Toulon & Corsica

This chapter contains the newspaper articles on Royalist attempts to recover the sovereignty of France. I have not included allied efforts from the Netherlands or at Dunkirk or in Brittany or the later Walcheren expedition to occupy and hold Antwerp as a base for invasion. They all all remain in the Europe chapter.

I have also included the brief British sovereignty over Corsica after allied ejection from Toulon as these were related matters. The capture of Toulon was to provide a support base to bring in supplies for invasion whereas the occupation of Corsica was intended to provide a port from which to prevent the sea trade in grain from North Italy to France. Probably, for George III, he might have thought it would personally irritate Napoleon in the same way the occupation of Hanover had irritated him.

Many of these articles could not readily be severed from the main text and consequently appear twice – both here and there.

Sat 20th April 1793

M Lebrun, French Foreign Minister, has reported to the Citizen President of the National Assembly on the advices received from French diplomats concerning the present state of Europe. Here is his assessment (extract):

  • Spain has only 25,000 men ready to march against us. We may expect Spain to actively oppose France, for there is a Bourbon on the Spanish throne.

Sat 20th April 1793

A ship arrived at Mauritius on 1st March which had left France in November 1792. It brought news of the political situation (extract):

  • It is said the Spanish King has agreed to provide France with 90 million livres (9.5 livres = $1 approx) instead of the ships and men required under his treaties with the former monarchical regime.

Sat 1st June 1793

Madrid, 17th Dec 1792 – the Spanish government has undertaken to observe a strict neutrality in the war in which France is defending herself in the Low Countries from Prussia and Austria.[1] Spain expects the French Foreign Minister to return the same sentiments whereupon the Spanish force presently on the Pyrenean frontier will be withdrawn, retaining sufficient only for usual frontier duties.

Attached with this is an application to the French National Convention:

The declaration of neutrality that you demanded of us is attached. Spain is concerned for the health of the French King and his family. This is not a foreign matter to Spain. The French King is a relation and a friend of the Spanish King. He is being tried by men, several of whom are his enemies. He is accused of crimes which, even if true, do not annul royal inviolability. The King is oppressed by a long and rigorous captivity. He is oppressed by insults of men who seek to aggrandise themselves by trampling on fallen greatness. A revolution does not excuse men from showing respect when due. Although the French people have not been heard, a majority seem to support their King. If the enemies of Louis use violence on him, the promises of the French government will be shown to be unreliable, and the French government will be held accountable. It is the wish of the Spanish people and their King that Louis be treated with magnanimity.

The National Convention at Paris agreed these papers be referred to the diplomatic committee and a report given after the trial of the King.

Sat 17th Aug 1793

On 4th April an armistice was announced between the commander of the Austrian / Prussian army, the Prince of Saxe-Cobourg, and the French commander Dumouriez, the latter having agreed to evacuate from the Austrian Netherlands and Dutch Brabant. He left on 3rd April for Paris.

The Spanish are raising armies totalling 120,000 men. The plan is for the fleets of Spain, Netherlands and England to secure the French coast while the land forces under Dumouriez descend on Paris from the North. Once the French garrisons on the old frontier fall, it is expected that Austria will take French Flanders, Alsace and Lorraine and Prussia will take some other part of France in compensation.

Sat 21stSept 1793

Report to the National Convention:

Spanish forces have entered France from the south and are yet to see a French uniform.

General Kellerman (the French commandant of the Army of the Pyrenees) is accordingly to be arrested and General Oraison will replace him.

Sat 2nd Nov 1793

The Spanish invasion of France via Figueras has been reported to Paris by the Deputies at Perpignan on 18th April:

Spanish troops have united with rebellious citizens of St Laurent de Cerda and are butchering our revolutionaries. All sorts of our provisions and other goods are being sold to the Spanish and exported. On the approach of the Spanish, the municipal officers disappeared and the national guard of St Laurent welcomed the foreign invaders. They fired on our revolutionary volunteers and killed very many of them. Our entire force threw away its arms, abandoned its baggage, and fled for Arles. We are assured that Lt Colonel Bourdes told his men “sauve qui peut.”

However, the garrison of Arles responded bravely and confronted the Spanish who number about 1,000 with the insurgents. They had the advantage of high ground, sheltered by rocks, from whence they pick-off our chaps at extreme range whilst our own muskets could not reach them. Lt Colonel Laterrade then ordered our retreat to Arles.

We hear two Spanish battalions now garrison St Laurent. We have formed a committee and made plans. We have united the National Guard with regular troops to form a body of 500 men. We have 2 cannon and suitable ammunition. The citizens of St Laurent should be heavily punished. We expect Arles to be attacked very soon. You have previously promised us succour. A camp of 8,000 – 10,000 men is indispensable. Clothing, arms and ammunition is what we imperatively need. We will neglect nothing to maintain order.

Some French merchants just returned from Spain say 5 battalions of troops have left Figueras for St Laurent. Sgd Lucia.

Sat 28th Dec 1793

Letter from Égalité at Marseille – I am imprisoned in the Fort St John with my son. We are cold and deprived. Our servants have passports from the Committee of Public Safety but those papers are not recognised here. The decree ordered we be brought here and detained. It does not require our deprivation. I have sworn to serve the Republic.

Restore my liberty. Allow me to communicate with others. Allow me to take the air and recover my health. Sgd L P Joseph Égalité.

Sat 8th Mar 1794

War news from London:

  • The garrison and harbour of Toulon has surrendered to an allied force of 25 ships-of-the-line and 10 frigates under Lord Hood. The French warships in port – Sans Culotte (122) and Marseille (110) and three other three-deckers – have been stripped of their cannon.The National Convention has responded with a decree ordering the people’s army to retake Toulon. Even if they succeed, they cannot recover their lost warships. It must be a heavy blow to the naval power of France.
  • The French Republican General Servan has repeatedly defeated the Spanish troops at Perpignan. He has besieged Fontarabia and is expected to enter Spain soon.
  • A surprise British attack on Dunkirk has been beaten off with heavy allied losses and the Duke of York has retreated to Furnes. HRH Prince Adolphus was captured by the enemy and was a prisoner for some time. The naval force under MacBride arrived too late to help. Apart from the failure of British combined operations, there is dissension between the Duke of York, the Duke of Saxe-Cobourg and the King of Prussia.When the extent of the Dunkirk defeat became known in London, a force of 3,000 men intended for the West Indies was diverted to the Duke to reinforce him.
  • The Russian Tsarina has failed to perform her engagements to provide troops and ships. Her quota of 25,000 – 30,000 men is unseen and her Baltic fleet of 9 ships-of-the-line and many frigates simply cruised from Petersburg to Denmark and then returned to their home port.
  • Prussia has ceased operations since reducing Mayence (Mainz) and complains of poverty. Prussia will fight only if it is paid to do so. German forces are predating on the countryside.
  • General Gaston’s army of Royalist counter-revolutionaries on and around the Loire has been dispersed.

Sat 15th March 1794

Advice from Admiral Lord Hood’s fleet dated 20th August says he has negotiated with the Commissioners at Toulon and Marseille. He then published a proposal on 23rd August:

“If you declare for the Bourbon King, hoist his flag, dismantle the warships in port and allow the people of Provence unrestricted access / egress to Toulon and Marseille, you will have my support and assistance. All private property must be protected. When peace is restored to your nation, the port, etc., will be restored to France.”

The Commissioners replied:

“We reject the Constitution and embrace monarchy. We have proclaimed the son of Louis XVI as our King. We have sworn to acknowledge him and to repudiate the tyrants. We hoist the white (Bourbon) flag and welcome your squadron. French warships will be dismantled and the citadel of Toulon and the nearby coastal forts are at your disposal.

“We request the garrisons be equally French and English but under your command.

“We expect your help against the Army of Italy, which is now marching towards us, and against the army of General Carteaux which is marching on Marseille. We trust that all our people who hold civil and military appointments here will be continued in their posts. When peace is restored you will put our ships and forts back in our hands.”

Sgd by President Beaudeal, Vice President Reboul, Secretary La Poype and all the municipal officers.

