I do hope general Petriconi will play a role in future installments. He seems like a capable, honourable and reasonable officer. Theo was just enough of a militarily active king to claim accolades without actually undermining his officers, hopefully this continues.

I don't see Genoa having the manpower, officer cadre or naval might necessary to reverse this victory, even if the majority of Bonifacio's populace would rather be Genoese. They are simply too much of a spent force.
This is one of the top TLs on the site, keep it up man!
I don't see Genoa having the manpower, officer cadre or naval might necessary to reverse this victory, even if the majority of Bonifacio's populace would rather be Genoese. They are simply too much of a spent force.

Agreed, the best case scenario I can imagine for Genoa is them trying to run guns to a sort of "Pro-Genoese" faction and instigate a rebellion against Theo and the Corsican government. But that's a long shot as I'm sure the Corsican authorities would be on high alert and I feel like Theo isn't stupid and will do his best to make the people of Bonifacio feel at home, while not bending over backwards to put any conservatives at ease.

Also @Carp I know you said 18th century European politics weren't your strong suit but considering that the Corsican Greeks helped the Russians in Greece, as well as their Mediterranean interests & British interests in the Mediterranean and their early interest in Corsica; is Corsica going to find itself in the middle of a Mediterranean equivalent of The Great Game?
Also @Carp I know you said 18th century European politics weren't your strong suit but considering that the Corsican Greeks helped the Russians in Greece, as well as their Mediterranean interests & British interests in the Mediterranean and their early interest in Corsica; is Corsica going to find itself in the middle of a Mediterranean equivalent of The Great Game?

Perhaps, but at this moment Britain and Russia are not at odds. Indeed, Russia was the country which Britain (both ITTL and IOTL) courted most assiduously as an ally in the 1770s, and IOTL the North ministry considered the possibility of selling Minorca to the Russians around 1779-1780 in exchange for their diplomatic support. That won't happen ITTL for the same reasons it didn't happen IOTL, but the Russians do still have an interest in projecting power into the Mediterranean, and Corsica is reasonably well-suited for that purpose. The Russian government already has contacts there thanks to Stefanopoli and the expatriate Greeks, and Corsica is a lot easier to influence than the Bourbon or Habsburg states. It's possible that a Russian presence in the Mediterranean might eventually come to unnerve the British, but they have much larger concerns right now - and any agreement the Russians made with Corsica would not involve actually owning any land. At best it would be a usage agreement between friendly states, because it's difficult to imagine Theo's government selling or leasing any land to foreign powers save under extreme duress.
I like how carp say 18th century europe isn’t his strongest yet he proceed to write one of the most mind blowing and detailed AH timeline out there
Just caught up.
The siege of Bonifacio ends in farce after all the valor of the defenders, but at least it's a relatively bloodless farce. A shame the Corsicans weren't repulsed-saying that for the first time in all this thread. My sympathies are firmly with the Republic. Here's hoping the inhabitants aren't treated too roughly as Corsican subjects in the medium-term (assuming Corsica retains its prize).

F for our favorite bit character, il Diavolo.
Theodore, in his understandable effort to match his namesake, really doesn't come off well here. It's funny how even a mountebank like Theodore I seems less impetuous and vainglorious than a "legitimate" monarch. But of course the circumstances are very different.
Between the Nostra Maria della Rosa and the Minerva, has Neptune caused more deaths in this war than all the direct killings by humans? Really goes to show how war's dangers are not all about the malice of men, and do not all stem from the peril of combat-but may arise from the same combination of petty quarrels, bad incentives, incompetence, and bad luck that characterize the rest of human existence.
Il Diavolo is currently in the lead for "artillery piece with the biggest body count" in this war, although that's probably still not that many people. Ironically, the Genoese typically named their guns after saints; its "real name" was probably San Giovanni Battista or something.

Between the Nostra Maria della Rosa and the Minerva, has Neptune caused more deaths in this war than all the direct killings by humans? Really goes to show how war's dangers are not all about the malice of men, and do not all stem from the peril of combat-but may arise from the same combination of petty quarrels, bad incentives, incompetence, and bad luck that characterize the rest of human existence.

I haven't bothered making an exact number for the total number of deaths caused by the bombardment of Bonifacio, but it was certainly less than the number of sailors lost between those two wrecked ships.

