced with soldiers redirected from Ceva and a number of Genoese battalions, the French retained the initiative in Piedmont and lay siege to Alessandria, while the Sardinians withdrew to defensive positions around Turin. The Spanish were even more successful. Schulenburg was forced to abandon Milan and the rest of the Milanese without a fight. While retreating, he was relieved by Feldmarschall Josef Wenzel Lorenz, Fürst von Liechtenstein, who had been sent by Vienna to take over as theater commander. As Vienna had not sent any more reinforcements, however, Liechtenstein was likewise compelled to retreat. He divided the Austrian army, personally leading one corps north to Novara where he would assist the Sardinians in their defense, while Schulenburg led a second corps east over the Oglio to protect whatever part of Austrian Lombardy they might yet be able to hold. By the time the armies went into winter quarters, only the Duchy of Mantua remained to them, while the Spanish seized all of Parma and the Milanese. With great fanfare and celebration, Prince Felipe was crowned as King of Lombardy in Milan, despite the fact that Milan’s citadel remained in the hands of an isolated Austrian garrison.


Prince Felipe de Borbón in 1745

There was jubilation in Madrid, where it was firmly believed that the 1746 campaign season would see the final expulsion of the Habsburgs - only a mopping-up operation, really - and the full establishment of a northern Italian kingdom which between itself and its brother-kingdom of Naples would secure Bourbon power in Italy once and for all. The long struggle of King Felipe V of Spain to secure his dynasty’s rightful patrimony as heirs of the Spanish Habsburgs, begun nearly half a century ago, would finally be complete. Yet the dysfunctional relationship between the French and Spanish had not been healed by victory - if anything, it had grown worse - and the wisdom of dividing their forces would be tested in the opening weeks of 1746 by Maximilian Ulysses, Graf von Browne, who with 30,000 men at his back would descend on Italy like a lightning bolt.

[1] Genoa still retained two Corsican infantry regiments with a nominal combined strength of 2,000 men, although records suggest that many of the Corsican companies were significantly under-strength at this time owing to obvious problems with recruitment.
[2] Three Genoese infantry battalions also took part in this battle. Another two battalions were part of the “diversionary force” which invaded Parma and the Milanese to draw off Schulenburg.
[3] The Croats were not actually Sardinian soldiers, but Austrian units on loan to Sardinia. For whatever reason, the Corsicans and Croats seem to have not gotten along well at Asti. It probably did not help that the Corsicans referred to them as “Turks,” a term which they applied rather indiscriminately to all southeastern Europeans, including the Corsican Greeks.

Timeline Notes
[A] The Genoese feared an attack by sea against Spezia or other ports, which was not entirely unwarranted - the British indeed considered attacking Spezia to capture and use it as a naval base, but ultimately the idea was scrapped as impractical. They were desperately short on artillery, however, and scraped together whatever guns they could find to bolster the defenses. Spezia was reinforced, but apparently Spezia’s guns came courtesy of the wreck of the San Isodoro, the Spanish ship which burned and sank in the Gulf of Ajaccio. ITTL, of course, the Corsican rebels took Ajaccio and reclaimed the San Isodoro’s guns, and as a consequence the Genoese are even more hard up for cannon than they were IOTL.
[B] The Battle of Bassignana was a real battle which took place in 1745, albeit slightly earlier in the year than OTL. Despite the changed history of the war thus far, I consider a confrontation at Bassignana to be extremely likely on account of the strategic importance of the position; there's really no better place for the Sardinians to defend against the Gallispan attack. The key difference is that IOTL the Spanish succeeded in seizing and destroying the bridge over the Po just before the Austrian advance columns could reach it. ITTL, the smaller numbers of Spanish troops and the absence of the very competent General Gages allows the Austrians to gain the bridge first and interfere with the Spanish attack. Nevertheless, the overall result is not much different from OTL: historically, the Gallispan army wore down the Sardinians and eventually broke their center, but Carlo Emanuele was nevertheless able to retreat with most of his army intact, losing some 2,500 men compared to 1,000 Gallispani. ITTL, Carlo Emanuele is still forced to withdraw, but his center holds and he is able to disengage more cleanly after the Spanish pull back and the French are fought to a standstill. The battle IOTL lasts longer and thus the Sardinians suffer nearly as many casualties as OTL, but the Gallispani pay a higher cost for their victory. In the aftermath, Schulenburg holds somewhat more territory than the Austrians did at the end of 1745, but not so much as to be really consequential.
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I really can't offer anything like any suggestions, but I really just wanted to say that this is probably one of my favorite timelines I have seen, and this is a topic I normally have little interest in. Thank you!
One wonders how much the French and Spanish could accomplish if they just presented a unified front with mutual understanding of their objectives.

Comes across like they would already have won in Italy at the very least, possibly just needing to guard against new Austrian forces and finish up with Savoy
One wonders how much the French and Spanish could accomplish if they just presented a unified front with mutual understanding of their objectives.

Comes across like they would already have won in Italy at the very least, possibly just needing to guard against new Austrian forces and finish up with Savoy

OTL Bassignana could have been better executed - some of the French brigade commanders failed to pursue the enemy, letting the Sardinians off easy - but it achieved the objective of dividing the enemy armies. Having divided the Austrians and Sardinians, however, it was absolutely crucial to focus on Sardinia and knock them out of the war. Austria can’t be “knocked out;” Lombardy is only a periphery for them, and once the Second Silesian War ended at the end of 1745 they could dump all their veteran armies from the Silesian/Saxon theater into Italy. But Sardinia is another matter - Turin is but a short march from Bassignana. Only with Sardinia well and permanently out of the war could the Bourbons unite and deal with the Austrians without being caught between two fires.

The Spanish - more specifically, the Queen of Spain - refused to see this. The Queen wrote her generals incessantly demanding that they march on Parma and Milan, and she was capable and willing to sack generals and ruin their careers if they didn’t obey. Accordingly, the Spanish monopolized all the artillery at Tortona, which rendered the French siege of Ceva impossible. They ran to Lombardy at the soonest opportunity and spread out across it, such that when Browne arrived the Spanish army was split into many small garrisons in winter quarters scattered across the land. Don Felipe, having been enthroned at Milan, refused to leave even as the Spanish position was falling apart, and another general refused to leave Parma because he didn’t want to incur the wrath of the Queen for abandoning her hometown.

But as bad as the Spanish leadership was, the blame does not belong to them alone, because d’Argenson - who liked Sardinia better than Spain - did just as much damage to the cause with his amateurish and delusional diplomacy, letting the Sardinians resupply besieged Alessandria as proof of his “good will” and preventing the French army from continuing their offensive against Turin in early 1746. D'Argenson was a very different person than Elisabeth Farnese, and they were driven by different things - pride and self-aggrandizement for Elisabeth, arrogance and naive idealism for d'Argenson - but they were both political leaders who demonstrated a complete ignorance of military strategy and a refusal to admit that anyone else knew better than they did. Together, they squandered a great deal of the advantage the Bourbons possessed in numbers and leadership.

