THE PATRIOTS OF THE TYROL
 ON the 9th of April, 1809, down the river Inn, in the Tyrol, came floating a series of planks, from whose
surface waved little red flags. What they meant the Bavarian soldiers, who held that mountain land with a hand
of iron, could not conjecture. But what they meant the peasantry well knew. On the day before peace had ruled
throughout the Alps, and no Bavarian dreamed of war. Those flags were the signal for insurrection, and on
their appearance the brave mountaineers sprang at once to arms and flew to the defence of the bridges of their
country, which the Bavarians were marching to destroy, as an act of defence against the Austrians.
On the 10th the storm of war burst. Some Bavarian sappers had been sent to blow up the bridge of St. Lorenzo.
But hardly had they begun their work, when a shower of bullets from unseen marksmen swept the bridge. Several
were killed; the rest took to flight; the Tyrol was in revolt.
News of this outbreak was borne to Colonel Wrede, in command of the Bavarians, who hastened with a force of
infantry, cavalry, and artillery to the spot. He found the peasants out in numbers. The Tyrolean riflemen, who
were accustomed to bring down chamois from the mountain peaks,
de-  fended the bridge, and made terrible havoc in the Bavarian ranks. They seized Wrede's artillery and flung guns
and gunners together into the stream, and finally put the Bavarians to rout, with severe loss.
The Bavarians held the Tyrol as allies of the French, and the movement against the bridges had been directed
by Napoleon, to prevent the Austrians from reoccupying the country, which had been wrested from their hands.
Wrede in his retreat was joined by a body of three thousand French, but decided, instead of venturing again to
face the daring foe, to withdraw to Innsbruck. But withdrawal was not easy. The signal of revolt had
everywhere called the Tyrolese to arms. The passes were occupied. The fine old Roman bridge over the Brenner,
at Laditsch, was blown up. In the pass of the Brixen, leading to this bridge, the French and Bavarians found
themselves assailed in the old Swiss manner, by rocks and logs rolled down upon their heads, while the
unerring rifles of the hidden peasants swept the pass. Numbers were slain, but the remainder succeeded in
escaping by means of a temporary bridge, which they threw over the stream on the site of the bridge of
Of the Tyrolese patriots to whom this outbreak was due two are worthy of special mention, Joseph Speckbacher,
a wealthy peasant of Rinn, and the more famous Andrew Hofer, the host of the Sand Inn at Passeyr, a man
everywhere known through
 the mountains, as he traded in wine, corn, and horses as far as the Italian frontier.
Hofer was a man of herculean frame and of a full, open, handsome countenance, which gained dignity from its
long, dark-brown beard, which fell in rich curls upon his chest. His picturesque dress—that of the
Tyrol—comprised a red waistcoat, crossed by green braces, which were fastened to black knee breeches of
chamois leather, below which he wore red stockings. A broad black leather girdle clasped his muscular form,
while over all was worn a short green coat. On his head he wore a low-crowned, broad-brimmed Tyrolean hat,
black in color, and ornamented with green ribbons and with the feathers of the capercailzie.
This striking-looking patriot, at the head of a strong party of peasantry, made an assault, early on the 11th,
upon a Bavarian infantry battalion under the command of Colonel Bäraklau, who retreated to a table-land named
Sterzinger Moos, where, drawn up in a square, he resisted every effort of the Tyrolese to dislodge him.
Finally Hofer broke his lines by a stratagem. A wagon loaded with hay, and driven by a girl, was pushed
towards the square, the brave girl shouting, as the balls flew around her, "On with ye! Who cares for Bavarian
dumplings!" Under its shelter the Tyrolese advanced, broke the square, and killed or made prisoners the whole
of the battalion.
Speckbacher, the other patriot named, was no less active. No sooner had the signal of revolt appeared
 in the Inn than he set the alarm-bells ringing in every church-tower through the lower valley of that stream,
and quickly was at the head of a band of stalwart Tyrolese. On the night of the 11th he advanced on the city
of Hall, and lighted about a hundred watch-fires on one side of the city, as if about to attack it from that
quarter. While the attention of the garrison was directed towards these fires, he crept through the darkness
to the gate on the opposite side, and demanded entrance as a common traveller. The gate was opened; his hidden
companions rushed forward and seized it; in a brief time the city, with its Bavarian garrison, was his.