Sat 15th March 1794

Morning Chronicle – Hood reported to Philip Stephens for the Admiralty in London in the following terms:

The seamen of the French fleet gave command of both the fleet and the forts on the left bank of Toulon harbour to St Julien, a hot-headed democrat. On 27th August, I put 1,500 troops ashore near the Malgue fort and they were garrisoning the fort by noon 28th August. These were the 29th, 30th and part of the 69th regiments of foot. I then gave peremptory notice to St Julien to move his fleet to the inner harbour and offload his powder or they would be treated as enemies. All but seven ships, whose crews ran off with St Julien, complied.

I have been obliged to Don Juan de Langara (commander of the Spanish contingent) for the support of most of his squadron. The Spanish Admiral Gravina came aboard my flagship and said he was ordered to put his troops in support of ours. Langara informed me that General Carteaux had committed enormities at Marseille and was then en route with 10,000 men to Toulon to join the army of Italy which I suppose to be about the same size. I am confident a force this size cannot prevail against the Fort of Malgue. We hear Carteaux is trying to remove the treasure and merchandise from Marseille and I have placed a blockade on the port to prevent all shipping from sailing.

Having possessed Toulon I have made another proclamation:

“I pledge the faith of the British nation in an interference in the internal government of France and our aid in restoring the Constitution of 1789.”

Editor – British ministers have expressly disclaimed an intention to interfere in French internal affairs. They have neither countenanced nor acknowledged the Constitution of 1789 which abolishes the nobility, confiscates Church lands, proscribes the return of the émigrés and prevents either Égalité or the Comte d’Artois from succeeding to the crown.

Sat 22nd March 1794

We have new information from Europe up to the beginning of October 1793:

The taking of Toulon has enabled the British, through Lord Hood, to declare the real intentions of British policy to the inhabitants.

We hope the sentiments revealed in the agreement reached between the Commissioners for Toulon and Hood will promote a chance of early peace.

Sat 29th March 1794

The Amsterdam Gazette reports that Philippe Égalité was delivered by the Marseillais to the Admiral of the Spanish (Bourbon) fleet. He was then chained to the deck of one of the warships.

‘Thus even-handed justice 

Commends th’ ingredients of our poisoned chalice

To our own lips.”[2]

An advantage obtained over the Republican army of General Carteaux has prompted Admiral Hood at Toulon to again proclaim Louis XVII. He has caused an Oath to be administered to the people ‘that they prefer to accept the Constitution until Louis XVII is reinstated when everything should resume as it was before the Estate-General.’ It is being well received by the people. The Royalist supporters of Britain in Toulon have sent a letter (dated 1st year of the reign of Louis XVII) to General Carteaux saying that they will duplicate on the Commissioners of the Convention whatever treatment he metes out to the prisoners of Marseille. They told the General they have the support of 30,000 men.

Sat 19th April 1794

London Gazette, 29th October – the following Declaration to the French people by King George III, issued to the commanders of H M ships and armies and British ministers at foreign capitals, was published at Whitehall on 22nd October:

“The circumstances of our defensive war with France are well known as are our objects – to repel unprovoked aggression, to defend our allies, to obtain a just indemnity and provide for the future security of our people and other Europeans.

“We will employ all the resources of our dominions. We are supported by the zeal and affection of our people and the unquestionable justice of our cause. But it is apparent that the internal state of France obstructs the conclusion of a permanent treaty which alone can satisfy our objects.

“This Declaration is according addressed to the well-disposed part of the French population and lists our principles and objects and the means we will adopt to accomplish them. We are reassured by the confidence reposed in us by one of the most considerable cities of France (Toulon) and by the many Frenchmen who have sought a refuge in our domains. We hope the other powers allied with us in this common cause hold sentiments conformable to our own.

“From the very first, when Louis XVI assembled the representatives to concert measures for their happiness, he showed his sincerity and his deep affliction with the misfortunes that ensued.

“It became increasingly apparent that he could not continue pacific measures and must defend his rights and those of his allies to repel unjust aggression whilst at the same time preserving civil society as enjoyed by the nations of Europe. His intended reform of governmental abuses; of establishing personal liberty and property rights on a solid foundation; of securing the benefits of wise legislation and a mild administration of law – all these salutary intentions vanished before a system destructive of public order, maintained by proscriptions, exiles, confiscations, arbitrary imprisonments, massacres and ultimately the execrable murder of the just Sovereign and the illustrious Princess who shared the misfortunes of her royal consort.

The French people, so long expecting happiness, found themselves plunged into unexampled calamity. The neighbouring nations have been exposed to attacks of ferocious anarchy, the enemy of all public order, to violations of treaties, aggression without pretext and unprovoked Declarations of War. The institutions of society are subverted by corruption, intrigue and violence. This state of French internal affairs affects us all and endangers the fundamental principles of civilised society.

“We do not dispute the French right to reform their laws. Yours is an independent country and whatever form of government you wish to erect is up to you. Our interference relates to the threat France poses to the security and repose of other powers. It is for this reason that we demand the end of the anarchical system that has shown itself unable to discharge the primary duty of government to repress disorder and punish crime. It arbitrarily disposes of the property and blood of French citizens in order to disturb the tranquillity of the neighbours and renders all Europe the scene of the same crimes and misfortunes that characterise its internal rule.

“We demand a legitimate and stable government be established founded on justice and capable of performing its engagements with neighbouring states. We ardently wish to treat with that government for the re-establishment of peace. We wish to terminate the war which we vainly sought to avoid. The calamities that have befallen France are the result of the ambition, perfidy and violence of those who have brought misery to all our countries and disgraced Europe. We have no wish to war with the French people. We except those well-intentioned people, like the people of Toulon. We promise friendship to all Frenchmen who declare for monarchy and shake off the yoke of anarchy. We solicit your co-operation to put an end to this system and restore tranquillity in France and security in Europe. Join the standard of hereditary monarchy, not to decide in a moment all the modifications that this form of government is susceptible, but to unite yourselves under law, morality and religion and secure genuine liberty, moderate government and uninterrupted tranquillity.”

Sat 19th April 1794

French news, 9th October:

The National Convention has heard that the English force holding Toulon has publicly executed Beauvais Preau, a Deputy of this Convention, and the former mayor of the town. Subsequent to the debate, two decrees were issued:

  • The former embargoed the importation, sale or use of English goods;
  • The latter required the arrest and confinement of all English, Scottish, Irish and Hanoverian subjects in France and the confiscation of their property in France.

Many English in France were then arrested inter alia Temple Luttrell (related to the dowager Duchess of Cumberland and thus a member of the Royal Family), Mrs Pitt (said to be related to the minister), Ms Helen Maria Williams and Mrs Wolstencroft, the author of the Rights of Women.

Sat 26th April 1794

The Hon Temple Luttrell is in an invidious position. His sister married the Duke of Cumberland, a brother of George III. He was caught in the anti-British measures enacted subsequent to our public execution at Toulon of the National Representative Beauvais Preau. Luttrell is now imprisoned in Paris.

As a member of the British ruling class, he is considered of equal weight to the hanged Beauvais Preau. A petition has been presented to the National Convention on 15th October concerning him:

The representatives of lower Seine, Legendre and Lacroix, petition:

“Vengeance against a rebellious city (Toulon); vengeance against a minister who violates the rights of man and humanity (Pitt); vengeance for a representative of the people hanged (Beauvais Preau).

“The majesty of France is outraged and satisfaction is required. The brother-in-law of George III must be exhibited in a cage and you must appeal to the English people. If they do not attend to your advice, take reprisals – hang the English King’s relative.”

It was agreed to refer the petition to the CPS.

Sat 26th April 1794

St Just presented the Decree against British residents of France, which was referred to CPS by Pons de Verdun. That gentleman wished to extend its effect to all foreigners. The Decree had since been returned to the parliament with the following CPS advice:

“The English government has violated the Law of Nations. This decree retaliates for their distrust of Republicanism. We do not wage war on the English people, from whom we wish to lift the yoke of slavery, only their government. The English have killed one of our national representatives at Toulon. The blow which they meditated against us will now fall on their own heads.

“This law may not be extended to all foreigners. Other nations have not adopted the measures of the English government. We must rouse our revolutionary spirit against people who conquer by artifice and bribery. The Republic of France conquers by open force.