So really, for all the evident dysfunction, 1745 is far from the nadir of Bourbon confusion and incompetence. OTL 1746 gets much, much dumber.
I do like politics being driven so much by pride and stupidity, reminds me of Now Blooms the Tudor Rose which rode that horse into some great places.
The Guns of Albion
The Guns of Albion


The Citadel of Calvi

The success of the Gallispan campaign had not only divided the Austrians and Sardinians from one another on land, but had separated them from the third Pragmatic Ally, Britain, at sea. Vice-Admiral William Rowley and his fleet had considerably delayed the arrival of the invading force and attenuated their flow of supplies, but it had not been enough to stop their advance entirely. Even after the Gallispan army moved inland, the blockade still had some use - British control of the sea interfered with Bourbon communications, and Campo Santo’s artillery was still languishing at Orbetello by the start of the winter of 1745. As shore bombardment could no longer reach the enemy army, however, Rowley attempted to find other ways to render service to the war effort with the firepower at his disposal.

France and Spain could obviously not be intimidated by the British Navy, only inconvenienced. Genoa, however, was another matter. The Republic’s military and logistical support was of key importance to the Bourbon invasion, and her territory was practically all littoral - there was practically no city of note which Rowley’s guns could not reach. The threat of catastrophic bombardment had sufficed to knock Naples out of the war a few years earlier, which suggested that a similar threat against Genoa and her major cities might accomplish the same object. Rowley’s instinct was to attack Spezia, not only to shock the Genoese and deny the use of this important harbor to the Bourbon war machine, but with the intent to seize and use it as a base for his own fleet’s operations. His captains, however, almost universally concluded that it was impractical; the strength of the coastal batteries was not well known and there were few ground forces available to be commandeered for such an operation. Instead, Rowley led his fleet in a demonstration against various Genoese cities - Genoa, Finale, and San Remo - but strong shore batteries prevented the British from landing a decisive blow except at San Remo, which had already been shelled by the fleet once before and was now ruined again just for good measure. Strategically, it was a pointless exercise, which accomplished only the seizure of a few supply boats and the immiseration of the local population. Genoa would not be driven out of the war by such trifling attacks.[1]

The combination of the Bourbon victory in Lombardy, the creeping approach of rough winter seas (beginning in earnest in November), and the obvious failure of Rowley’s Ligurian tour to make any impression suggested that the time was right for the British fleet to withdraw to a safe harbor. As the Bourbon conquests had deprived the British of their old base at Villefranche, succor would have to be found elsewhere. The British installations of Gibraltar and Port Mahon were too distant from the Riviera, and the port of Livorno was judged to be insufficient in size and depth (as well as the fact that its neutrality put a damper on British operations). The most suitable friendly harbor remaining was the Bay of Oristano in western Sardinia, which was sheltered, well-protected, and controlled by an ally.

The conquest of Bastia by the Corsican “malcontents,” however, had opened up a new possibility - not Bastia, which had no harbor to speak of, but San Fiorenzo. The Bay of San Fiorenzo was sheltered and well-placed to continue activity on the Riviera, as well as being 200 miles closer to Liguria than Oristano. San Fiorenzo itself was a village of trivial size, but local infrastructure was less important to the British than satisfactory geography and the availability of local provisions which could take pressure off the victuallers. Naval stores could always be brought in from Port Mahon and Livorno. Although Medley had no experience with the Corsicans personally, the incident at Bastia with Captain Charles Watson and his little squadron suggested that the rebels were cooperative, and the fleet had already met with some success in acquiring provisions from the malcontents at Isola Rossa. If the local conditions were not favorable, there was still time enough in the season to make sail for Oristano. On October 6th, with 15 warships and the admiral’s flag hoisted above the 90-gun Marlborough,[2] the British sailed into the Bay of San Fiorenzo.

Word of the British arrival was quick to reach King Theodore, then at Corti. Understandably, the king wanted to travel to San Fiorenzo himself; he spoke fluent English and had friends in the British navy and government. Given that interior Corsica had been rocked by a rebellion just a few months before, however, his relocation was strongly opposed by Count Gianpietro Gaffori and other leaders who had convinced him to abandon Venzolasca for Corti. Eventually Theodore agreed to leave the British presence in the hands of a deputy, and chose his “nephew” Matthias von Drost, who had recently returned from another supply run to Livorno. The only problem was that von Drost did not speak English; indeed, almost no Corsicans did. To address this deficiency, Theodore appointed the 20 year old Pasquale Paoli, recently returned from Naples, as Drost’s secretary. Paoli had been studying at the Royal Academy of Artillery in Naples since late 1744, but rampant desertion and questions regarding the loyalty of the Neapolitan Regiment Real Corsica had prompted the unit’s dissolution by Don Carlos of Naples and Paoli’s return. Theodore had furnished him with a lieutenant’s commission in the royal battalion of artillery, but Paoli had also learned a fair amount of English from the Irish expatriate officers he had worked and studied with at Naples, which recommended him as Drost’s assistant and translator.

Theodore undoubtedly wanted some sort of treaty that would give official recognition to his rule, but Rowley was too well informed of his own government’s position to oblige him. Officially, the admiral told Drost, he was occupying hostile (that is, Genoese) territory, but informally he expressed his willingness to cooperate with the “malcontents” so long as they accepted his requirements. San Fiorenzo itself, as well as all the batteries and watchtowers along the perimeter of the bay from Point Cavallata to the Tower of Vecchiaja, would be vacated by the naziunali and ceded to the British for the duration of the fleet’s stay. British sailors and marines would control these defenses and would not be subject to any sort of Corsican supervision or authority. Drost would serve as a liaison between the fleet and the “malcontents,” coordinating the procurement of provisions and naval stores (chiefly timber and pitch) from the interior, which would be purchased by the fleet at “reasonable rates.” In practice, however, because he had a better command of English and more extensive contacts in the Diqua, Drost’s young secretary Pasquale would shoulder much of this responsibility.

Despite Rowley’s pretense of keeping the Corsicans at arm’s length, the cooperation between the “occupiers” and the “malcontents” quickly grew closer. It was sensible for the British to make use of Corsican labor to help repair and rearm the bay’s defenses, for many of the towers and batteries had suffered from neglect and over the years of war had been stripped of their armaments by either the rebels or the Genoese. British midshipmen supervised Corsican work teams moving building materials and artillery to these positions, and in November a company of Corsican royal infantry was sent from Venzolasca to San Fiorenzo to help man watchtowers and guard posts under the overall command of British officers.