On the 12th he appeared before Innsbruck, and made a fierce assault upon the city in which he was aided by a
murderous fire poured upon the Bavarians by the citizens from windows and towers. The people of the upper
valley of the Inn flocked to the aid of their fellows, and the place, with its garrison, was soon taken,
despite their obstinate defence. Dittfurt, the Bavarian leader, who scornfully refused to yield to the peasant
dogs, as he considered them, fought with tiger-like ferocity, and fell at length, pierced by four bullets.
One further act completed the freeing of the Tyrol from Bavarian domination. The troops under Colonel Wrede
had, as we have related, crossed the Brenner on a temporary bridge, and escaped the perils of the pass.
Greater perils awaited them. Their road lay past Sterzing, the scene of Hofer's victory. Every trace of the
conflict had been
oblit-  erated, and Wrede vainly sought to discover what had become of Bäraklau and his battalion. He entered the
narrow pass through which the road ran at that place, and speedily found his ranks decimated by the rifles of
Hofer's concealed men.
After considerable loss the column broke through, and continued its march to Innsbruck, where it was
immediately surrounded by a triumphant host of Tyrolese. The struggle was short, sharp, and decisive. In a few
minutes several hundred men had fallen. In order to escape complete destruction the rest laid down their arms.
The captors entered Innsbruck in triumph, preceded by the military band of the enemy, which they compelled to
play, and guarding their prisoners, who included two generals, more than a hundred other officers, and about
two thousand men.
In two days the Tyrol had been freed from its Bavarian oppressors and their French allies and restored to its
Austrian lords. The arms of Bavaria were everywhere cast to the ground, and the officials removed. But the
prisoners were treated with great humanity, except in the single instance of a tax-gatherer, who had boasted
that he would grind down the Tyrolese until they should gladly eat hay. In revenge, they forced him to swallow
a bushel of hay for his dinner.
The freedom thus gained by the Tyrolese was not likely to be permanent with Napoleon for their foe. The
Austrians hastened to the defence of the country which had been so bravely won for their emperor.
 On the other side came the French and Bavarians as enemies and oppressors. Lefebvre, the leader of the
invaders, was a rough and brutal soldier, who encouraged his men to commit every outrage upon the
For some two or three months the conflict went on, with varying fortunes, depending upon the conditions of the
war between France and Austria. At first the French were triumphant, and the Austrians withdrew from the
Tyrol. Then came Napoleon's defeat at Aspern, and the Tyrolese rose and again drove the invaders from their
country. In July occurred Napoleon's great victory at Wagram, and the hopes of the Tyrol once more sank. All
the Austrians were withdrawn, and Lefebvre again advanced at the head of thirty or forty thousand French,
Bavarians, and Saxons.
The courage of the peasantry vanished before this threatening invasion. Hofer alone remained resolute, saying
to the Austrian governor, on his departure, "Well, then, I will undertake the government, and, as long as God
wills, name myself Andrew Hofer, host of the Sand at Passeyr, and Count of the Tyrol."
He needed resolution, for his fellow-chiefs deserted the cause of their country on all sides. On his way to
his home he met Speckbacher, hurrying from the country in a carriage with some Austrian officers.
"Wilt thou also desert thy country!" said Hofer to him in tones of sad reproach.
 Another leader, Joachim Haspinger, a Capuchin monk, nicknamed Redbeard, a man of much military talent,
withdrew to his monastery at Seeben. Hofer was left alone of the Tyrolese leaders. While the French advanced
without opposition, he took refuge in a cavern amid the steep rocks that overhung his native vale, where he
implored Heaven for aid.