My sense is that most wars in this period had more deaths from "nature" than by the hand of man, although typically the great killer was disease rather than weather. At sea, however, even the great powers had to pay their toll to Neptune. I checked Threedecks and looked at the fates of all British frigates (just frigates) built from 1750 to 1789. In that 40 year period the British launched 190 frigates, 41 of which were listed as having an ultimate fate of "foundered" or "wrecked" - an accidental loss rate of more than 20% by a first-rate navy. We'll never know how many of these losses were caused by incompetence, negligence, or overconfidence rather than unavoidable acts of God. And it wasn't just frigates, either - in 1744 the British lost the massive 100-gun Victory, the flagship of the Channel Fleet, which vanished in a storm along with her admiral and every last one of her 1,000+ man crew. Losing hundreds of men in a single accident was just a normal part of having a navy in the 18th century. Corsica was just a bit unlucky to have it happen to their only frigate.
At sea, however, even the great powers had to pay their toll to Neptune.
Even in the 20th century, things could go pear-shaped.

The USN had an entire squadron of destroyers wrecked on the California coast in the 1920s, the battleship Espana was wrecked off Morocco in 1923, in and the RN had a cruiser wrecked off Norway in 1940.

Many submarines have been lost to operational accidents.

Also toll to Vulcan: the battleships Maine, Leonardo da Vinci, and Mutsu were all destroyed by spontaneous magazine explosions.

Navies tend not to have flaming incompetent officers promoted by mere social connections, because the sea cannot be "fixed".


The Comte de Vergennes

The outbreak of the “Coral War” was received mostly with bemusement and derision by continental intellectuals and statesmen. There was something vaguely comic about these two Lilliputian states at daggers drawn with one another while the Hanoverians and Bourbons - who had single warships with more men than General Petriconi’s entire army - were waging a global war over the fate of America.

If any of the great powers were to intervene, France was the obvious choice. The French had been the authors and guarantors of the Treaty of Monaco, and were thus entitled - and, arguably, obligated - to enforce its provisions. French diplomats had been aware of the rising tensions between Corsica and Genoa and considered it entirely possible that more encounters like the “Maddalena incident” might occur. French diplomats had discussed possibly hosting negotiations between them, but understandably this had not been at the top of the foreign ministry’s list of priorities in 1781.

Although the Galite raid and the delivery of the declaration of war at Turin prompted immediate demands for intervention by the Genoese envoy Francesco Spinola, France was slow to act. Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, the French foreign minister, wished to ascertain how serious this “declaration of war” actually was, and whether the King of Sardinia was in some way involved. After satisfying himself that Turin was not about to go to war, Vergennes’ main concern was for the effects of an escalating Corso-Genoese conflict on France’s own economic interests. With British cruisers and privateers scouring the seas for French and Spanish merchantmen, the Bourbons depended on neutral shipping.

The wake-up call seems to have been Admiral Lorenzo’s ill-advised (and short-lived) blockade of Genoa, which the French moved very quickly to stop. The port of Genoa was too important for France and Spain and could not be closed under any circumstances. Vergennes followed this up by demanding that Corsica withdraw all lettere di corsa (letters of marque) given to foreigners, and informed both parties that King Louis XVI desired the conflict to come to a swift end. Count Stefano Michele Durazzo, Corsica’s envoy to France, assured Vergennes that his government was eager for peace and implied that the “war” would soon be over.

It was not until early November, when news of the Battle of Cape Feno and the intensifying bombardment of Bonifacio reached Paris, that Vergennes began to suspect that Count Durazzo was being disingenuous. Irritated at the Corsicans, Vergennes considered issuing a forceful demand for the cessation of hostilities. This was certainly what the Genoese were hoping for; Spinola wanted nothing more than for France to throw an ultimatum in Theodore’s face, and remarked that if His Most Christian Majesty really desired peace, he needed merely “to stamp his foot” and the Corsicans would beg him for an armistice. Vergennes suspected that King Theodore would fold to this demand just as he had folded to Spanish demands to close his ports to the British and Vergennes’s own demand to cease employing foreign privateers.

Yet Vergennes issued no such demand. He was naturally inclined to caution, but his reticence to simply issue an ultimatum was also informed by his view of the Second French Intervention of 1756-59, which had ended in the disastrous Battle of Concador. Vergennes, who had been France’s ambassador in Constantinople during these years, considered the Second Intervention to have been a profound diplomatic failure. France had, by the Treaty of Monaco, established Corsica as a client state - and instead of managing this relationship intelligently, resorted to ultimatums and preemptive military occupation without any consideration as to how this might be received. Vergennes placed great importance on the local knowledge of France’s diplomats - “If my experience in [diplomatic] affairs has taught me anything,” he wrote, “it taught me to consider opinions of those who, being on the spot, are in a better state than I am at a distance, to judge and appreciate what is the most expedient.” In Corsica, his men “on the spot” cautioned that the political situation appeared delicate after the fall of Marquis Matra and the king was incensed that Spain had strong-armed him on the matter of Corsican ports. Under present circumstances, Vergennes was wary of further adding to France’s problems by goading Corsica into the arms of the British and ending up in a position where another Corsican intervention might prove necessary.