“Brissot confused the Convention with his false philosophy. Now you are confused by false policy. The CPS proposes the following terms of the Decree:

  • Nationals of countries with whom we are at war will be imprisoned until the peace.
  • They will be well-treated.
  • Women married to foreigners before the passing of this Decree are not affected by it unless they are themselves, or their husbands, suspect.”

Sat 26th April 1794

The Jacobin Club met on 15th October – a letter from Marseille said 300 suspected traitors had been rounded-up. The safety of the city was said to depend on their close captivity.

The letter contained details of the dispositions of the Republican army before Toulon. This suggested the city would speedily fall to the revolutionary army.

Sat 26th April 1794

War news – Letter from the CPS Agent at Marseille, 1st October:[3]

A congress of members of 250 peoples’ societies, representing the South, has been held to combine measures for public safety. Toulon is surrounded by 30,000 Republican troops and more battalions are going there.

Sat 10th May 1794

A letter from the India Company’s Basra Residency on the island of Graine dated 12th April reports that Admiral Lord Hood evacuated Toulon on 18th December 1793, in the face of 180,000 French troops, and took away with him all the French warships.

Sat 10th May 1794

French news of October and November 1793:

  • Lacombe St Michel, a representative from Corsica reports 2nd November that the English tried to cut his communications with St Florent, which they attacked by land and sea, following a plan of Paoli. Leonetti led the Royalist land forces. They had four cannon and attacked for two days. Eventually we succeeded in driving them back into their ships. They lost 17 men. We lost none but many of our men are sick and only 200 are fit for duty.
  • In July 1789, the sans culottes paraded in triumph carrying a bust of the Duc d’Orleans. Now (1793) they have executed him. He was found guilty of conspiracy against the liberty of the French people and beheaded to the cry vive la Republic and Perissent les traitres et les tyrans. Those partisans who were the recipients of his lavish bribery (given at the expense of his creditors) were not in evidence.

Sat 10th May 1794

More news of the war:

Since our eviction from Toulon, the émigrés have proposed a combined expedition against St Malo. Admiral McBride and the Earl of Moira will respectively command the sea and land forces. They will assist the Royalists who have some popular support in the St Malo hinterland.

Sat 24th May 1794

French news:

Lacombe St Michel, the national representative sent to Corsica, reported from Calville on 5th October that the English had attacked St Fiorent but been beaten off. Two ships-of-the-line and a frigate approached and landed some troops who occupied a fort, routing the garrison of 600 men:

“This success encouraged them to believe they might occupy the entire gulf of St Fiorent but we counter-attacked and drove them out. At the same time Paoli attacked the village of Patrimonio but our garrisons at St Fiorent and Barhagio responded and drove him away. In spite of these checks the enemy persevered and their ships attacked Fort Leli. Our barrage set fire to one ship which was hors de combat for two days. They then left the gulf which coastline is now littered with their landing ships and equipment. Paoli is said to be sick.”

Sat 24th May 1794

Genoa – Josef Doria is elected Doge of Genoa. He was reluctant to accept the job as Genoa, Tuscany and all the states of Italy, whilst close neighbours of France, are under intense British pressure to declare war on the Revolution.

Genoa’s best course is to be neutral because of its great investment in French funds. It is also in continuous dispute with the King of Sardinia, a French enemy and thus English ally, over the alignment of the Tuscan land frontier (the King’s property) with Genoa.

The English minister at Genoa wishes the Doge to settle his dispute with Sardinia. He says now England occupies Toulon she can cut communications between Genoa and France and protect the smaller state. It will be hard for Genoa to resist a great maritime power like England, particularly as a British war fleet has already entered her port.

Sat 24th May 1794

Philip Stevens at the Admiralty has received dispatches from Lord Hood on HMS Victory at Toulon dated 6th and 9th October:

We have defeated the enemy on the Heights of Pharon. The British and Piedmontese troops led but the Neapolitan grenadiers and other nationalities (mainly Sardinians) were also brave. The enemy had 1,800 – 2,000 men on the Heights. Lord Mulgrave, General Gravina and Admiral Elphinstone (later Viscount Keith), the British Governor of Toulon, (these three are commanding respectively the British, Spanish and émigré contingents) led the allied forces. The Neapolitan troops are arriving by sea in thousands and the King of the Two Sicilies has been zealous in his performance of the treaty. Most of his ships and troops are at my disposal.

On 9th October we got a column onto another hill by deception. The French had previously retaken it and it threatened the fleets’ anchorage. We employed a French deserter to call the passwords as the column was successively challenged by sentries. This was a night attack. They reached the new batteries and surprise was complete. The French were routed. We took 4 big guns and 2 mortars and all their ammunition. We could not remove the guns expeditiously and spiked them, destroyed the carriages, etc. We recovered our dead and wounded and withdrew before dawn. These batteries are overlooked by other French positions on nearby hills and could not have been retained in daylight. We killed about 50 and took 20+ prisoners.

General O’Hara sent out a party on a sally which did not return. He followed himself with a small party to investigate and was captured after losing an arm.

Lord Hood also sent a squadron to bombard Fornili, the redoubt protecting St Florent, whilst the Corsicans under Paoli were to attack by land at the same time.[4] The bombardment was undertaken but the Corsicans did not move forward. The ships sustained considerable damage and were obliged to withdraw after several hours.

Sat 24th May 1794

The National Convention has been told on 26th October that there are 25 enemy warships at Toulon which have sent 200 artillery men into the forts they have occupied. There are 5,000 Neapolitans, 2,000 English, 2,000 Spanish, 2,000 Slavs and 1,500 Savoyards and other troops at their disposal. Another 14,000 troops are expected soon (6,000 Portuguese, 6,000 Spanish and 2,000 English). Once the reinforcements arrive, the enemy plans a march on Aix where they propose to re-establish the old parliament as an alternative government. Garrisons for the forts at Toulon and along the route will require some 15,000 men.

The Chambers of Commerce at Toulon and Marseille are sending a delegation to Naples to bring back the Comte d’Artois and the Bishop of Toulon. The English government at Toulon has disarmed all the people. They no longer promote the Constitution of 1789 but request for the ancien regime with all its attributes. The rope yard of the arsenal is prepared for 1,000 Spanish horses. They plan to attack the troops of General Carteaux first as they are irregulars; they will then confront our army of Italy. Forty transports have been dispatched to bring provisions to the city. The main provisions available are salt pork and beef. All the owners of assignats have been registered and are offered 50% on the face value of their paper. Assignats may only be used for buying bread. The bakers accept them because it is illegal not to.

A war loan is to be raised at Genoa and that new Republic will be required to declare itself at that time. Émigrés flock to Toulon from all over the country but none are employed in the army. All those aristocrats find employment in the committees and governing bodies – this is the first stirrings of a domestic Bourbon government. The arsenal is manned by men loyal to the old order. The redoubt of Pharon is manned by 4,000 English and Spanish troops. Part of the Tree of Liberty has been burnt and the single remaining branch is dressed as a gibbet. Louis XVII has been proclaimed King.

The National Convention’s address to the people of Toulon has been modified by the émigrés and the fake version is published everywhere. It says the army of la Vendee is in Paris, the National Convention is disbanded and the neighbouring towns are all Royalist.

Sat 7th June 1794

Letter from a British officer at Toulon, 3rd October:

Our Neapolitan troops climbed the mountains behind Toulon and retook the redoubt which we had earlier lost. About 1,000 Spanish, English, Sardinians and Neapolitans were involved against a French garrison of 2,000.

In recognition of the conspicuous bravery of the Neapolitan Grenadiers, the allied HQ placed the fort under their command.

Sat 21st June 1794

A letter from Toulon dated 20th December was read to the National Convention. The French Republican army entered the city yesterday after 5 days and nights of continuous fighting. The English defenders were seized with consternation. They blew-up the Thermistocles which they used as a prison ship but fortunately all but six of the patriotic Republican prisoners escaped. They burned 9 warships and took away three. Fifteen warships are preserved for our use including the magnificent Sans Culotte of 130 guns. English boats continued to approach the quay even after we had occupied the town and we placed two cannon on the seawall to dissuade them. One frigate was sunk by our fire. By that time four of our own frigates were on fire. The ropeyards, the warehouses and the Grand Magazine have been saved. In sum, we still have a respectable naval force at Toulon and the town is well provisioned.

