Reported 280 Years Ago (May 1739): Corsican rebels surprise Genoese and French, to stop advance

The Belfast News Letter of April 20 1739 (May 1 in the modern calendar)
The Belfast News Letter of April 20 1739 (May 1 in the modern calendar)
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From the Belfast News Letter of April 20 1739 (which is May 1 in the modern calendar):

The following Account of the late Action in Corsica, is taken from the Utrecht Gazette, of the 14th of April, N.S. viz.

Five Batallions of French Troops that were quarter’d at Calvi, having join’d some Genoese Troops, the whole Body, consisting of 4,000 Men, commanded by the Colonel of the Regiment of Bassign and M. de Villemur, began their march with four Pieces of Cannon and a large Mortar Piece, in order to attack the Post of Monte maggiore, a Place advantageously situated, tho’ there are no more than 80 Houses in it.

On the 10th of March they began to play a Battery against it, and throw some Bombs into it; a Detachment of the Rebels appearing on the Hill, the French advanced up and attack’d them very briskly, but after skirmishing together about two Hours, the Rebels feign’d to give Ground, and at length took to their Heels, seemingly in good Earnest: The French and Genoese were so encourag’d at this, that they ventur’d to draw nearer to Monte-maggiore, and seiz’d upon it without meeting any Resistance; but while they thought themselves secure in their new Post, the Corsicans, who had feign’d to retire, and part of whom hid themselves in the Gardens and Houses of the Place, appear’d again all of a sudden, and attack’d them so furiously that they were obliged to give way to Numbers, and abandon their new Conquests entirely, &c.

[The Corsican bid for independence from Genoa is reported all the way through the surviving editions of the News Letter from 1739. There had been a peace deal but if fell through and the violence that followed was brutal and caused much bloodshed.

France was supporting Genoa militarily, which is ironic because ultimately Corsica would secure independence from Genoa but end up territory of France, where Napoleon Bonarparte, the ultimate French hero, was born in 1769]

We hear that the Hon John Byng, Esq; Colonel of a Company in the Foot-Guards, will stand Candidate for the Town of Plymouth, in the room of his Brother Robert Byng, Esq; made Governor of Barbadoes.

[This is the John Byng who would later become Admiral Byng, who was executed for cowardice in the 1750s, in a notorious case that was highly controversial at the time and is still known today]


Paris, April 6.

As it may possibly happen that the Court of Spain may not renew the Assiento Treaty with the English South-Sea Company, several rich Merchants in France design to apply to his Catholick Majesty to permit them to transport to the Spanish Colonies in America the same Number of Negroes which that Company used to send thither, and upon the same Conditions. They are assure of being well recommended by this Court to that of Madrid. It’s said that should this be granted them, the King of Spain would likewise give them Power to seize upon the Coast of Mexico all foreign Ships that they should find carrying on a clandestine Trade.

[The Asiento de Negros let Britain sell African slaves in Spanish colonies]

Yesterday came Advice, that the Loyal Judith, Capt. Atkins Coulthurst, bound from Marseilles, was lost at the mouth of the Rhone.


On Saturday a Gentleman who had been at Rotherhith to receive 200l. coming back by Water, had the Misfortune, as he was getting up some steep Stairs near Botolph-Whart, to drop a Bag, in which the Money was contain’d, into the Thames at High-water; the Waterman who brought him up was his Tenant, and immediately proposed to dive for it, which being agreed to, he went down in 11 Foot-Water and found the Bag; upon which the Gentleman forgave him a Sum of Money due for Rent, and made him a handsome Present of Guineas beside. [£200 is almost £50,000 in today’s money, a guinea about £240, so the reward was perhaps worth up to or more than £1,000 today]

Last Thursday a Man about fifty Years old was found drown’d in the new River at Hornsey.

On Sunday several Trees were blown down near Rosamond’s Pond in St. James’s Park.

As the Workmen were digging last Saturday in Stocks-Market for the Foundation of the Mansion House, they took up a Grave Stone which had been there 297 Years: The Letters and Figures, with a curious Coat of Arms upon it, appeared but very little defaced. [This find dated to 1442]

Margetson Saunders,

OF Belfast Merchant, has newly received a Quantity of Dutch Garden Seeds, which he will fell very cheap, by Wholesale or Retail.

N.B. He has great Choice of English Garden Seeds.