His lack of apparent lack of urgency was also based on the assumption that the “Gibraltar of Corsica,” which had withstood a Corsican siege from April to September in 1749, was not in any immediate danger. Either out of embarrassment or mistrust of France’s intentions, the Genoese government did not share any information about the dire state of the city’s defenses with the French; they may not have even shared it with Spinola. The loss of the Minerva seemed like a potentially fatal blow to Corsica’s ability to blockade the city, and the French minister in Genoa reported that the Republic - encouraged by this fortuitous accident - was preparing another, much larger relief fleet to break the siege. From Vergennes’s perspective, this would be the best possible outcome. If the Genoese were able to resupply the city it would demonstrate to everyone that the war was stalemated, and France could then step in to broker a truce without seeming as though they were robbing Corsica of “victory” or favoring one party over another.

With Spinola failing to deliver a prompt intervention from Paris, the Genoese government turned to their nominal suzerain Emperor Joseph II, who had risen to sole rulership over the Habsburg domains after the death of his mother, the Empress-Queen Maria Theresa. But although Joseph did not share his mother’s reflexive contempt for the Genoese - she had never quite forgiven them for fighting against her in the 1740s - he avoided making any commitments to the Genoese representatives. Austria had no navy, and thus any threats he might make against Corsica would be hollow. The emperor was also aware of the Bourbon interest in Corsica and saw no reason to try to preempt his notional allies in a country that was of minimal strategic importance to Vienna. The Habsburg plenipotentiary in Milan sent a letter to the Genoese government confirming that Vienna accepted the Treaty of Monaco and recognized Bonifacio as Genoese territory, but - again, citing Austria’s lack of a navy - his government could not guarantee their possession of it.

The fall of Bonifacio on December 10th came as a shock not only to the Genoese, but to the Comte de Vergennes, who had been awaiting the outcome of Genoa’s second relief attempt before committing to any decisive intervention in the conflict. Count Durazzo, who up to this point had been evasive whenever he was interrogated about Corsican aims, now boldly demanded the “reunion” of Bonifacio with the Corsican crown. Vergennes reminded Durazzo that Bonifacio had never been Corsican territory, to which Durazzo countered that, on the contrary, it had always been so - for even when the Doges of Genoa claimed the crown of Corsica for themselves, they had never disputed that Bonifacio was a component of that crown. It had only been “Genoese” as a consequence of the Treaty of Monaco, which Durazzo declared had been “completely abrogated” by Genoese trespass.

This appalled Vergennes, who considered treaties - especially those authored by France - to be the bedrock of honest diplomacy. He warned Durazzo that Corsica’s apparent contempt for its own solemn commitments did not reflect well upon the honor of King Theodore and risked insulting the honor of His Most Christian Majesty as well, who had been the guarantor of the Monaco treaty. But Durazzo, far from being shamed, replied by asking whether “His Most Christian Majesty [of France] intends for us to observe the Treaty of Monaco in the same spirit which His Most Catholic Majesty [of Spain] observes the Treaty of Utrecht” - a direct reference to the fact that France, at that very moment, was assisting Spain in recovering the territories of Minorca and Gibraltar which Spain had ceded “for ever” to Britain in 1713. Durazzo’s bold retorts and accusations of hypocrisy were not entirely appropriate for a diplomat at the court of Versailles, and Vergennes described him as “coarse” and “vexatious.”

Yet despite Durazzo’s insolence, Vergennes was not going to subordinate French interests to mere personal dislike. He realized that he had missed his chance; up to this point an armistice would have meant a return to the status quo ante bellum, but with Bonifacio in Corsican hands enforcing a truce would mean leaving the city in their possession. Returning to the status quo now would require convincing Corsica to abandon its conquest - or forcibly taking it from them. Vergennes had been appraised of Theo’s character by the French envoy in Bastia, who wrote that the king had an excess of the “pride and stubbornness of youth,” and had attached an inordinate amount of importance to the conquest of Bonifacio - going so far as to take command of the siege himself against the advice of his ministers. He clearly saw the fall of Bonifacio as not merely a Corsican victory but a personal accomplishment, and was unlikely to settle for some sort of payment or other compensation for returning it to the Republic.

France’s options had to be evaluated in the cold light of strategy. If France did not insist upon the return of Bonifacio, Corsica was very likely to keep it, as it did not seem as though the Genoese would be able to wrest it back from them. This might damage the reputation of the Most Christian King, given that his predecessor had guaranteed Bonifacio to the Republic in the Treaty of Monaco. It might appear to some that even petty states could ignore France’s guarantees with impunity. It would also embitter the Genoese towards France, and could embolden the Sardinian king to further pick away at the Republic’s territory, which the French government considered to be contrary to its interests. The only positive outcome would be the appreciation of Theodore and Corsica’s continued adherence to the Bourbon camp, although neither of these could be relied upon.