We have taken vengeance on the traitors. All the Royalist marine officers have been executed. Some of our soldiers pillaged the town and we have declared that all booty is the property of the army. All the plundered furniture and personal effects have been moved to a large warehouse from whence it will be sold for the benefit of the army. We have also promised one million livres to the army. The troops are very happy. Bauvais and Father Pierre Bayle have been liberated.

Sgd Salicetti, Freron, Ricard, Robespierre and Barras.

Sat 21st June 1794

London news, 17th January – Hood’s dispatches from Hieres have arrived, dated 21st and 22nd December. They contain letters from Sir Gilbert Elliot to Henry Dundas:

Our occupying force (of Toulon) over-extended itself and was worsted by a counter-attack. We lost the forts at Pharon and Mulgrave. All the reverses occurred in 3 days. There was time to get some Royalist Toulonnais on board the fleet and every ship-of-the-line took off 1,500 – 1,800 refugees (HMS Robust had 3,000). The main body of the occupation force withdrew to the Iles d’Hieres; some part of it went to Leghorn and Corsica. A few frigates were left cruising outside to warn arriving shipping.

Three French ships-of-the-line and twenty frigates were burnt before our departure. Seven ships-of-the-line were not burned as they contained prisoners but they were otherwise disabled. There was also 1 ship-of-the-line and 2 frigates on the stocks which were unharmed. Hood brought away with him 3 ships-of-the-line and 12 frigates. Thus the French Mediterranean fleet is no more and England rules in that sea.

Sat 21st June 1794

Toulon, 4th January 1794 – Executions occur daily here. 3,000 Royalists have been killed so far and still it continues. The Republicans have kept the white Bourbon flag flying over the forts and many merchant ships have been deceived into entering port.

On 2nd January a British corvette of 30 guns came in from Gibraltar bringing £6 millions and an English General to assume command of the allied forces. It was deceived by the Bourbon flag. The crew has been imprisoned and the General will make good company for General O’Hara. The corvette was followed by 5 transports with troops and provisions which may arrive soon unless we can warn them off. A French squadron is cruising off the port.

In the following edition, the Editor says the frigate HMS Juno (commanded by the Admiral’s nephew Captain Hood) from Gibraltar entered Toulon roads and anchored, assuming the town to be still in the possession of Lord Hood. A French boat came alongside and its officer said everyone was a prisoner-of-war. Capt Hood invited the French officer to refreshments while his crew cut the cables and took the ship out. HMS Juno was hit repeatedly by the shore batteries but escaped and joined the fleet off Hieres, taking the French officer and ten of his marines with them.

Sat 28th June 1794

Pitt’s speech to the Commons commending continued war (extract):

……. “The capture of Toulon was facilitated by the good condition of the fleet we sent into the Mediterranean. The capture, possession and evacuation of Toulon were all honourable to British arms. It was the speed with which France recovered Lyon and Marseille from the Royalists that enabled them to release such a large army against Toulon and force an end to our occupation. The blow to French naval power that was inflicted at the time of our evacuation is unparalleled in history. We are now masters of the Mediterranean.”

Sat 5th July 1794

House of Lords, 17th February – The Marquis of Lansdowne considered the state of Europe. Apropos Spain he said:

The treaty with Spain is opposed to every former treaty we have made with that country. The Treaty of Eternal Peace (1686) was the fundamental establishment of Europe at the time. The Treaty of Worms (1743) continued that line of policy. The terms of those agreements are totally different to our present treaty.

Lansdowne could not discover the wishes of Spain in the new document. Spanish discontent at Toulon is well-known. They expected to appropriate the French navy to their own use and thus secure control of the Mediterranean to Spain. They were mortified at the reception the Toulonnais gave to the British. “I approve the nobility of the Spanish gentlemen but reprobate their government. Its policies are dark and mysterious and conceal ambition” he said.

Lansdowne recalled that the late King of Spain never forgave our bombardment of Naples whilst he was King of the Two Sicilies.

As regards Italy, our treaties with Sardinia, the Grand Duke of Tuscany and the Genoese Republic are imperious and intended to provoke them into renouncing their neutrality. This imperious approach is not in our best interests, he thought. To threaten the Grand Duke into obedience will not endear us to him. The papers between Lord Hervey, our Charge d’Affaires at Florence, and M de la Flotte, the Duke’s Secretary, are derogatory of the Duke’s dignity. There is none of our usual magnanimity in them. When I first read these papers I supposed Hervey had been overzealous but then I saw that the insulting demands he made on the Duke were dictated by the British cabinet. The Duke is the brother of the Austrian Emperor. He might become Emperor himself. What will be the Austrian attitude to England then? I fear the Grand Duke may resent the dishonourable station we have reduced him to.

There are many reasons for reprehending the Sardinian treaty but a major one is our precipitant hostile entry into the Mediterranean. Our entering that sea disturbs Spain and might provoke her increased friendship with France. That would be prejudicial to us.

Sat 12th July 1794

The London Gazette of 22nd February reports receipt on 18th February by Philip Stephens of the Admiralty[5] of a letter from Lord Hood concerning HMS Juno:

Capt Samuel Hood of HMS Juno sailed from Malta 3rd January with 150 supernumeraries (46 of them were officers, most others were marines from HMS Rodney, and a few Maltese). He arrived off Toulon on 9th January but could not get in against the current until evening of 11th. He entered the inner harbour under topsails only. He passed a ship that called him to luff. He did so and went aground. By the time he had warped off, some boats arrived and an officer said quarantine regulations required he shift to another part of the harbour. Then he noticed they had the tricolor in their hats.

A breeze came up and 3rd mate Lt Webly said he thought the ship could get out. Capt Hood sent the men to stations, imprisoned the French group, and got the sails set in 3 minutes. When the cable became taut we cut it. We also cut the lines for the boats. A nearby brig started to prepare her guns and the lights went on in the shore batteries. Then the brig and a fort opened fire. By then the sails were full and we beat to quarters to get our guns ready. We just weathered Cape Sepet, from whence the forts fired continuously. We fired back which lowered their rate of fire, and we got out.

Sat 19th July 1794

Letter to Henry Dundas at the Admiralty from his son on the evacuation of Toulon, 17th December:

The French attack commenced at 2 am this morning. They overcame the Spanish side and the British 18th regiment had to evacuate. We got 700 men out and retired back along the line of our forts. We kept 2,200 men in Balaguier which is the fort that most effectively protects the harbour and added 700 more during that morning. The French however attacked Pharon and managed to get a large force down the mountain behind it, where they severed our communications. We held a quick war council and it was agreed that we could not recover the posts and must evacuate.

We withdrew from Pharon and Balaguier holding only the forts at St Catherine and d’Artigues with some posts. On 18th morning we got our sick and wounded and most of our cannon off. We withdrew the last British, Piedmontese and Spanish forces from the town to the peninsula at La Malgue where we could take them off too. That night the stores and ships were fired. We marched the garrison under the fort of St Catherine, which had mistakenly been abandoned too early and was already occupied by the enemy, but got through to La Malgue where our boats were ready to embark the men. Evacuation continued throughout the night and by daybreak on 19th December all our men were on the ships. Major Koehler and 200 men manned La Malgue and permitted our escape. He then withdrew towards Italy. The Sardinians and the Spanish fought well. We lost about 300 men at Fort Mulgrave and at Pharon. We do not know our precise loss because the troops are all mixed-up in the ships.

It is 3 weeks since General O’Hara was taken prisoner and I have been in charge of the government of Toulon since. The battalion of King Louis and the two independent companies of chasseurs that we raised at Toulon (all Royalists) have fought well. We got about 600 of them off.

Sgd Lt General David Dundas.

