Corsica And Elba
( Originally Published 1904 )
AFTER leaving Palma, we sail on to Port Mahon in Minorca and there take a ship for Ajaccio (a-yat' cho) on the French island of Corsica. Ajaccio is the capital of Corsica, and is especially noted because it is the town in which Napoleon was born. The city has several statues to its great hero, and many of its people can explain just why Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo, and are sure that if he had been feeling well that day, he would have been victorious.
The Corsicans are a nation of fighters. Their little island is rugged and mountainous and not very rich, but they are proud of their courage and would, it is said, much rather fight than farm. We see children playing soldiers in the streets, and notice that the people are rather sober and serious. Most of the women dress in black, and the men are grave and reserved.
Although Corsica belongs to France, its people look more like Italians than Frenchmen. They speak Italian and were for many centuries governed from Italy. In 1768 the island was given over to France and it is now ruled as a department or province of that country.
Corsica is beautiful. Its mountainous character can be seen far out at sea. There are hills about the harbor of Ajaccio and back of them well-wooded mountains, some of which are snow capped at this time of the year. Some of the valleys have excellent crops; there are many vine-yards and fine groves of olives and oranges.
After a stroll about Ajaccio we take the train for Bastia, the leading city on the north coast of Corsica, where we find a steamer which lands us in Elba.
We have now seen where Napoleon was born, and where he spent his last days and was buried. This little island of Elba is another spot connected with his career. When he was first defeated by the forces of Europe and compelled to give up the French throne, he was allowed to retain the title of Emperor, and told he could have this little island of Elba as his empire. He was brought here and given a sum of money eight times as much as the salary of our President to support himself and his court. He came here May 4, 1814, but the next February secretly left for France, where he raised another army and marched against his enemies, who finally defeated him at the battle of Waterloo.
Elba now belongs to Italy, being governed as a part of the province nearest it on the mainland. It is only about as large as the District of Columbia, and it has but a few thousand people. The surface of the island is mountainous. There are extensive iron mines, the ore of which is so fine that it is exported to the United States and England for making Bessemer steel. We spend a few hours at Puertoferrajo (por'to-fer-ra'yo), the principal city, and then sail southward for the island of Sardinia.