What would happen if France did insist upon Bonifacio’s return? Certainly it would win the gratitude of the Republic, although Genoa’s goodwill had become less important in light of the Habsburg-Bourbon alliance and the ensuing détente in Italy. It would also alienate Theodore, perhaps permanently. The French envoy in Bastia thought it was entirely possible that Theo might refuse an ultimatum solely out of pique, which would compel another French military intervention in Corsica - exactly what Vergennes dreaded, and something France could ill-afford at the moment. Yet even if Theo accepted the ultimatum, it would be a profound humiliation and an immense blow to his prestige. Certainly the British would exploit this, for after losing Minorca - which had finally fallen to Gallispan forces less than two weeks after the fall of Bonifacio - they would surely be eager to establish themselves in a new Mediterranean base. Of all the potential outcomes of the present dilemma, a British fleet stationed at Calvi a hundred miles from the French coast was certainly the least desirable.

In the first week of January, Count Durazzo delivered his government’s formal demands to Spinola, which defined the “maximalist” Corsican position on the war:
  • Genoa shall cede Bonifacio, the Intermediate Isles, and “all territories and claims whatsoever” beyond the Ligurian Sea to Corsica
  • Genoa shall renounce all maritime rights in the vicinity of the Galitoni (Galite Isles) and the Coast of Africa in favor of Corsica
  • Genoese fishermen shall be prohibited from working in Corsican waters, defined as three miles from the coast of Corsica and its islands
  • Genoa shall pay an (undefined) indemnity for its infringement of Corsican rights
Vergennes dismissed these demands as “neither practical nor just,” but his letters show that he was at least seriously considering the possibility of a cession of Bonifacio. If Genoa were to lose the city, however, Vergennes strongly believed they would have to be compensated in some way. The most obvious means was financial compensation, which Genoa had received for its cession of Finale in 1748 and the relinquishing of Corsica itself in 1749. In each case, however, the real cost had been paid by another: Sardinia’s forced purchase of Finale had been bankrolled by Britain, while Corsica’s payment to Genoa had been funded by a loan from France. Who would pay this time? Certainly not France, and probably not Corsica either. Vergennes went so far as to have his minister in Tuscany approach Grand Duke Karl’s ministers about the idea of offering the Republic some part of the Tuscan Lunigiana, resurrecting proposals from the days of the Corsican Revolution - but although the Grand Duke was good friends with Theo, it was unclear why exactly he should cede territory to Genoa without any compensation for himself.

The parties seemed to be at an impasse. Vergennes did not want to give Corsica an ultimatum demanding Bonifacio’s return, but neither was he quite ready to impose an armistice which would effectively confirm it in Corsica’s possession. The pressure which the two belligerents could bring to bear upon each other was also limited. Corsica could continue to harass Genoese shipping, but their ability to do so was constrained by French demands. The Genoese had assembled another “extraordinary armament,” but all observers agreed that they stood little chance of retaking Bonifacio. All that could be done was to wait for some new development to break the deadlock.
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So the diplomatic situation in addition to the military situation are both favoring Corsica currently, this is great. Hopefully all the Corsicans need is one more event to go their way and peace will likely be enforced on their terms.if Genoa fails to retake Bonifacio after assembling another armament I'm sure that would be the sign to convince everyone to call truce and for France to let Corsica have her victory. Plus maybe the Corsicans can use some savvy diplomacy themselves, there are Provencal coral fishermen. So I wonder if Corsica could secretly offer to France that they'll lease Tabarka (or perhaps an island seized from the Genoese) to the French in return for their favor in the peace talks. Very excited for this wars development and hopefully it's teaching young Theo the basics of diplomacy, politics, war, and inspiring your people. Still can't wait for the aftermath of the war as Theo excelled in botany during his schooling and I'm sure he has plans to embark on agricultural reform after securing his victory. And I'm willing to bet him or his right hand Paoli has plans to reform the government in general, the power of the clans has to eventually be broken.
So ironically if it wasn't for the institutions of Genoese rule, the Commissioner and the commander of the foreign troops, and the Bonifacini had successfully implemented a defense to the last bullet calling the Corsican bluff, then Bonifacio would have almost certainly remained Genoese, thanks to the French, as well as Genoa's relief flotilla and the sheer grind actually storming the breach.
Perhaps an extraordinary development is bound to happen not primarily due to a Genoese fleet, but due to events in Bonifacio itself, and the populations antipathy to Petriconi and the Corsicans
While the situation is very much to Corsica's benefit right now, the larger war involving the major powers could at any point absorb the 'Coral War', possibly creating an entirely new and bizarre situation.
While the situation is very much to Corsica's benefit right now, the larger war involving the major powers could at any point absorb the 'Coral War', possibly creating an entirely new and bizarre situation.
Live by the larger war involving major European powers, Die by the larger war involving major European powers
So ironically if it wasn't for the institutions of Genoese rule, the Commissioner and the commander of the foreign troops, and the Bonifacini had successfully implemented a defense to the last bullet calling the Corsican bluff, then Bonifacio would have almost certainly remained Genoese, thanks to the French, as well as Genoa's relief flotilla and the sheer grind actually storming the breach.