Sat 19th July 1794

Evacuation of Toulon – Sidney Smith’s letter to Lord Hood of 18th December 1793:

I went to the docks with a tender and six gunboats to burn the French warships and their stores. The dockyard workers were already wearing the tricolor and the 600 galley slaves, who had been unchained, were clearly opposed to us. I did not want to fight them with such a small force. I trained my guns on the quay whilst assuring them that I would not fire if they remained quiet. We were nevertheless under fire from the neighbouring hills but this tended to affect the Republicans as much as us. My men placed incendiaries in the stores and on the ships. While they did so a great multitude, armed with muskets, came down from the hills against us. We kept them at bay with occasional rounds of grape until the fireship Vulcan arrived and gave us the support of her guns. The stores of pitch, tar, tallow, oil and hemp and the masthouse were fired. The Spanish thoughtlessly fired (instead of sinking) the Iris frigate which contained 1,000 barrels of powder. The explosion shocked everyone and damaged some of our boats and men. The Spanish were supposed to fire the ships in the basin but were unable to do so.

We fired the Thermistocles and Hero, two 74-gun ships in the inner roads. The French Royalists in the latter ship had rebelled and taken the ship but as the fire spread they became concerned for their safety and accepted my offer to take them off. As we completed this, the powder magazine of a second ship exploded even stronger than the first. By then we had used all our combustibles and the men were tired. We took-off as many troops as we could carry and escaped. We can confirm that at least ten French ships-of-the-line were burned along with all the stores.

Sgd W Sidney Smith

Sat 2nd Aug 1794

Henry Dundas has received dispatches from Lord Hood, 11th March:

‘Ever since I left Toulon I have been blockading Corsica. The port of St Fiorenzo is a splendid base for the British fleet (to interdict the grain trade of Genoa and Leghorn with France and procure food shortages in France) so I sought to remove the French from it. First I needed a supply of wine and food from Spain. While waiting, I sent two officers to Hyeres to be briefed by your son David on Paoli’s real situation. They have returned with information that 8,000 troops have embarked at Nice to reinforce Corsica.

A combined operation against the Tower at Montella ultimately succeeded. The navy failed alone but the artillery destroyed the enemy on the heights and on 7th February we stormed their positions and captured the tower. This gives us the secure possession of Mortella Bay and this side of the gulf of Fiorenzo.

We have now removed the French from Bastia, St Fiorenzo and Calvi, their three principal posts, and have secured the harbour of St Fiorenzo to our own use. We used 1,400 armed troops. There were about 550 French in the Tower. Afterwards the French abandoned their posts on Fornelli, took to their ships and departed. Having secured the Bay we called on St Fiorenzo to surrender. They refused but we could see a rapid evacuation was going on. We sunk one of their frigates and set fire to another. Then the French retired from Fiorenzo towards Bastia.

This is a good place to make into a base for control of southern France and Italy. General Paoli and his 1,200 Corsicans have given good assistance.

Sat 10th Aug 1794

Letter from Madrid, 26th March (recited from Leiden Gazette):

  • The Infanta Don Philip died 1st March. The Queen gave birth to another son on 10th March. He was baptised with 53 names starting Francis de Paul Antonio Maria …. His Godfather is the Austrian Emperor.
  • Spanish Generals in command of the armies at Catalonia, Aragon and Navarre are moving their men to the French frontier. Another Spanish army is supposed to march to Rousillon but the commanders repeatedly die after appointment. Its third commander is Count de la Union and he has not yet set-out.
  • The Catalonian army is to act offensively; the other two defensively. The squadron of Don Juan de Langara (9 ships-of-the-line) will sail to Leghorn to bring the Prince of Parma back for his nuptials.

Sat 10th Aug 1794

According to newspaper reports from Paris, Sr d’Aranda has presented a philosophical memorial to the Spanish King identifying what he believes are the true interests of Spain. He was formerly the Spanish ambassador to Paris where he familiarised himself with the new Republican ideology.

He sets out the precautions the country should take. He repudiates the unreasonable prejudices of the allies and pleads for the Spanish people to think carefully before committing themselves to war. He has thus displeased the King’s minister Manuel de Godoy. The Council was commended to pay no respect to his memorial. Whatever his motives may have been, d’Aranda is now disgraced.

Sat 10th Aug 1794

Lyon, 4th March – about 5,000 people, mostly merchants and aristocrats, have been executed since the Republican army resumed control of this city.

A shortage of food continues in all the major towns and cities. Barrere and Legendre have suggested that the people voluntarily desist from meat-eating. They observe that under the Ancien Regime the French people ate meat for only six months of the year but now they seem to expect it every day! The absence of food animals in the markets was threatening the supply of tallow for candles (candle-making is an important domestic industry). The National Convention agreed that Barrere’s suggestion should be further considered.

Sat 23rd Aug 1794

The Paris Gazettes to 14th February 1794 contain interesting news:

  • Perpignan has been taken by the Spanish.
  • On 28th January, 13 rebels were given capital sentences at Marseille. On hearing the award, one ran at the panel of Judges with a drawn dagger. Each Judge had two loaded pistols in his belt and the President only had to draw one and cock it for the convict to desist. He was then taken out for instant beheading but broke his cords and escaped. He was pursued to the harbour where he jumped into the water but was saved. He was executed last of the thirteen.

Sat 1st Nov 1794

European news from the Italian press:

  • Leghorn, 18th June – The English fleet has maintained a blockade from Iles d’Hyeres to Nice. Admiral Hotham has 9 ships-of-the-line and 7 frigates. At end May Hotham had to move offshore due to contrary winds and this allowed the departure of the French fleet from Toulon. It comprised 7 ships-of-the-line and 8 frigates and some transports with 10,000 men. The frigate HMS Juno left here on 30th May with oxen, grain and vegetables for Hotham’s blockade. It was intercepted by two of the French frigates but attacked and confused them, facilitating its escape. It then alerted the blockading ships who are in pursuit.
  • Forty English transports have arrived at Corsica with food, ammunition and 4,000 troops. The remainder of the Corsican expedition is expected daily.

Sat 13th Dec 1794

Paris, 6th June – Barrere has announced to the National Convention on 3rd June the loss of Bastia and the island of Corsica. “The treason of Paoli has obtained a moment of success for our enemies.” Our reinforcement from Toulon was intercepted by the British fleet and prevented from relieving the island.

Sat 13th Dec 1794

Cologne Gazette reporting a letter from Leghorn, 14th June:

Bastia is ours and Admiral Hood has sailed to Calvi to command the siege of that town. A French squadron of 7 ships-of-the-line and 8 other vessels left Toulon to reinforce Corsica and support the insurrection on Sardinia where the French have expelled all the émigrés in the Marquis de la Flechiere’s group.

An English fleet was sent to find and oppose the French fleet.

Paoli, on behalf of Corsica and the allies, has declared a naval war on Genoa.

Sat 3rd Jan 1795

House of Commons, 30th May – A debate to thank the King for his Address. In the course of this debate, Fox outlined his understanding of the cause of the war (extract):

When Toulon was captured, Admiral Lord Hood proclaimed that the 1789 Constitution would be applied there. Then a proclamation was issued in London saying we would not treat with the men conducting the government of France. Fox wondered what had caused the British government to change its war objects:

  • was it success at Toulon?
  • Was it the early successes of the allied land armies in Belgium?
  • Or was it something that had happened in France?

It appeared to him that Britain was exposed to the charge that she was at war to destroy the political changes then being made by the French people.

Fox asked MPs to suppose we had won the war – we would tell the French people we have destroyed the tyranny you were under and we leave you without any government at all. Clearly the French would have to form a new government and we would say ‘fine, provided it is not a Jacobin government.’ But the French are likely to raise up the same type of government again and we would be likely to go to war again.

Chancellor Pitt replied that an explanation of our interests is contained in Lord Hood’s declaration to the people of Toulon. He did not offer to restore this or that form of government, only to protect those in favour of monarchy. Then in October of that year H M made the same declaration.

Fox supposes we intend to conquer France, Pitt continued. It is our desire not to conquer but to save France and restore her to her former rank amongst nations. Fox thinks the war strengthens the Jacobin government and our wisest course is to withdraw that strength by terminating hostilities.

My government is founded on principles that oppose tyranny, Pitt said. The French government has decreed that it will never make peace with a King.[6]

Sat 31st Jan 1795

Madrid, 19th May – The French ambassador here, Duc de Vauguion, has been ordered home. So has the Royalist émigré ambassador Duc de Havre. The cause of this repudiation of both the Bourbons and the Republic is the Spanish military defeat at Roussillon. Republican French armies are poised to enter Spain and threaten Catalonia.