The aid came. Lefebvre, in his brutal fashion, plundered and burnt as he advanced, and published a
proscription list instead of the amnesty promised. The natural result followed. Hofer persuaded the bold
Capuchin to leave his monastery, and he, with two others, called the western Tyrol to arms. Hofer raised the
eastern Tyrol. They soon gained a powerful associate in Speckbacher, who, conscience-stricken by Hofer's
reproach, had left the Austrians and hastened back to his country. The invader's cruelty had produced its
natural result. The Tyrol was once more in full revolt.
With a bunch of rosemary, the gift of their chosen maidens, in their green hats, the young men grasped their
trusty rifles and hurried to the places of rendezvous. The older men wore peacock plumes, the Hapsburg symbol.
With haste they prepared for the war. Cannon which did good service were made from bored logs of larch wood,
bound with iron rings. Here the patriots built abatis; there they gathered heaps of stone on the edges of
precipices which rose above the narrow vales and passes. The timber slides in the mountains were changed in
 their course so that trees from the heights might be shot down upon the important passes and bridges. All that
could be done to give the invaders a warm welcome was prepared, and the bold peasants waited eagerly for the
From four quarters the invasion came, Lefebvre's army being divided so as to attack the Tyrolese from every
side, and meet in the heart of the country. They were destined to a disastrous repulse. The Saxons, led by
Rouyer, marched through the narrow valley of Eisach, the heights above which were occupied by Haspinger the
Capuchin and his men. Down upon them came rocks and trees from the heights. Rouyer was hurt, and many of his
men were slain around him. He withdrew in haste, leaving one regiment to retain its position in the Oberau.
This the Tyrolese did not propose to permit. They attacked the regiment on the next day, in the narrow valley,
with overpowering numbers. Though faint with hunger and the intense heat, and exhausted by the fierceness of
the assault, a part of the troops cut their way through with great loss and escaped. The rest were made
The story is told that during their retreat, and when ready to drop with fatigue, the soldiers found a cask of
wine. Its head was knocked in by a drummer, who, as he stooped to drink, was pierced by a bullet, and his
blood mingled with the wine. Despite this, the famishing soldiery greedily swallowed the contents of the cask.
 A second corps d'armee advanced up the valley of the Inn as far as the bridges of Pruz. Here it
was repulsed by the Tyrolese, and retreated under cover of the darkness during the night of August 8. The
infantry crept noiselessly over the bridge of Pontlaz. The cavalry followed with equal caution but with less
success. The sound of a horse's hoof aroused the watchful Tyrolese. Instantly rocks and trees were hurled upon
the bridge, men and horses being crushed beneath them and the passage blocked. All the troops which had not
crossed were taken prisoners. The remainder were sharply pursued, and only a handful of them escaped.
The other divisions of the invading army met with a similar fate. Lefebvre himself, who reproached the Saxons
for their defeat, was not able to advance as far as they, and was quickly driven from the mountains with
greatly thinned ranks. He was forced to disguise himself as a common soldier and hide among the cavalry to
escape the balls of the sharp-shooters, who owed him no love. The rear-guard was attacked with clubs by the
Capuchin and his men, and driven out with heavy loss. During the night that followed all the mountains around
the beautiful valley of Innsbruck were lit up with watch-fires. In the valley below those of the invaders were
kept brightly burning while the troops silently withdrew. On the next day the Tyrol held no foes; the invasion
Hofer placed himself at the head of the government at Innsbruck, where he lived in his old simple
 mode of life, proclaimed some excellent laws, and convoked a national assembly. The Emperor of Austria sent
him a golden chain and three thousand ducats. He received them with no show of pride, and returned the
following naive answer: "Sirs, I thank you. I have no news for you to-day. I have, it is true, three couriers
on the road, the Watscher-Hiesele, the Sixten-Seppele, and the Memmele-Franz, and the Schwanz ought long to
have been here. I expect the rascal every hour."
Meanwhile, Speckbacher and the Capuchin kept up hostilities successfully on the eastern frontier. Haspinger
wished to invade the country of their foes, but was restrained by his more prudent associate. Speckbacher is
described as an open-hearted, fine-spirited fellow, with the strength of a giant, and the best marksman in the
country. So keen was his vision that he could distinguish the bells on the necks of the cattle at the distance
of half a mile.