That's left uncertain by the text. It's true that Petriconi was "bluffing" in the sense that he was not quite ready to launch an attack the very next day, because he felt he needed more boats. But it's possible he was simply wrong; Petriconi did not want to launch that attack at all because he knew it would be costly for his army (and the city, particularly if he won) and "need more boats" may have just been an excuse. At any moment Theo could have put his foot down and said "do it now," and his rejection of the offer of an "armistice before surrender" demonstrates that he probably wouldn't have waited very long. It's possible the Corsicans would have won; Petriconi had more than a thousand men against ~100 Germans and maybe 100-200 armed militia. Being able to defend a choke point across a body of water is a big force multiplier, but the Corsican guns also overlooked the breach and could fire on anyone taking a position there. The truth is that nobody knew what would happen if the attack was made. A very experienced commander might have had a better idea, but there were none of those at Bonifacio: Petriconi was the most seasoned veteran there, but the highest rank he'd ever attained in an actual war was that of captain. He had never been in a position to make this kind of command decision before.

So it's entirely possible that if Aldovino had been more defiant, he wouldn't be condemned as a coward - instead he'd be condemned as a moron who refused to capitulate after the walls were breached and ended up subjecting the city to a bloody, ruinous sack and getting hundreds of people killed on both sides. Or maybe the attack would have been a disastrous failure and he'd be a hero of the Republic. Nobody at Bonifacio in December of 1781 could know for sure.

So I wonder if Corsica could secretly offer to France that they'll lease Tabarka (or perhaps an island seized from the Genoese) to the French in return for their favor in the peace talks.

A lot of Corsicans live on Tabarka at this moment, but the Corsican government itself has no rights there. If the French win the war, they'll probably just take Tabarka. Technically it belongs to Tunis - Britain only leases it - but the French can demand that Britain renounce the concession, and then send a fleet over to Tunis to say "hey, we're taking over the Tabarka concession now."

This is not good for the Corsicans. Previously, France was represented on the Barbary Coast by the Compagnie Royale d'Afrique, which operated a number of posts in the area. During/after the WAS these posts were all destroyed and the CRA was expelled from the Tunisian coast, with the British "Barbary Company" receiving the concession (and Tabarka) instead. The British were originally going to let Corsicans harvest coral as a stopgap until they trained some Englishmen to do it, but that never really happened, so they've just left the business to the Corsicans. But the CRA doesn't need Corsicans, because France already has plenty of trained coral fishermen. If France wins and takes Tabarka, the most likely outcome is that the CRA is given control of the concession again, and they drive out all the foreigners so they can monopolize Tunisian coral with their Provençal employees.
It seems like Corsica is going to fall out of France's orbit.

I know we've joked about Buonaparte showing up but an ATL Napoleon ending up in the British army might take the irony cake.
Grand Armament
Grand Armament


Genoese pinchi (pinques), late 18th century

The Coral War caused an unprecedented surge of public interest in the business of the Genoese state that had not been seen since the bloody suppression of the Revolution of 1750. Outside of the aristocratic elite, few Genoese citizens had any enthusiasm for the long “Corsican War” of 1729-49, and the government had to rely upon a heavy blanket of state censorship. In 1781, however, Genoa was attacked - and attacked in a way that affected Genoese society far beyond the confines of the blue-blooded oligarchy. Common fIshermen and corallieri had been plundered, which in turn affected shipowners, coral brokers, insurers, and merchants. The tragic loss of the Nostra Maria della Rosa was seen by Genoese sailors and their families as a deliberate and murderous act. Bonifacio was not some foreign colony, but a city of loyal Genoese citizens who had flown the Genoese flag since the 13th century. Corsican aggression had succeeded in uniting a broad swath of the Genoese public in shared hatred of King Theodore II and his pirate-captains, and a shared desire to defend the territory, prosperity, and honor of their ancient state.[1]

The Genoese government had dithered after the Battle of Cape Feno, awaiting some sign of rescue from Paris or Vienna, but the sinking of the Minerva in this context of mounting public patriotism finally shook the government out of its paralysis. Despite the Corsican government’s attempts to suppress the news, rumors had begun spreading soon after the ship ran aground on November 17th, and the Gazetta Nazionale of Bastia was allowed to confirm the story publicly on the 25th. The disaster was greeted with wild celebrations in the streets of Genoa, where it was hailed as God’s own justice meted out to the butcher Terami. This celebration was followed by a call for action - the Corsican Navy had been weakened, perhaps fatally, and there could be no possible excuse for the government’s apparent inaction. On the 27th, the Serene College ordered the raising of another “extraordinary armament” to come to the city’s rescue.