Castilian males between 15 – 60 years are conscripted to arms. Those who cannot serve in person must provide substitutes. Conscription is resented. The Spanish people are not opposed to the developments in France in the same way as their King. There is growing pressure on the Court to accommodate France and a diplomatic negotiation has commenced.

The French terms for peace are acknowledgement of their Republic, reception of a French Minister Plenipotentiary at Madrid, restoration of all places taken in war, and renunciation of the Spanish connection with the House of Bourbon. It is thought the Spanish King will agree.[7]

Sat 14th Feb 1795

Leiden Gazette – Sir Gilbert Elliot has written to Henry Dundas reporting the union of Corsica with England.[8] This may produce political and commercial advantages to both countries. When the crown of Corsica has been presented to George III, we suppose that Sir Gilbert Elliot will be appointed Viceroy of the island.

Sir Gilbert’s letter to Henry Dundas:

We assembled a General Congress in Bastia on 8th June 1794 with a view to making it representative. Every commonality (the smallest territorial division) sent a representative. The island is rich and, whilst only landowners are electors, the preponderance of people have a vote. By 10th June we had checked their authorities and constituted the Assembly. They have elected General Paoli as their President and Muselli and Pozzo di Borgo as principal Secretaries.

On 14th June Paoli reviewed the recent history of Corsica since the last Assembly met in May 1793. The Assembly unanimously approved his acts. He proposed separation from France and union with Britain and the assembly agreed. A committee was named to prepare the Articles of Union and the means of conferring the Corsican crown on George III. Many interested Corsicans, not elected as representatives but in attendance, were invited to give their opinions. I am satisfied the discussion was free and full.

On 18th June Pozzo di Borgo explained the terms of Union to the Assembly and they were agreed unanimously. The Union with us was made voluntarily by the Corsicans and each representative at the Assembly signed the Articles to indicate his consent. On 19th June I received in the Assembly from Paoli the solemn offer to H M of the Crown and sovereignty of Corsica. I accepted the Crown on the King’s behalf and swore to maintain the liberties contained in the Corsican Constitution and laws. I signed and sealed the acceptance and a copy is attached. The following day a Te Deum was sung and prayers were offered up for George III, King of Great Britain and Corsica. In the evening the town was illuminated and we had a party.

Today the Assembly has voted an Address of gratitude to H M and deputed four prominent Corsicans to bring it to London and present it.

This agreement reflects the high reputation that Britain enjoys here. It is a lucid expression of contempt for French principles and delight in our own. This letter will be delivered by Sr Petriconi who will provide any additional details you require. Sgd Gilbert Elliot, 21st June 1794.

Sat 28th Feb 1795

Paris 12th August – Barrere reported that the Spanish have been driven back in southern France. They now only retain Bellegarde. The great fortress of Fontarabia fell to Republican troops without a shot being fired. We climbed through the mountains and got behind them and they feared for their communications and surrendered.

The agreed capitulation of Collioure, whereby the Spanish undertook to release 7,000 French prisoners, has not been performed and the French General has requested instructions from Paris.

The National Convention decrees that if the Spanish do not soon perform their agreement, the army will take no more Spanish prisoners and will also arrest and imprison as hostages all Spanish nobles and priests it discovers.

Sat 21st March 1795

Whilst the moderates have assumed the ascendancy in Paris, in the south of France the Terror continues.

Walter Smith has been guillotined at Nancy for assisting émigrés. He is the brother of Mrs Fitzherbert.[9] His head was carried through the city on a pole, the bearer calling “quelle belle tête” as he walked along.

Sat 4th April 1795

Historical Note – When France overran Corsica in 1769 General Paoli’s force of 537 men was outnumbered and surrounded by 4,000 French troops. He directed them to cut their way out and said there is nothing so fine as a glorious death. The successful men were to wait in a foreign land until he sent for them.

A good number got down to the coast and were taken-off in an English ship to Leghorn where the English consul to Tuscany, Sir John Dick, held a reception for them. A few days later the General’s brother Clement Paoli also arrived with 300 more followers.

Sat 18th April 1795

Letter from Hamburg, 31st October. Peace is breaking-out:

A minister from Spain has arrived at Paris and is desirous of peace now French armies have expelled the Spanish invasion force and are entering Catalonia.

Sat 25th April 1795

France – 7th October was the anniversary of the reduction of Lyon. The National Convention has received a report on the present state of Lyon which contains proposals for reanimating its old commerce and industry. The report accuses Robespierre of attempting to exterminate merchants and suppress trade. It asks the National Convention to restore the prosperity of the city. A deputation of Lyonnais persuaded the Deputies of this duty and the National Convention then decreed:

  • The Commune Affranchie is no longer in rebellion and may use its former name of Lyon.
  • The decree confiscating Lyonnais’ property is rescinded for military stores.
  • The machinery of industry and for production of military stores is restored.
  • The owners of Lyon goods may reclaim them from wherever they have been detained.
  • The column erected in the city on which was written “Lyon fit la guerre à la liberté, Lyon n’est plus” (Lyon has rebelled; Lyon is no more) is to be removed.

A similar disabling Decree concerning the town of Lons de Launier was also repealed.

Dubois Crance welcomed Lyon back into the arms of the Republic. He called for a report in 7 days to confirm the conduct of the Lyonnais is acceptable.

Sat 2nd May 1795

Letter from Genoa, 13th September – Admiral Lord Hood and Sir Gilbert Elliot have informed Drake, the British ambassador to Genoa,[10] of the reason for the British blockade of that port. Its for the information of the Genoa Court. They say ‘we only want to hurt France not Genoa. We are really your good friends.’

The government of Genoa replied that raising the blockade would be an act of rectitude by the British but the Genoese felt they should also get an indemnity for the goods seized. They insisted on their right to maintain strict neutrality, at a time when the armies of the belligerent powers (France and Austria) were approaching their borders. They were pleased with the expression of our friendship but recalled that it was the British who unilaterally established the blockade in the first place.

Sat 16th May 1795

Proclamation to the Spanish people by Prime Minister de Alcudia:

“Hear me. Evil people publish rumours that the French armies are irresistible; that traitors to God and Kings can do anything. They certainly use spies and misrepresent the difficult as easy and the easy as difficult.

“Your King knows you are loyal to him. Our armies are sufficient to annihilate the French. We are concentrating our forces to destroy the invaders. They only have 20,000 men at Navarre and Biscay – they cannot support a larger force in the present condition of their country. French soldiers are not really obedient to the tyrants – they act from fear. They have lost their property rights and their justice and they only hope to preserve their lives. 20,000 men are inadequate to conquer even a small corner of Spain. So far they have advanced through open country but now they have arrived at the mountains they are unable to march further.

“Do not be afraid. Our General will soon destroy them. God and His Holy Law will protect us. It is useless to farm your fields until these thieves have been removed beyond our borders. Our Catholic army will prevail over the violators of God’s Holy name. Give the King your loyalty and he will reciprocate by diminishing the expenses of his household and making your taxes lighter.”

Sat 20th June 1795

London newspapers by the latest ship to arrive Bombay:

In the King’s speech He formally accepted the Crown and sovereignty of Corsica which has become the latest addition to the British Empire. That may polarise Corsican opinion.

Sat 27th June 1795

Letter from Toulon, 2nd December – a great body of French troops has arrived overland. They are everywhere. Their artillery arrived by sea. The crews of the grand fleet are all embarked and it is expected to sail soon. We do not know where this enormous force is going. Some say it will bombard Leghorn and cut off British trade with the Levant. Others say it is to reconquer Corsica.

A businessman at Toulon, Mr Manesty (same name as the Company’s Resident at Basra), says the force was intended for Corsica until the naval element was attacked and beaten by Vice Admiral Hotham.

Sat 27th June 1795

Letter from Lyon, 12th December – all our émigrés have returned and are re-establishing their factories. Many of them left in 1791. Every one of them says he regrets the past and looks forward to the future.