British interests on Corsica were not restricted to San Fiorenzo. Southern Secretary Thomas Pelham-Holles, Duke of Newcastle was already sympathetic to the Corsican struggle, informed as he was by the generally pro-Corsican reports from his diplomats Arthur Villettes and Horace Mann, but he had recently taken a special interest in reports regarding the enemy presence at Calvi and the arrival of Bourbon forces there. In fact the Franco-Spanish force at Calvi, which was less than a battalion, was probably intended merely as a way to meet treaty obligations to Genoa and stiffen the garrison against possible rebel attacks, but the British interpreted the presence of this force as a prelude to something more ambitious and sinister - perhaps the Bourbon powers intended to use Calvi as a staging point for a Genoese reconquest of Bastia and San Fiorenzo. The recapture of these presidii would not only eject the British from their present harbor, forcing them 200 miles to the south, but would deny the British fleet access to provisions from Isola Rossa and would allow Bastia to resume its role as a safe harbor for Genoese and Spanish shipping.

Thus, despite Rowley’s own misgivings about the project - and to Drost’s considerable surprise - the admiral soon began questioning Drost as to the military resources the malcontents could mobilize for a combined land and sea assault on Calvi, the strongest fortress in northern Corsica. Drost could not give him hard numbers, but most of the first battalion of regular infantry had been moved to Isola Rossa along with their heavy artillery and could be joined by hundreds of Balagnese militia. Any attack on Calvi, however, would have to be preceded by the capture of Algajola, which had been loosely invested by Marquis Simone Fabiani and his loyalists but remained firmly in Genoese hands. Rowley agreed, and preparations began immediately. The British sent ships to Livorno to pick up additional munitions and stores, while the Corsicans amassed troops, provisions, ammunition, and pack animals at Isola Rossa.

Rowley, however, would not remain to witness the offensive. In fact the Admiralty had sacked him back in July, presumably out of dissatisfaction with his performance, and had ordered him to return to England and relinquish command to his second, Vice-Admiral Henry Medley, who at present was patrolling off Cadiz. Those orders, however, did not reach Rowley until October, and even then the handover was not to become official until January of 1746. In late October, in preparation for this changing of the guard, Medley left Corsica for Gibraltar along with several ships. The responsibility for the Algajola-Calvi expedition was handed off to George Townshend, captain of the Bedford and son of the late politician Charles Townshend, Viscount Townshend.[3]

The capture of Algajola proved a deceptively simple first step. Although the citadel of Algajola was a fairly modern fortification, Commissioner-General Stefano de Mari knew that Calvi was a far stronger defensive point and had accordingly concentrated most of his forces, artillery, and stores there rather than dividing his strength between two bastions. Algajola was left with only about a hundred soldiers in the garrison, most of whom were provincial infantry, not regulars. Upon the arrival of Townshend’s fleet the citadel opened fire with its guns, but in well under an hour they were silenced by a withering British reply of shot and shell. The garrison struck its colors and surrendered, although not before several dozen soldiers under Captain Gregorio Graziani were able to slip out of the town and through the Corsican cordon, eventually escaping to Calvi. The town was turned over to Fabiani’s men, and all the Balagna now lay in royalist hands.


The Bay of Calvi

The attack on Calvi would pose a much greater challenge. Although of medieval origins, the citadel had been largely redesigned and rebuilt in the 17th century. Unlike most of the old Genoese coastal watchtowers built before the age of gunpowder warfare, Calvi’s citadel was a modern bastion fortress atop a rocky headland with thick, sloping walls and a considerable battery of somewhat antiquated yet still powerful artillery. It also appeared to be completely invulnerable to a landward attack. The only feasible overland approach to the town was along the bay to the east, which passed through marshy and difficult ground and could be raked by fire from a handful of armed feluccas. These ships would be swiftly blown out of the water in any confrontation with Townshend’s fleet, but could easily sit just offshore in the bay and bombard the coast at their leisure whilst being protected from the British fleet by the citadel’s guns. Even if an attack was somehow pressed along the waterfront and the town itself was captured, the only access to the citadel was by a single drawbridge which could be raked by grapeshot from multiple angles.

Bringing artillery to bear on Calvi from the sea was far easier, and Captain Townshend certainly did have artillery. His fleet now consisted of eight ships of the line - three 70-gun ships (Bedford, Berwick, Essex), two 60-gun ships (Dunkirk, Jersey), and three 50-gun ships (Antelope, Chatham, Leopard) - as well as four bomb vessels (Carcass, Firedrake, Lightning, Terrible) each equipped with one 10” and one 13” mortar firing explosive shells.[4] All of the ships of the line carried 24-pounders on their lower decks with the exception of the Chatham and Antelope, whose lower decks could only boast 18-pounders. Yet although his fleet was bristling with firepower, it was also fragile compared to Calvi’s citadel. Some of the Genoese guns had a shot weight of as much as 42 British pounds, and the citadel had furnaces to produce red-hot shot. If a British ship were disabled within effective range of the citadel, it would be in deadly peril.

Artillery at Calvi, September 1745 (47 guns total)
Two 60 pdr cannons*
Two 55 pdr cannons
One 52 pdr cannon
Four 45 pdr petrieri**
Two 42 pdr petrieri
Eight 40 pdr petrieri
Four 40 pdr cannons
One 28 pdr demi-cannon
One 26 pdr demi-cannon
One 30 pdr culverin
One 20 pdr demi-culverin
One 16 pdr quarter-cannon
Two 15 pdr quarter-cannons
One 12 pdr quarter-cannon
Two 10 pdr sakers
Two 9 pdr sakers
Three 8 pdr sakers
Two 6 pdr falcons
Two 5 pdr falcons
Two 4 pdr falcons
One 2½ pdr falconet
Two 2 pdr falconets

*One Genoese pound equaled approximately 0.7 British pounds.
**A “petriere” was an artillery piece which was shorter than a normal cannon and had a powder chamber much narrower than the outer part of the bore which held the ball. The lesser powder charge allowed the metal to be cast more thinly than in a normal cannon, which combined with the piece’s shorter length made it much lighter than its shot weight would suggest. They typically fired stone balls (rather than iron) at a high trajectory.

Although Rowley had envisioned a combined land and sea attack against Calvi, Townshend did not think it feasible; the land approach was too dangerous and the Corsican soldiers appeared too ramshackle and disorganized to deal with it. He decided instead to overawe the citadel with naval power alone. On the morning of November 8th he offered de Mari terms for the citadel’s surrender, which were relatively generous - all the defending forces would be repatriated to Villefranche or any other Ligurian port with no other conditions. De Mari’s response was succinct: “Civitas Calvi Semper Fidelis,” the city's motto. Shortly thereafter, Townshend ordered the attack to begin.