Now all the government had to do was acquire the necessary ships. The Republic’s “state navy,” the galley fleet, was ill-suited to make a journey of this kind in the winter storm season. The larger ships of the Genoese merchant marine were mainly pinchi (pinques/pinks) and sciabecchi (xebecs) which could conceivably be hired, but given what had happened to the last armament most shipowners were not keen to loan them on the cheap. Patriotism, it seems, only went so far. Foreign ships were scarce given the larger war going on, and they were reluctant to participate in a declared war; the Danish consul went so far as to instruct all captains of his “nation” present in Genoa to stay out of the affair. Moreover, while merchant ships typically had some cannon for self-defense, they would have to be substantially “up-gunned” to turn them into ersatz warships, and the Republic did not exactly have a lot of spare artillery lying around.

In 1742 a Papal bull established the Compagnia di Nostra Signora del Soccorso contra Infideles (“Company of Our Lady of Help against Infidels”), a Genoese religious foundation meant to raise money through private donations for the purchase and operation of ships to fight the Barbary corsairs. The company’s funds were to be managed by a board known as the Deputazione del Nuovo Armamento contro i Corsari Barbareschi (“Deputation of the New Armament against the Barbary Corsairs”), whose ships and funds were only to be used for action against the “infidels.” It was an innovative idea to combat the Barbary threat with the use of private funds, although in the crisis years of the late 1740s the Genoese government had succumbed to temptation on numerous occasions and gave secret orders to Deputation captains instructing them to “broaden” their patrols to target Corsican smugglers and privateers.

Now suddenly pressed with the need to assemble a fleet in short order, the government again turned its covetous eyes to the anti-corsair fleet. The Deputation arguably had more of a “navy” than the Genoese state itself, even if it consisted of relatively small ships like brigantines and armed pinchi. On the 28th, the Serene Council instructed the Deputation to prepare its ships for a “patrol” through the Tyrrhenian Sea which would, entirely coincidentally, involve a stopover at Bonifacio. The members of the Deputation were not stupid, and the Papal bull which had created the Company explicitly threatened excommunication to anyone who used the Company’s money for any purpose other than its sacred mission. But they were also Genoese citizens who were appointed to the Deputation by the Colleges of the Republic, and the pressure on them to comply with this demand was enormous. They accepted the government’s request, although they also insisted that the Republic would eventually have to satisfy the Company - and, presumably, God - by compensating them for all attendant costs.

By December 8th the Genoese had prepared a flotilla consisting of three hired xebecs and five pinchi carrying provisions, arms, ammunition, and around 150 soldiers under the command of the patrician Giacomo Cattaneo della Volta. Owing to poor weather this flotilla did not actually leave port until the 10th, and after encountering a gale they were forced to turn in at La Spezia on the 11th to make minor repairs to their rigging. The fleet was still at La Spezia on the 13th, making final preparations to depart, when news reached them that Bonifacio had fallen three days before.

Public rage in Genoa quickly focused on the person of Commissioner Domenico Aldovino, but since he was not yet present the citizens had to be satisfied with burning him in effigy.[2] The government announced that it would certainly charge him with treason upon his return, but privately many of the esteemed patrician magistrates must have been watching the fires with trepidation, wondering whether their failures might yet land them in the pyre - and perhaps not just in effigy. Much of the patricianate was starting to become less afraid of losing the war than of a repeat of the uprising of 1750.

Obviously the fleet now waiting at La Spezia could not simply be dissolved, for this would be seen by everyone - particularly the Genoese public - as tantamount to capitulation. Sending it to Bonifacio, however, did not seem practical; the War Office did not believe the Republic had the strength or resources to besiege the city, which would amount to an invasion of the Corsican mainland. Some proposed attempting to hunt down Admiral Lorenzo or breaking up the fleet to escort merchant convoys, but none of those options would meaningfully alter the fundamental fact of the war, which was that Corsica held Genoese territory. The Serene College considered several targets which might give them the leverage they needed, but only one stood out: Capraia.

The island of Capraia is only 70 miles from La Spezia, and with a superior fleet the Genoese believed they could isolate the island, besiege its fortress, and take possession of it. Although perhaps not as great a prize as Bonifacio, it was still home to around 2,000 inhabitants and was the home of many of Corsica’s skilled sailors. Once captured, Capraia could be used as a bargaining chip to compel King Theodore to give up his ill-gotten gains. This change in mission would introduce new problems, as an invasion was a more complex operation than a mere supply voyage. It would require more ships as well as coordination with the Genoese Army, a small force of questionable merit - and it would be far more expensive.