Sat 27th June 1795

Letter from Grenoble, 14th December – the nobility and others have been released and their property restored to them. de Chaleon, a noble Deputy to the Assembly, was amongst the first to be arrested but is now released. Many émigrés are returning and hope for the same relief. They portray themselves as misled rather than culpable. The same occurrence has happened in Dauphiny and Provence. Moderation is taking hold in all these places.

Sat 15th Aug 1795

An article on Corsica by Citizen Ducher:

George III has proclaimed himself King of Corsica. He used to call himself King of France at the time we had a King of our own.[11] He will probably remain King of Corsica long after the island is taken from him.

The English intend to establish a commercial operation on the island to store their manufactures for smuggling into the small ports of southern France and northern Italy and Spain. They need Corsican seamen to deliver the goods.[12]

French possession of Corsica ensured the good behaviour of Genoa. Now with Britain in control, she will make demands on Genoa. It is foreseeable that Britain will attempt to monopolise the trade of the western Mediterranean to the detriment of the Genoese, Venetians, Neapolitans and Tuscans, etc.

Sat 29th Aug 1795

A book has just been published in French called ‘Six Month’s Residence in France’. It is written by an émigré. In the initial wildness of the Revolution, he fled penniless to Italy where for three years he was in turn feted or execrated by the people he met.

In 1793 the English took Toulon and he left Italy to join the expected liberation of France. He got a job as an artillery officer and, in an instant, the ease and comfort of his life was restored to what it had been before 1789. The port of Toulon was in allied hands, the fleet was under British control, the Spanish were at the gates of Perpignan, an alternative government was to be established at Aix – by December 1793 it seemed the whole of southern France would soon be Royalist whilst in the North at that time an entire French province along the Rhine had submitted to an allied army. The author felt assured that very soon the usurpers would be routed and the ancien regime re-established.

It was the retaking of Toulon that gave hope to the Revolution. It was as though Toulon was a charmed place. Its loss to the allies presaged all the losses elsewhere and suddenly, with its retaking, the revolutionaries were winning the war. The author continues:

“I was posted to one of the advanced redoubts east of Toulon on the night the attack in the west commenced. At dawn we were told to evacuate and retire within the town. I removed my uniform and put on inconspicuous dress to avoid attention – it saved my life. As soon as the British withdrawal became apparent, the roughest people of Toulon got to work.

“When I got to the port everything was in flames. The dry heat of the air was unbreathable. Toulon is shaped like a crescent and the Republicans had entered all along the western end from whence they kept up an incessant bombardment of bombs, grenades and rifle fire. The allied positions in the east all faced the wrong way and had to be swung around before a fire on the town could be commenced. This both intimidated the looters and covered the evacuation. A revolt seemed to begin in the arsenal as well as the town and there was shooting from all directions. A great flotilla of boats extended out of the harbour and pointed to the unseen location of the British fleet offshore. Many boats were hopelessly overladen and most of these sank early. People were wading out to get a place in any nearby boat. I threw myself into a boat and the oars began to move when an overwhelming explosion concussed us all. It was the destruction of a nearby ship loaded with powder……”

Sat 5th Sept 1795

An amusing example of corruption was afforded at Toulon in 1793. HMS Leviathan had no carronades for her poop deck but her Captain had seen six 36-pounders in the artillery park ashore and though they would do nicely. He sent a party to liberate them and brought them on board with the appropriate canister and shot.

They were first used in action on 1st June against the French warship America. When the America struck and the British boarded they discovered they had been firing silver dollars and six livre gold pieces. Many of the crew had been injured by them and the masts and sails were decorated with coins.

At first the French officers assumed, in that delightful way of the French, that the British had expended their ammunition and were literally fighting with money. Later it was discovered that the canister taken on board at Toulon had been packed with specie by some official in the ordnance department.

Sat 12th March 1814

In early 1794 when the French drove the émigrés and British out of Toulon, Generals Dugommier and Angereau continued to the west and drove the Spanish out of the Rhone valley too. It was Dugommier who approved Bonaparte’s artillery attack on the British shipping in Toulon (rather than the expected attack on the town itself) that forced the British to withdraw precipitately in less than two days and effectively brought at end to the plan to occupy the southern ports as a base to bring men and materiel into France.

The Spanish at that time had occupied Arles and Bagnols and several other towns between the Rhone and the Pyrenees. They were forced to retreat and lost over 200 cannon. Only the Spanish garrison in the fort at Bellegarde withstood the attacks but after 4 months was also compelled to surrender.

The French continued across the frontier and occupied San Sebastien and Tolosa and continued victorious to Bilbao in the west. The ‘impregnable’ fort of Figueras with its garrison of 10,000 troops capitulated in the east. The Spanish abandoned Rosas and the French were preparing to besiege Pamplona when Paris chose to concentrate French forces against Austria and opened peace negotiations with Madrid.

Sat 3rd Oct 1795

National Convention, 27th May:

Representatives Brunel and Niou went ashore at Toulon on 17th May and were caught by some Jacobins. They were forced to write an order which the Jacobins used to obtain access to and possession of Fort La Malgue. Brunel and Niou were then killed. The Jacobin prisoners in the fort were released and the armoury was ransacked. The Jacobins have since disarmed officials of the Commune of Solies and carried off 11 residents and a priest. They say seven of the men released from the fort were émigrés who are now wearing cockades in their hats inscribed ‘long live Louis XVII’.

A letter from Marseille dated 19th May:

The Jacobins have placed cannon at all the entrances to the town. The representative Charbonnier, whom the National Convention permitted to visit Toulon for his health, is a leader of the revolution. He has men active in both Marseille and Toulon. At Toulon they say they will defend the Constitution of 1793 and have sent emissaries to the surrounding communes to encourage them to join-in. It is expected they will endeavour to prevent the French fleet leaving port or deliver it to the English who continue to cruise outside. It appears quite likely that the motivational force for this rebellion comes from London.

Recent advices say the rebels are politicising the Toulon garrison; the fleet is in the inner roads and exposed to land-based attack; our representative and colleague Chiappe is their prisoner. A citizen of Toulon, who escaped last night, says the Jacobins now number 8,000 men and their attempts to subvert the garrison have been repudiated by the soldiers. Latest news is that the fleet has shifted to the outer roads beyond the guns of the port and that Chiappe has escaped. Our armed forces around Marseille are moving on Toulon and a speedy reduction will ensue.

The National Convention then voted to arrest Charbonnier and 18 other members and have them tried by Courts Martial.

Sat 10th Oct 1795

Journal Generale, 2nd June:

From Marseille we hear a part of the Toulon fleet has joined the insurgency but is restricted by the Brest fleet which remains loyal. Government forces have reoccupied Fort La Malgue and the Toulon insurgents have difficulty to escape either by land or sea.

In Marseille many Jacobins have been killed in the streets. It has also occurred at Lyon and elsewhere. The Marseillais have marched for Toulon. Before they left they demanded the execution of all dissidents in the prison but Deputy Chambon succeeded in diverting them.[13]

Tues 27th Oct 1795 – Extraordinary

National Convention, 27th May – the Jacobins at Toulon have rebelled. They occupied the port and the arsenal. They killed 600 people associated with the Revolutionary government. The Marseillais formed themselves into an army and marched against Toulon. The Jacobins surrendered the gates of Toulon to the Marseillais and retired within the arsenal where they were subdued and killed. 4,000 of them have since been executed.

Sat 13th Feb 1796

Bastia, Corsica, 18th August – The people of Aleria have burned a copy of the British laws bestowed on Corsica on the transfer of its sovereignty to George III. They believe we do not respect General Paoli who is their hero but a difficult man for us to deal with. Pozzi de Borgo, the President of the State Council, and Colonna, who are the main British supporters, have become popular betes noire.

The Corsicans have attacked the salt monopoly we instituted and have refused to pay our gabelle or, indeed, any of the other taxes we have introduced. They complain the promised university has not progressed, trade is being interrupted and public funds are disappearing. The Viceroy (Minto) says he is a good chap and would not misrule them. An island-wide election is being held and Paoli is expected to increase his power from it.

We have invested funds in developing Ajaccio into a naval base which is our main reason for the inclusion of Corsica in the British Empire. A great mole is being laid and dockyards and arsenals are under construction.

A French commissioner has visited to propose an exchange of prisoners. Minto assented.