The fleet engaged in a furious shootout with the Genoese gunners, with shot and shell in the thousands flying between the fleet and the citadel. The British certainly scored hits; several Genoese guns were dismounted, one of the walls of the east-facing Malfetano bastion suffered a partial collapse, and exploding mortar shells inflicted serious damage on the barracks, churches, storehouses, and other buildings within the citadel walls. One shell even penetrated one of the auxiliary magazines, although fortunately for the garrison it turned out to be a dud. Yet none of this damage was critical, and the British paid a substantial price for inflicting it. Several of his ships suffered serious damage, mainly to their upper decks and rigging. The Jersey caught fire and was narrowly saved, while the Leopard was dismasted and so badly thrashed by Genoese fire that it had to be towed out of range. After two hours of fighting, Townshend pulled back to avoid any more serious losses.

The day prior to the bombardment, Theodore had arrived on the scene. He had reluctantly accepted his followers’ demands that he remain at Corti rather than run off to greet the British at San Fiorenzo, but they could not keep him from Calvi. He considered this joint attack to be the pivotal moment of the nascent Anglo-Corsican alliance, and believed that failure might well doom not only the prospect of cooperation with the English but the entire rebellion. Townshend consented to meet him on the Bedford the day after the bombardment. The captain was highly reluctant to place any trust in the Corsicans, who he saw as little more than rabble, but recent events had forced him to concede that the British would not be able to take Calvi alone. Theodore promised him all possible assistance, including at least a thousand armed men, but the king also needed help; supplies and ammunition were critical, and he had few men with any experience in artillery or siegecraft. Townshend replied that he needed to depart immediately to repair and resupply his ships, but agreed to maintain a small force at the Bay of Calvi under the command of Sir Richard Hughes consisting of the Essex, the Antelope, and the heavy frigate Roebuck to keep Calvi under blockade. A small force of sailors and marines made landfall to assist the Corsicans, who at the moment fielded a battalion of regulars under Lt. Col. Milanino Lusinchi, most of the royal artillery battalion (such as it was), and several hundred Balagnese militiamen.

On paper at least, the Genoese garrison was rather more formidable. Most of de Mari’s men were Genoese regulars, consisting of the entire Geraldini regiment and two companies of the Franceschi regiment under the overall military command of Colonel Patrizio Geraldini (actually “Patrick Fitzgerald”), an Irish officer in Genoese service. Yet although they were regulars, this force had with morale issues - British interdiction had made the delivery of their salaries rather spotty, and the Franceschi companies had actually been sent to Corsica as a punitive measure after their regiment had mutinied in Liguria. Supporting these regulars was a smattering of local troops and specialists: A squadron of Calvesi dragoons (gendarmes recruited from the Genoese citizenry), the remainder of Captain Graziani’s Algajolesi company, a few dozen micheletti (salaried Corsican militiamen), and 40 bombardieri (semi-professional artillerymen).

Garrison of Calvi, November 1745

Genoese Forces (Col. Geraldini): 782 men
Geraldini Infantry, 412 men
Franceschi Infantry, 221 men
Calvesi Squadron of Dragoons, 46 men
Algajolesi Provincial Infantry, 31 men
Bombardieri, 40 men
Micheletti, 32 men

Allied Forces (Lt. Col. de Varignon): 292 men
Provence Infantry (French), 215 men
Milán Infantry (Spanish), 77 men​

Also present was a small but effective “Gallispan” contingent consisting of roughly a half-battalion of French infantry from the Régiment de Provence and a single fusilier company of Spanish infantry from the Regimiento de Milán.[5] The commander of this force was Lieutenant Colonel de Varignon of the Régiment de Provence. Varignon had not been furnished with artillery or gunners, although he did have a captain of the French Royal Engineers who had surveyed the defenses and supervised repairs after the British bombardment. Varignon was a brave soldier in the best tradition of French officers, but he had a low opinion of his Genoese counterparts and did not get along well with Geraldini, whom he feuded with over the question of who ought to have overall command.

In Townshend’s absence, the Corsicans and their British “advisors” reconnoitered the environs of Calvi, seeking the best route to approach the citadel by land. Unfortunately, circumventing the coastal route was only possible by hauling the heavy guns up some very formidable heights, which were also patrolled by Genoese and French sentries and held by a redoubt just north of Capo Murione which was furnished with a few light cannon. Corsican probes against these defenses were not successful, and succeeded only in strengthening the enemy presence. A different approach was needed, and would soon reveal itself.

In the months leading up to the bombardment, Lt. Col. de Varignon had made every effort to survey the defensive works and the surrounding terrain. The rocky shore southwest of the city seemed very formidable indeed, and only one tiny beach could be found there. Known as “Port Agro” by the locals, it was a narrow ravine which descended to the sea between the stony cliffs of two forbidding headlands. At its narrowest, this inlet was scarcely a hundred feet wide. Submerged rocks blocked access to the beach, and the coast was frequently struck by strong winds which caused high surges and threatened to drive any nearby ship into the rocks. Upon viewing the locale, Varignon’s engineer declared that a landing there would be quite impossible. As a consequence, no sentries were posted in the area, and the threat of an attack from the southwest was assumed to be nonexistent.


The inlet of Port Agro

Theodore’s Corsican biographers claimed that the king discovered the cove himself, further proof of his “military genius;” it seems more likely that the British spotted it as they were patrolling off the peninsula. In either case, Hughes was skeptical at first, but after closer inspection in a longboat the captain determined that a landing at Port Agro was not impossible, just very difficult. The British ships could not go anywhere near this dangerous lee shore, but longboats towed by small rowing craft could potentially reach the inlet. No action would be taken in this direction until Townshend’s return, but preparations continued at Algajola. Further aid arrived from an unexpected source: several cargo ships, escorted by armed galleys of the tiny Sardinian navy, arrived from Sardinia carrying salt, grain, and gunpowder under the orders of Leopoldo del Carretto di Gorzegno, the Savoyard foreign minister, who intended to support the Anglo-Corsican operations on Corsica in any way he could. This was in no way prejudicial to the war in Lombardy, as there was no plausible way for these supplies to reach Piedmont (now completely encircled by Bourbon armies) from the isle of Sardinia anyway. Shipments of provisions and ammunition from Sardinia would continue throughout the siege, and while the quantities were not enormous they played an important role in keeping the Corsican army in action.