This change in mission also upset the “understanding” between the government and the Deputation of the New Armament. They had accepted the government’s “wink and nudge” plan to resupply Bonifacio while on a notional anti-corsairing cruise; any Genoese fleet was fully within its rights to stop over at a Genoese city, and if they were attacked that was only the fault of the attackers. Now, however, the government was still holding on to its ships despite the cancellation of the mission, and obvious preparations were being made for a larger military expedition. The Deputation did not know that the target was Capraia, but it was obvious that it had to be some Corsican town or presidio, which meant that the Republic would be using funds gathered for the protection of Christendom to directly attack and kill Christians. This proved too much, and on December 24th the Deputation commanded the captains of its ships to return their vessels to their berths. While the Deputation owned ships, however, it did not own crews.

Captain Cesare Lomellino belonged to a patrician family, but his life had never been one of aristocratic ease. Little is known about his early career, although he seems to have started it as a young officer in the state navy. After the Treaty of Monaco he had been hired by the Deputation, and over the course of the 1750s he distinguished himself as one of the best naval officers Genoa had produced in generations. He had considered joining the French Navy during the Four Years’ War, but the government of Genoa convinced him to stay by offering him the positions of Captain of the Port of Genoa and Superintendent of the Arsenal. Most men granted such a position of authority would have been satisfied to rest on their laurels, but Lomellino continued to personally lead Deputation patrols against the Barbary corsairs into the 1780s. Something of a naval polymath, he appears to have been equally comfortable in the roles of draftsman and naval administrator as he was upon the quarterdeck of a ship of war.[A]


Sketch of the Corsican 12-gun tartana "Medusa"

Captain Lomellino had been given command of the xebec Vendicatore and had been Cattaneo’s second-in-command during the abortive resupply mission. On Christmas morning, sailors loyal to Lomellino took control of several Deputation ships and the captain announced that they were henceforth “conscripted for the public good.” Although his offices of Captain of the Port of Genoa and Superintendent of the Arsenal did give him authority over the creation of extraordinary armaments, seizing the property off the Deputation was decidedly not within his remit. But the citizens gathered at the port to cheer him, and it was clear that Lomellino’s “mutiny” had the support of virtually all of the fleet’s sailors and officers. Cattaneo promptly resigned, either because it was clear he no longer controlled the fleet or because he did not want to bear the responsibility for what the government was planning. The Deputation launched an official protest, but on this occasion - either finding its courage or simply seeing which way the wind was blowing - the government responded by suspending the Deputation and commandeering all its ships until the national emergency was over.

The “grande armamento” which was now assembling was quite possibly the largest Genoese expeditionary fleet since the Battle of Lepanto. By the time it was launched it consisted of fifteen warships - the xebecs Vendicatore (20 guns), Veloce (14), and Giustizia (14), the state galleys Capitana, Libertà, San Giorgio, and Santa Maria (5 each), the pinque Nostra Signora del Soccorso (14) and seven other pinchi of varying armaments (between 5 to 12 each) - as well as at least half a dozen feluconi or brigantini of 1 to 3 guns each. The expedition also included a landing force of 480 soldiers including elements of the Italian regiment Sarzana, the German regiment Sprecker, and the Swiss regiment Grenier.[3]

With Cattaneo’s resignation Captain Lomellino was the only choice to lead this fleet, although the government did not appoint him without some reservations. Certainly they appreciated his talents, even if he had long annoyed them with incessant demands for funding and reform. Yet his recent antics made him look downright popular, which was dangerous for a man with so much power. It was already unprecedented that one person would be both Captain of the Port of Genoa and Superintendent of the Arsenal, and to give him the legal authority to lead this endeavor the government further elected him as General of the Galleys and Commissioner-General. They had, in effect, vested the entire responsibility for the conduct of the war in one person: Lomellino’s remit now included the state fleet, the extraordinary fleet, commerce protection, the security of the Port of Genoa, and all coastal defenses and fortifications. This was normally anathema to the Genoese political order; the state’s convoluted system of councils, colleges, offices, and deputations had been specifically designed to prevent power from amassing in the hands of any one individual. But there was simply no other option - and the crowds outside were chanting Lomellino’s name.