Sat 18th June 1796

News from the London papers:

The Pope has permitted the British to ship three battalions of troops through his straits to Corsica.

Sat 30th July 1796

Genoa, 22nd January 1796 – the insurrection on Corsica against Minto’s colonial government is becoming serious. A Corsican regiment in English pay has mutinied at Corte, attacked another British regiment and retired to Bastia. At that town six English officers were recently found murdered.

Sat 17th Dec 1796

London Gazette, 20th August:

A force from the new British colony of Corsica has taken possession of Porte Ferraio, the port of Elba on 10th July, in accordance with instructions of Minto, Viceroy of Corsica.

Elba belongs to the Duke of Piombino while the town of Porto Ferraio belongs to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. With General Bonaparte’s army in possession of most of northern Italy, Minto felt this toehold of Italian soil on Elba had to be removed from his potential possession. Elba had earlier been intended by the French as the base for their invasion of Leghorn. Porto Ferraio is an excellent safe harbour protected by three forts – Cosmopoli, Stella and Falcone.

The failure of strict neutrality by the Grand Duke’s Governor at Porto Ferraio was Minto’s reason for his order. Porto Ferraio (named for some old iron mines nearby) is on an islet connected to Elba by a bridge and canal. The port is protected by 100 cannon and a garrison of 400 excluding the local militia. The Governor of the town required a little time to consult with the leading citizens (Tuscans control the island’s economy). Admiral Nelson brought his warships into harbour to encourage the Governor to surrender peacefully. This was a good (but rare) example of British combined operations working well.

NB – all 1797 editions missing from the British Library copy.

Sat 17th March 1798

Redacteur, Letter from Ajaccio, Corsica, 3rd October:

Émigrés and Royalists from the army of the Prince of Conde have fomented a revolution against the Government of this new British colony.

On 14th September the authorities exposed the entire plot – the Royalists had organised a provisional government, enacted laws and distributed jobs.

About 800 freedom fighters opposed the rebels and marched against them on 20th September. The priests, who are politicising the people against the British colonial government, were at first disposed to fight but after a few shots they all fled.

Wed 2nd May 1798 Extraordinary

The Knights Templar, who govern Malta, have agreed to submit to British rule and an English fleet of 30 sail has taken possession of the island.[14]

Sat 14th Nov 1807

Pascal Paoli, the Corsican patriot, died at Edgware Road in London on 5th February 1807 aged 81 years. His father Giacinto Paoli was an influential Corsican and tended to the boy’s education personally. When the family moved to Naples, Pascal was placed in the Jesuit College there.

Corsica had been successively governed by the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Hun barbarians, the Saracens and then the Pope. The last-named gave it to the Prians and they lost it to Genoa which obtained a complete ascendancy in the island by 1334. Genoa exercised a fiercely oppressive rule on Corsica inducing both the clannish habits of the people and repeated rebellions until the 1720s.

In 1720s Giacinto Paoli led almost the entire populace in an insurrection. The island continued in anarchy for decades with Giacinto living in exile at Naples and directed opposition to Genoa from there. It was in the 1750s that young Pascal came to the attention of the Corsicans and in 1755 he was made Chief. The Genoese garrison was poorly supported from home and deeply resented by the Corsicans who returned every act of injustice with one of their own.

By raising vendetta to the status of law, Pascal cleared the interior of the island of Genoese and forced them into the ports. This produced a measure of tranquillity – the Corsicans controlled and used the food production while the Genoese restricted themselves to the ports and imported their needs from the mainland.

By 1761 Pascal felt sufficiently powerful to ask the Kings of Europe for support against the Genoese. This irritated the Genoese sufficiently to contract with France for the provision of six battalions to garrison the remaining loyal ports in the island. These troops were provided on a four year contract. The French Governor Duc de Choiseul was persuaded that the Corsicans would tolerate French government and sought to seduce Pascal to this view by offering him the command of the army whilst France appointed the Governors. This was rejected and the French, in the common way of the times, sent a bigger army to enforce submission to their terms on the Corsicans. After some early French successes, a garrison at Borgo was surrounded by Paoli’s men and deprived of water until it submitted. This procured some artillery for the Corsicans. The French then retired to the towns leaving the majority of the island in Paoli’s hands. A period of indecisive attacks and reprisals ensued until France felt its honour was impugned and a large reinforcement was sent.

This succeeded in annihilating most of the male islanders. Paoli was reduced to some 500 men supported by the farming villagers against over 4,000 French. He accepted English help to escape to Leghorn where the English consul Sir John Dick arranged his passage to London. He was received like a visiting head of state and granted a pension of £1,200 a year. With this fund, his residence became the locus of a government-in-exile. Thus he occupied himself for most of twenty years until the French Revolution revived the chance of recovering his island. In 1790 he returned his English pension and presented himself to the National Assembly in Paris which welcomed him. He became a subject of the Republic of France but as the Revolution worked itself out, a disposition for self-government became apparent amongst the Corsicans.

He was courted by the Corsican clergy who had been devalued by the Revolution and had formed themselves into a military unit – the Sacred Band. From this base he quickly assumed the popular leadership of the independence faction and established a national council (consulta). The National Assembly complained and published Decrees but did little of practical effect against him.

It was Paoli’s idea to voluntarily surrender the island to England and rely on her protection from France. He obtained the Consulta’s approval and Corsica briefly became a colony of England under the Governorship of Sir Gilbert Elliot (later Lord Minto). Paoli quickly found Minto insufferable and at about the same time he lost his money in a banking collapse at Leghorn. He returned to London. He thereafter provided occasional assistance in the British effort against France.

He is buried at St Pancras.

Sat 23rd July 1808

The maritime trade of Naples has been stopped by our possession of Capri. Lord Hood has re-occupied Corsica.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. See the Europe chapter for the Treaty of Pavia detailing the intended partition of small countries by the neighbouring Kings.
  2. Quotations are rife in 18th century newspapers and few are as easily identifiable as this one from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It appears multiple times.
  3. The Republican Government is divided into numerous Committees, of which the CPS (Committee of Public Safety) is of leading importance. Full details are in the Europe chapter.
  4. This is General Pasquale di Paoli, the Corsican hero.
  5. Stevens is the author of the anti-commercial Orders-in-Council that dictate British naval policy throughout the wars with France and produce numerous fortunes to officers.
  6. No doubt there was a Decree of the French Government declining to make peace with a King but I have found no trace of it and it can have been only a temporary policy.
  7. The Spanish position is complicated by national economic reliance on the mineral wealth of South America, shipments of which have fallen under British influence due to that country’s increasing control of the high seas. Whoever controls the provision of silver to Spain controls the country.
  8. Britain needs a safe port from which to provision and water the fleet that is to disrupt the grain supply to France from Genoa, Leghorn, etc. The induction of Corsica into the British Empire will provide it.
  9. The Prince of Wales’ Catholic wife, recently repudiated at the King’s command.
  10. Only two or three of these British representatives in every port throughout Europe are employees of the Foreign Office. Many are MPs from the Minister’s stable, several are private bankers. Most have commercial interests in the country of appointment. For more on Drake see the Assassination chapter.
  11. He still does – it was originally a Norman assertion. See the Peace chapter for many of the titles George III claims at the pretended negotiations in Lille in 1797.
  12. The usual procedure, basing the commercial operation on an offshore island – Gibraltar into Spain, Trinidad into South America, Jamaica into central America, Bermuda into North America, Channel Islands into France, Heligoland into Netherlands, Lintin / Hong Kong into China, etc., but Corsica will be additionally important as a naval base from which to attack the merchant shipping serving French southern ports.
  13. These provincial events in May / June 1795 are due to the peace negotiations in Switzerland. This has caused the émigrés to fear that peace is breaking-out without their reinstatement. They then launch a renewed attempt to recover the government of France in Paris by bribery and deception under the cry “bread and the 1793 constitution” whilst they still have a chance to do so. It is a repeat of the previously attempted coup and also fails.
  14. The British colony of Corsica has become disorderly as the promised benefits of colonisation – the university, etc. – have not been provided. An alternative naval base in the western Mediterranean is requisite. Malta has a fine port but is not self-sufficient in necessaries.

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