Upon his return with those ships that were in fighting shape, Townshend approved the Port Agro plan and the British fleet began taking on guns, supplies, and soldiers at Algajola. Only one longboat at a time could make the trip, and the danger was real; early on a British rowboat struck a submerged rock and was wrecked, killing four sailors. Nevertheless, the British took advantage of every hour of daylight to continue ferrying equipment to the magazine which was slowly building on the beach of Port Agro out of sight of the Calvesi garrison. On November 24th, a a force of British marines, sailors, and Corsican infantrymen dragged four 6-pounder guns up the rocky slope to the chapel of Madonna della Serra, where the Corsicans had made their brave but ill-fated stand against the French in 1738, and began fortifying the position. Calvi’s defenders were completely taken aback; the enemy had performed the impossible, and had completely outflanked the town's defenses. Varignon urged an immediate sally against the enemy position and offered to lead it himself, but Mari vetoed him. The Anglo-Corsican force occupied a strong position on the heights, Mari had no knowledge of the true size of their force, and he suspected that this might yet be merely a feint or diversion from an attack by the British fleet or forces along the coast. He had confidence in the security of the citadel and did not want to squander his forces by leaving the safety of its guns and rushing into a risky attack. If there was any opportunity to disrupt the Anglo-Corsican maneuver, it was soon lost as they entrenched themselves on the hill with their field guns. The heavy artillery would soon follow, and then the real siege would begin.[A]

[1] The bombardment of San Remo was particularly pointless, as the Sanremesi were nearly as eager to be rid of the Genoese government as the Corsicans were. They had appealed to the Imperial Aulic Council in 1729 claiming that they were imperial, not Genoese subjects, and had been subjugated illegally by the Republic.
[2] This includes rated vessels and bombs, but not lesser and auxiliary ships like sloops, supply ships, and bomb tenders. Additionally, not all of these 15 ships may have been present at one time owing to dispatch or cruising assignments.
[3] Charles Townshend was a prominent Whig politician who was the brother-in-law of Robert Walpole (having married Walpole’s sister) and served in a variety of high government posts until finally falling out with Walpole and retiring from government in 1730. He died in 1738. Captain George Townshend was a younger son (by a second marriage) and thus did not inherit the title of viscount, although being a viscount’s son he is more properly referred to as “Captain the Hon. George Townshend.”
[4] Townshend’s fleet also included a variety of smaller ships: the 44-gun heavy frigate Roebuck, the 20-gun light frigate Seaford, and the Enterprise sloop. These vessels took no part in the bombardment and were often away on dispatch or cruising duty. Other unarmed auxiliary vessels, like the bomb tenders, were also present.
[5] The Regimiento de Milán was Spanish in allegiance but Italian in nationality, being one of two Italian regiments in the Spanish army at this time. Despite its name the unit was nowhere near exclusively Milanese, as since the early 18th century several Italian regiments had been merged together to create the two that still existed in the 1740s. A plurality of the soldiers were from Lombardy, but the regiment included Neapolitans, Sicilians, Sardinians, and even Corsicans (although no Corsicans serving in the company stationed at Calvi are known).

[A] This was essentially the approach of the Anglo-Corsican forces in the OTL siege of Calvi in 1794 - the French dismissed a landing at Port Agro as impossible and thus failed to defend or even observe the position. The British decided that it wasn’t impossible, and proceeded to prove it by landing their men and artillery there, hauling them up the hills, and attacking Calvi from the south in concert with Corsican forces. The 1794 siege is most famous for being the engagement in which Horatio Nelson was blinded in one eye. ITTL, Calvi is considerably weaker than it was in 1794 OTL - at that time it was held by the French instead of the rather dubious Genoese army, and the French had done a great deal of work strengthening the position. 1790s Calvi was defended by several outlying forts and batteries that did not exist in the 1740s, and the French modernized and greatly expanded the citadel’s arsenal, which by the time of the siege had more than 100 pieces of artillery (more than twice what the Genoese had in 1745). Still, besieging it is no simple feat.
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Awesome. It looks like Corsica will be almost cleared of Genoese soon. Bonifacio is a comparative backwater and will require Genoese sailing around the entire island to reinforce or resupply.
Awesome. It looks like Corsica will be almost cleared of Genoese soon. Bonifacio is a comparative backwater and will require Genoese sailing around the entire island to reinforce or resupply.
The Genoese are likely be going to have much bigger fish to fry right now than resupplying a far away isolated outpost. Like, Austrian and Sardinian armies possibly running amok over their mainland, or too close for comfort anyway. The question is whether the messy Corsican leadership is able to overcome its serious internal issues and get its act together to expel them (I'd love to see a stunt at Capraia for good measure, but that's even harder to do). Bonifacio is far away from Corsican power centers as well, and the British are not going to be as intersted in helping out.
The map I provided in the update is roughly period-authentic, but a bit poor for showing the situation of Calvi during the siege. Here's a much better map from the 1794 siege which I didn't use for obvious reasons, but which gives you a better visualization of the terrain and the Anglo-Corsican approach. (Click to expand)

You can see the rivers and marshlands that make the transit along the bay difficult, as well as the position of the French gunboats (Genoese ITTL) where they can fire on the shore but are effectively shielded from naval attack by the citadel. Port Agro is also labelled. Madonna della Serra is near the peak just west of the British battery labelled "708" (actually that's the elevation). You can see the progression of British batteries as they grew ever closer to the citadel; it's a sensible line of advance and the Anglo-Corsican forces ITTL will probably attempt something similar. As far as I can tell, the French positions outside the town - Fort Monteciesco, Fort Mozzello, and the batteries of San Francesco and the Fountain - were relatively new creations which did not exist in the 1740s. ITTL, there is a small fortified post near the location of Fort Monteciesco equipped with a few field guns, but its purpose is to protect from an attack from the east, not from the west, which was totally unexpected. The landing at Port Agro and the occupation of Madonna della Serra have effectively flanked the position.

The question is whether the messy Corsican leadership is able to overcome its serious internal issues and get its act together to expel them (I'd love to see a stunt at Capraia for good measure, but that's even harder to do). Bonifacio is far away from Corsican power centers as well, and the British are not going to be as intersted in helping out.

Capraia is probably easier than Bonifacio - and indeed, Paoli's men captured Capraia IOTL, but never even seriously considered attacking Bonifacio (although it was blockaded by land in 1766-67). Bonifacio is, for all practical purposes, nearly as much of an island as Capraia, and Capraia poses significantly less of a logistical challenge owing to its proximity to the northern ports and Capo Corso. It's also simply not as formidable a fortress as Bonifacio.

Both Bonifacio and Capraia were strategically important to Genoa and the great powers but peripheral to the Corsicans, and in fact one of Paoli's peace proposals to the Genoese involved allowing the Republic to keep those two positions. By that time, however, the treaty of cession (ostensibly temporary cession) had already been signed between France and Genoa, and the proposal went nowhere.
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Rouge et Noir
Rouge et Noir


British Marines in the 1740s
Calvi was, in a sense, the first true siege which the Corsicans had yet attempted. Ajaccio had been starved out; Corsican artillery had cut off the city’s route of resupply but had not duelled the citadel’s guns nor attempted to breach its walls. The rebel siege of Bastia had been somewhat more sophisticated, but the woefully poor positioning of the citadel had simplified the approach of the Corsican guns and obviated the need to form a breach, as once the artillery was sufficiently close cannonballs could be easily lobbed over the walls. Calvi did not share Bastia’s defects, and while Calvi’s supplies were not unlimited, the garrison was better off than the defenders of Ajaccio and their enemy (that is, the British) was impatient of victory.