The concentration of this fleet was impossible to conceal and the Corsicans soon became aware of it. Genoa’s plans for the fleet, however, could only be guessed at. Unlike the Genoese, the Corsicans did not think an attempt against Bonifacio was out of the question; the city’s defenses had been degraded by the bombardment, Petriconi’s occupying army had been cut to fewer than 600 men to save money, and the Genoese would be supported by the population. The War Council also identified Capraia and Rogliano as possible targets, as they were remote enough to make a counterattack by the Genoese Army difficult. To prepare for any eventuality, the government recalled its ships on patrol and ordered Admiral Lorenzo to assemble the fleet at Bastia, which consisted of nine sailing warships - the polacres Lacedemone (18 guns) and Idra (12), the schooner Arcipelago (14), the pinques L’Africano (10) and Rubea (8),[4] the armed tartans Medusa (12), Ventura (8), Zeffiro (6), and Delfino (6) - plus the state galiots Santa Devota and Beato Alessandro (3 each) and various gondolas armed with swivels (or, at best, one small carriage gun).

Admiral Lorenzo did not know the exact size and strength of the grande armamento, but it was clear that if he took on Genoa’s combined fleet he would be outnumbered and probably outgunned. Lorenzo also lacked enough experienced seamen to fully crew all his ships, and neither his sailors nor his officers (nor Lorenzo himself, really) had any experience with a large fleet action - large by the standards of Genoa and Corsica, anyway. If he was patient, however, fortune might even the odds. January weather was not favorable for rowed ships, so Lomellino would be forced to part with his galleys in rough seas. Depending on what his objective was, Lomellino might have to make detachments to blockade Corsican ports or escort supply ships, which would disperse his forces further. For now, Corsica’s most famous pirate waited for an opportunity to take on Genoa’s most famous pirate-hunter.

[1] It must be emphasized that this sentiment was mostly concentrated within the city of Genoa itself. When the Genoese referred to “their state,” they usually meant Genoa proper; the rest of Liguria under Genoa’s domination was known as “the domain.” While there certainly were fishermen, sailors, and merchants in the coastal cities of the domain who probably felt similarly about Corsican “piracy” and the necessity of government action, most of Genoa’s Ligurian subjects were indifferent to these events, and a few local elites may have even hoped that the Republic’s defeat and humiliation would give them an opportunity to wrest more autonomy from the metropole.
[2] The disgraced commissioner would eventually be imprisoned and charged with treason, but like many defeated Genoese commanders before him Aldovino would ultimately escape punishment. Convicting Aldovino would require a trial, and if Aldovino was put on trial he would surely testify to all the myriad ways in which the government had neglected the city’s defenses and left it dangerously vulnerable. Even if it won the case, the government could only lose by such a spectacle. Aldovino would eventually be quietly released in exchange for disappearing from public life - and from Genoa - forever.
[3] From the reformation of the Genoese Army in the 1750s, the Italian (i.e. Ligurian) regiments were named after their home garrisons (Savona and Sarzana) while the foreign regiments continued to bear the names of their commanders (in 1782, Sprecker and Grenier). There were also four “independent companies” not part of any regiment: The German company Real Palazzo, a 200-man guard unit permanently stationed in the capital; two companies of pensioners (“giubilati”), old soldiers fit only for garrison duty; and an artillery company.
[4] L’Africano and Rubea were both captured Genoese pinques. The former was captured in the Galite raid, while the latter was the gunpowder-hauling pinque which surrendered to Captain Terami during the Battle of Cape Feno. L’Africano was renamed after its capture, presumably in honor of being taken off the African coast, while the Rubea appears to have kept its original Genoese name.

Timeline Notes
[A] Cesare Lomellino is another historical figure. He might have been entirely forgotten without the accidental discovery of his logbook in the 1950s during the demolition of the Villa Lomellini in Multedo, when someone happened to pick it out of a pile of debris. This 51-page captain’s log details the Genoese reconquest of Capraia from the Paolists in 1767, which was the last Genoese military expedition before the fall of the Republic thirty years later. My account of Lomellino ITTL is similar to his OTL biography - he gained a reputation in the 1750s as an anti-corsair (and occasionally anti-Corsican) captain for the Deputation of the New Armament, apparently considered serving France in the late 1750s, and was enticed to stay by being appointed Captain of the Port of Genoa and Superintendent of the Arsenal. In the 1760s he was given command of a squadron of pinques to fight Paoli’s corsairs. Few other details of his life are known - he is assumed to be from the Multedo branch of the Lomellini family because of where his log was found, but we don’t know who his parents or children (if any) were. We don’t even know when he was born or when he died; given that he captained a ship in the 50s I presume he could not have been born after 1730 or so, and perhaps substantially before then. I do know, however, that he was still around in 1782, because I just happened to come across a digitized version of a Tuscan gazette from that very year which mentions a “Captain Cesare Lomellino” departing for a cruise against the Barbary corsairs. Assuming that’s not an amazing coincidence, this suggests that Lomellino was still commanding ships in his 50s or 60s.
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A military leader taking property from the church after a poltical institution has blocked his advancement due to poltical concerns, now given power by the people to expell invaders where have I heard that before.