This impatience was due to Captain George Townshend’s constant dread of a naval counterattack. Significant Spanish and French naval forces remained in the Mediterranean, either at their principal ports (Toulon and Cartagena) or in cruising squadrons. None of these detachments alone could challenge Townshend’s force, but if they were to combine he could find himself suddenly facing a superior fleet with few options for a swift retreat. The choice of Vice-Admiral William Rowley to deploy nearly half the fleet off Cadiz, outside the Straits of Gibraltar, meant that aside from a few ships watching Cartagena (who could observe but not meaningfully interfere with the exit of the Spanish fleet) there was no British force between Corsica and Gibraltar. Accordingly, if the Bourbon navies chose to combine forces, this hostile fleet would effectively divide the British Mediterranean squadron and have Townshend at their mercy. As it happened, Paris and Madrid had no intention of pursuing such a strategy; their mutual relationship was too strained, and France had already determined to abandon la grand guerre in favor of commerce raiding with small squadrons. Townshend, however, had no way of knowing his enemy’s plans, and bitterly regretted that his orders compelled him to hold such an exposed position when the enemy remained unchecked and un-blockaded. Since he could not abandon the Calvi expedition, it was in his interest to force its conclusion as quickly as possible, which no doubt played into his rather rash decision to attempt to take Calvi by a naval coup de force on November 8th.

As far as Townshend was concerned, the fleet’s safety now hinged upon the successful prosecution of terrestrial siegecraft. While the nature of the terrain and the circumstances of the siege did not require the full use of Vaubanian parallels, the essential strategy was consistent with a continental siege - the citadel would have to be approached with trenches and batteries would have to be erected one after the other, each closer to the walls than the last, until the besiegers’ fire was sufficiently able to suppress the defenders’ guns and cause such damage to the citadel as to force the garrison’s surrender. Of such warfare the Corsicans had no knowledge at all.

As such, although outnumbered by their Corsican allies, the British were to be the main protagonists of the Siege of Calvi. The Corsicans could offer manpower, muskets, and some artillery of their own, but the expertise was British, and thus British officers dictated the manner and timing of the approach. That the Corsicans provided manpower, however, does not mean that the British restricted themselves to a mere commanding and technical role. Townshend disembarked no fewer than 400 British marines at Calvi.[1] British sailors were also disembarked to assist with moving equipment and operating artillery, although the artillery teams were led by officers of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, who were on hand because it was standard practice to use Royal Artillery crews to operate the mortars aboard bomb vessels rather than Navy personnel. Experienced and highly trained, the expertise of the Royal Artillerymen was key to the Anglo-Corsican effort. All the British forces on land were placed under the command of Thomas Sturton, captain of the Berwick.

Initially, the Corsican forces at Calvi were fairly slight; Townshend put first priority on disembarking his own marines. The first Corsican troops to land at Porto Agro were uniformed regulars under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Milanino Lusinchi, followed by a detachment of the royal artillery under Major-Commandant Anton-Nobile Battisti. When the allied forces captured Madonna della Serra, the total number of disembarked troops amounted to some 300 British soldiers and no more than 150 Corsicans. Once this position had been taken and fortified, however, priority was given to establishing a land supply route for the besiegers. This was made easier by the abandonment of the Genoese outpost near Capo Murione, constructed to guard the approaches from the east. Although the redoubt was not under any immediate threat, the Genoese sentries were so unnerved by the surprise appearance of the enemy to their rear that they precipitously spiked their guns and fled. Although the coastal route was still inaccessible due to fire from the citadel and the Genoese gunships, the retreat of the Genoese from their outlying perimeter allowed access to Madonna della Serra over the shoulders of Capo Murione via a mule track which could accommodate men and mules albeit not artillery or wagons.

Commissioner-General Stefano de Mari had declined to launch an attack against the enemy troops on Madonna della Serra, but Capo Murione was another matter. The commissioner-general still believed that to land heavy siege artillery at Capo Agro and drag it up over the mountains was impossible, and the force at Madonna della Serra was intended merely to invest the city and open the coastal route to the enemy. He therefore considered the abandonment of the Capo Murione post to be much more critical, and on the 25th a force of French and Genoese soldiers emerged to reclaim it. The ridge had since been occupied by a group of Corsican militia, who skirmished with the enemy but ultimately gave way. On the following morning a Corsican force of 120 regulars and 200 militia approached from the east under Lieutenant-General Count Gio Ambrogio Quilici di Speloncato, whom Theodore had ordered to open the land route to the British camp and assume general command of the Corsican forces outside Calvi. The French and Genoese held the high ground and offered a prolonged resistance, but they were hampered by the fact that their artillery was still spiked. In the afternoon, the Corsicans were joined by another hundred men and flanked the position by advancing up a shrub-covered ravine, forcing the defenders to withdraw. The best the French and Genoese could manage was to knock off the trunnions of their spiked guns before retreating, rendering them permanently useless.

Fighting between the two sides now centered around the little village of La Vaccaja about a mile south-southwest of Calvi, where the Genoese had erected a new fortified post to block the coastal route and launch raids against the overland supply line. The Corsicans engaged in a series of skirmishes with the defenders in and around La Vaccaja, but were unable to eject the defenders. The garrison’s presence there, however, was imperiled by the opening of the first proper British battery. It had not been an easy task; rain and heavy seas forced a complete halt to the landings at Port Agro from the 29th of November to the 2nd of December and created a great deal of mud, which made hauling the artillery up the steep hills even more difficult. Nevertheless, steady progress was made, and on the 6th of December the “Hill Battery,” constructed just downslope from Madonna della Serra, opened fire on La Vaccaja with two 12-pounder guns and a 5½-inch “Royal” howitzer. This post, too, was subsequently evacuated. Mari was absolutely stunned that the British possessed such artillery, for there now seemed to be no other explanation but that they had landed and brought it over the hills from Port Agro.


British 5½-inch Royal howitzer

From then on the siege went inexorably forward. The Corsicans, under British instruction, fortified La Vaccaja and placed three 6-pounder field guns there to guard against any attempt at a sally. At 1,600 yards from the citadel, however, it was merely a defensive post to protect the landward route and the right flank of the British advance. The British determined that this advance would be made on the ridge which curved around and approached Calvi from the west. The key position was a low rise less than 700 yards from the citadel walls. The British and Corsicans steadily advanced their works in that direction and raised a temporary battery to ward off counterattacks, until finally moving to seize the key hill on December 13th. This met with a furious response from the defenders, who replied with heavy bombardment from the citadel and repeated ground attacks by infantry advancing through the town of Calvi. This engagement saw the heaviest fighting of the siege as British marines and Corsican infantry struggled to dig into the rocky soil while under almost continual fire.

Captain Sturton had thus far not found much to like in his Corsican allies. He lamented the “sloth” of the Corsicans, particularly the militia, reporting that they had a tendency to do nothing unless specifically ordered, took breaks or wandered off without approval, and had to be repeatedly instructed on digging even the simplest trench, as their natural inclination was to dig a furrow “not even suitable as a breastwork” and then lay their shovels down, assuming they were done. No doubt their discipline was lamentable compared to the British, but these problems were probably exacerbated by communication difficulties, as none of the Corsicans spoke English and very few of the British spoke Italian. General Quilici himself had to resort to French to communicate with his counterparts (or at least those who spoke French).

During the battle for the battery, however, the Corsicans - or at least the regulars - proved capable allies. Lusinchi's men repelled a Genoese ground attack with what Sturton referred to as “smart musketry” and helped to raise the necessary defensive works. The besiegers were aided by Townshend, who dispatched the bomb vessels Carcass and Lightning west of Point Francesco where they could lob shells at the advancing enemy troops while remaining mostly out of range of the citadel’s guns. This bombardment, combined with covering fire from howitzers and field guns, succeeded in setting most of the town on fire and driving the garrison forces back to the citadel. The besiegers began moving up their heavy artillery, and the battery opened fire on the citadel for the first time on the morning of the 16th.

Since the beginning of the operations, Theodore had made his headquarters at the village of Lumio across the bay. He made frequent trips to the coastal Tower of Caldanu, directly opposite Calvi, and would stand atop the tower with his eye glued to his telescope, although as the citadel was over two miles away he could not have glimpsed much.[A] Clearly the king's absence frustrated him, but the British had no intention of taking him to Port Agro on a longboat. Not until the capture of La Vaccaja could he securely make the journey overland, and even then his officers advised against it, but Theodore was determined. He arrived at Madonna della Serra on the 9th, where he could finally behold the battlefield and the siege works in full. Captain Sturton found Theodore’s presence somewhat annoying, as the king was always proffering advice or questioning this or that decision, but the captain admitted that the king could usually be satisfied with a thorough explanation and was impressed by Theodore’s unexpectedly good English. Theodore was content to watch the battle for the battery at a distance, but on the 18th alarmed Sturton and his own officers by insisting that he tour the forward battery. Theodore listened patiently to Sturton's emphatic refusals, but replied that on this land, at least, he was sovereign, and the captain could not tell him where he could or could not go.

Ultimately Theodore agreed to delay his visit for a few days until the gunners had been able to knock out more of the citadel's guns, and made his "tour" on December 21st during a lull in the artillery duel. That morning, the king arrived at the forward battery with Sturton, Quilici, and Battisti. He was, Sturton observed, the most finely dressed man he had ever witnessed in a trench. The king had evidently acquired a "uniform" of his own design which superficially resembled the uniform of his regulars, at least in the sense of a black coat over a red waistcoat; but the coat was a frock of black velvet decorated with gold trim, and over it he wore a voluminous lace cravat and a green silk sash (possibly the riband of the Order of Redemption). Apparently not all of Turin’s money had been spent on soldiers.

Theodore was received warmly by the Corsicans at the battery, who promptly gave what Sturton termed a “Corsican salute” - that is, they shouted and fired their guns into the air. This apparently alarmed the Genoese to such a degree that they abruptly resumed their fire upon the battery. A cannonball struck and dismounted a cannon not 50 feet from Theodore with a horrific crash and a shower of earth and splinters. Quilici begged for the king to retire; the king responded by shaking the dirt off his hat, laughing, and loudly replying “Nonsense; the Genoese know they cannot kill me.” The Corsicans cheered. Courage under fire was perhaps Theodore’s greatest military virtue, and he knew the value of showing it. The purposefulness of the display was implied somewhat later to Captain Sturton, who echoed Quilici’s concern for his safety. “My good Captain,” responded Theodore, this time in English, “I have not come this far by shrinking at the sound of guns.”

The commissioner-general was finally forced to begin considering the unthinkable. Food and water were not primary concerns; winter rains had helped keep the cisterns up, and two small ships had slipped past the blockade on the 19th with salt and provisions from Capraia. His ammunition, however, was running low, and he was losing the artillery duel with the besiegers. Calvi’s arsenal had no howitzers or mortars aside from the massive petrieri, which were intended for (and supplied with) solid stone shot rather than explosive shells. It became apparent that once the Anglo-Corsican forces had made their works sufficiently strong, the Genoese gunners simply could not do any damage aside from the occasional very lucky shot, like the one that (unbeknownst to Mari) had come a short distance from killing Theodore. The British, however, had several 8” and 5½" mortars and howitzers, taken from the arsenal at Port Mahon, which shelled the interior of the fort incessantly and caused numerous casualties. In the meantime, the 24 and 18 pounder guns of the battery were taking a disastrous toll on the eastern walls, particularly the protruding bastion of Spinchone which guarded the citadel gate and the harbor. By Christmas Eve, all but a few of Spinchone’s guns were out of action.

Mari suggested a Christmas truce to discuss possible terms, which was accepted. He proposed the immediate beginning of a 20 day truce, after which - if no relief force had arrived - he would surrender the fortress and accept Townshend's offer of repatriation. Townshend, however, considered 20 days to be hugely excessive given the position of the defenders, and although Theodore received the proposal favorably Townshend insisted on its rejection. The truce continued throughout Christmas day and Theodore visited the battery once more (Sturton wrote that he engaged in a "Romish Mass" with his troops), but it was not a day of rest, and the besiegers were hard at work moving up more guns and munitions. On the morning of the 26th, the British and Corsican artillerymen launched a massive bombardment against the citadel, throwing everything they had at the walls in a roaring cannonade. Long lines of sailors and militiamen moved powder and shot up to the battery, as well as scaling ladders fashioned by the navy’s carpenters. The east wall of the Spinchone bastion was so badly crumbled that an escalade actually seemed possible. The Genoese had responded initially with some rather feeble counter-fire, but Sturton observed that the battery's fire against the fortress was so hot that the defenders had been driven from their last remaining guns by midday.

This barrage had the desired effect. On the 27th, Mari asked to resume negotiations. Townshend would offer him only seven days of truce before his capitulation, and demanded that he and his men pledge on their honor to not set foot on Corsica nor bear arms against Britain or her allies for one year. In return, in recognition of their defense to the last reasonable extremity, he would grant them the full honors of war and see to their immediate repatriation. Mari agreed, and the guns fell silent.

On January 3rd, 1746, at approximately ten o'clock in the morning, the garrison marched forth from the citadel with their arms and flags. The red and black columns of British and Corsican troops stood next to each other to receive them, with Theodore and Sturton at the heads of their respective columns upon horses brought up for the occasion. Unlike Commissioner-General Giustiniani, who had absented himself from the surrender of Bastia, Stefano de Mari was present, but as a civilian official rather than a military officer he deferred the formalities to Colonel Geraldini, while Lt. Col. de Varignon - with his arm in a sling from a shrapnel wound - represented the French and Spanish. Either to mirror de Mari or to reward his commander, Theodore likewise delegated his part to General Quilici. By prior agreement, Quilici accepted Geraldini’s sword, and Sturton de Varignon’s.


The fall of Calvi was one of the most decisive moments of the Revolution. Militarily, it marked the final expulsion of Genoese forces from the Diqua; while not every part of the north was held by the naziunali (Fiumorbo, for instance, was a nest of loyalist militias), these anti-royalist forces were now completely without the support and succor of the Genoese garrisons of the presidii. But it was also a formidable political victory for Theodore, not only because he had overcome the mighty fortress of Calvi but because his decade of promises that great power support was just around the corner had finally been fulfilled. How pivotal Theodore’s role really was has sometimes been questioned; even without him, some have argued, Britain still would have had some interest in ejecting the Genoese from northern Corsica. Yet nobody had done more to bring Corsica to the attention of the British people and their politicians than Theodore, and the Corsicans of his time certainly saw the “English alliance” as the result of the king's policies and diplomatic networks. The visible manifestation and success of this alliance, coupled with the declining fortunes of the Republic, helped reinvigorate his support among a war-weary population which had grown skeptical of Theodore’s promises.

Lacking the wherewithal to adequately garrison Calvi and restore it to a fighting state, Theodore offered the citadel to Vice-Admiral Henry Medley, who had officially gained control of the Mediterranean squadron at the beginning of the year and arrived off Cape Revellata on the 13th of January. Medley agreed, and landed a force of 150 British infantrymen (approximately two companies) to garrison the fortress in conjunction with Corsican royalist forces. Nevertheless, Medley opted to keep the fleet’s main base at San Fiorenzo, judging it to be more secure.

The question now was to what end the British fleet would be employed. Theodore urged action against Bonifacio to build on the present momentum; this would drive the Genoese from Corsica entirely and, according to the king, free up more Corsican troops for the continental war. Medley was not so enthusiastic. Like most Royal Navy officers he disapproved of the Corsican adventure, and had previously described it as “an ill-concerted scheme.” Medley conceded that the capture of Calvi might turn out to be of some modest benefit, but believed that the best use of the fleet now would be to return in force to the Riviera and make the blockade as strong as possible. Bonifacio, while admittedly of strategic value in a general sense, was not relevant to the present contest for Italy.

The decision, however, was ultimately neither Theodore’s nor Medley’s. The fresh orders which Medley received from the Duke of Newcastle upon gaining his command stated unequivocally that he was to devote a squadron to the prosecution of the war on Corsica, and while those orders had been issued before the fall of Calvi was known in London they were nevertheless binding. Medley was correct to question the wisdom of this strategy, for any gains on Corsica could probably not outweigh the importance of the blockade. That the Southern Secretary persisted in this venture was due mainly to the misapprehensions of King Carlo Emanuele, who while in most respects a sagacious ruler was presently operating under two mistaken assumptions. Firstly, he wrongly assumed that the British had the ships to intervene in Corsica without prejudice to the Riviera blockade. That was false, but as Carlo Emanuele was hardly a naval strategist his misjudgment is easily forgivable; the British Admiralty itself failed to grasp that the means it had devoted to the Mediterranean were insufficient for its ends. The second false assumption, which was more perplexing, was that he presumed that his support for Theodore’s rebellion was likely to deliver Corsica into his own hands.

Certainly Carlo Emanuele was aware of Theodore’s royal pretensions; all of Europe knew of “King Theodore.” That Theodore was often humored with a royal title in the gazettes and parlors, however, did not necessarily mean that this claim was taken seriously. After ten years of rule the only fellow ruler who had recognized his sovereignty was the Bey of Tunis, hardly a diplomatic heavyweight. The great powers had frequently treated Theodore as a placeholder king, a presumed foreign agent who wore the crown only as a ploy to distract from the aims and identities of his secret financiers. The French government had long believed that Theodore was merely a proxy for the British acquisition of Corsica, a belief which was not diminished by the events at Calvi. The British, for their part, had assumed for some years that he was a Spanish or Neapolitan agent owing to his earlier service as a colonel in Spain. On occasion, Theodore had acted as if he were merely an estate agent for Corsica, proffering the kingdom to various crowned heads and implying that he would be quite satisfied with a remunerative position as a general, governor, or viceroy in exchange for his services.

On Corsica itself, however, Theodore left no doubts as to the seriousness with which he regarded his crown. Indeed, the king took himself so seriously that he sometimes veered into self-parody; he often spoke with the “royal we,” issued fatuous decrees written in turgid prose, and thundered with red-faced fury against those who dared to impugn the royal majesty. Yet his reign was no joke. He had ordered and led his subjects into perilous combat and had no qualms about exercising his royal prerogative to sentence men to death. From his origin as an unlikely leader of a beleaguered rebellion, he had defeated the world’s greatest army in battle - twice - and had conquered the Genoese presidii one by one, leaving Bonifacio as the last desperate holdfast of the hated Republic which had once held all Corsica in fetters. Some Corsicans loved Theodore and others hated him, but nobody was laughing at him.

Carlo Emanuele’s policy made it clear that he beheld Theodore in the former light rather than the latter; he differed from his fellow monarchs only in believing that Theodore might be his agent rather than that of a rival. Turin had sent money, supplies, and munitions to Corsica to inflame the rebellion while publicly claiming that the Savoyard monarchy had no territorial interest in the island and was acting in a pure spirit of altruism to secure the “liberty” of the people. The end goal of this policy, while never explicitly stated, was presumably to generate a feeling of grateful loyalty among the Corsicans, nursed by Turin's benevolence and their paid agent Theodore von Neuhoff, which would impel them to demand Savoyard protection and ultimately Savoyard rule. The Corsicans, however, remained largely ignorant of Turin’s role, for Theodore did not brag about the sources of his funding and had no intention of cultivating a pro-Savoyard party. Carlo Emanuele and his foreign minister Leopoldo del Carretto di Gorzegno believed that they had bought Theodore's loyalty (and it had not been cheap), but Theodore's lifelong practice of leaving debts unpaid should probably have been instructive. As far as Theodore was concerned, the King of Sardinia had purchased only his services, not his allegiance, and certainly not his crown.

[1] The term “marine” is used here broadly. The British raised ten regiments of marines over the course of the War of Austrian Succession, and some of them were present at Calvi. Yet these regiments proved unequal to the demand for naval infantry, and thus many “marines” aboard British ships during the war were actually soldiers of ordinary foot regiments on marine duty. During the siege of Villefranche, in which around a thousand British soldiers fought alongside the Sardinian garrison, the British force consisted not only of detachments of the 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 9th Marine Regiments, but elements of the 2nd, 7th, 10th, 29th, and 45th Regiments of Foot. The British force at Calvi was similarly eclectic.

Timeline Notes
[A] Yes, apparently Theodore had a telescope.
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