His son Anderle, but ten years of age, was of a spirit equal to his own. In one of the earlier battles of the
war he had occupied himself during the fight in collecting the enemy's balls in his hat, and so obstinately
refused to quit the field that his father had him carried by force to a distant alp. During the present
conflict, Anderle unexpectedly appeared and fought by his father's side. He had escaped from his mountain
retreat. It proved an unlucky escape. Shortly afterwards, the father was surprised by treachery and found
sur-  rounded with foes, who tore from him his arms, flung him to the ground, and seriously injured him with blows
from a club. But in an instant more he sprang furiously to his feet, hurled his assailants to the earth, and
escaped across a wall of rock impassable except to an expert mountaineer. A hundred of his men followed him,
but his young son was taken captive by his foes. The king, Maximilian Joseph, attracted by the story of his
courage and beauty, sent for him and had him well educated.
The freedom of the Tyrol was not to last long. The treaty of Vienna, between the Emperors of Austria and
France, was signed. It did not even mention the Tyrol. It was a tacit understanding that the mountain country
was to be restored to Bavaria, and to reduce it to obedience three fresh armies crossed its frontiers. They
were repulsed in the south, but in the north Hofer, under unwise advice, abandoned the anterior passes, and
the invaders made their way as far as Innsbruck, whence they summoned him to capitulate.
During the night of October 30 an envoy from Austria appeared in the Tyrolese camp, bearing a letter from the
Archduke John, in which he announced the conclusion of peace and commanded the mountaineers to disperse, and
not to offer their lives as a useless sacrifice. The Tyrolese regarded him as their lord, and obeyed, though
with bitter regret. A dispersion took place, except of the band of Speckbacher, which held its ground against
the enemy until the 3rd of November, when he received
 a letter from Hofer saying, "I announce to you that Austria has made peace with France, and has forgotten the
Tyrol." On receiving this news he disbanded his followers, and all opposition ceased.
The war was soon afoot again, however, in the native vale of Hofer, the people of which, made desperate by the
depredations of the Italian bands which had penetrated their country, sprang to arms and resolved to defend
themselves to the bitter end. They compelled Hofer to place himself at their head.
For a time they were successful. But a traitor guided the enemy to their rear, and defeat followed. Hofer
escaped and took refuge among the mountain peaks. Others of the leaders were taken and executed. The most
gallant among the peasantry were shot or hanged. There was some further opposition, but the invaders pressed
into every valley and disarmed the people, the bulk of whom obeyed the orders given them and offered no
resistance. The revolt was quelled.
Hofer took refuge at first, with his wife and child, in a narrow hollow in the Kellerlager. This he soon left
for a hut on the highest alps. He was implored to leave the country, but he vowed that he would live or die on
his native soil. Discovery soon came. A peasant named Raffel learned the location of his hiding-place by
seeing the smoke ascend from his distant hut. He foolishly boasted of his knowledge; his story came to the
ears of the French; he was arrested, and compelled to guide them to the spot. Two thousand French were spread
moun-  tain; a thousand six hundred ascended it; Hofer was taken.
His captors treated him with brutal violence. They tore out his beard, and dragged him pinioned, barefoot, and
in his night-dress, over ice and snow to the valley. Here he was placed in a carriage and carried to the
fortress of Mantua, in Italy. Napoleon, on news of the capture being brought to him at Paris, sent orders to
shoot him within twenty-four hours.
He died as bravely as he had lived. When placed before the firing-party of twelve riflemen, he refused either
to kneel or to allow himself to be blindfolded. "I stand before my Creator," he exclaimed, in firm tones, "and
standing will I restore to him the spirit he gave."
THE LAST DAY OF ANDREAS HOFER.
He gave the signal to fire, but the men, moved by the scene, missed their aim. The first fire brought him to
his knees, the second stretched him on the ground, where a corporal terminated the cruel scene by shooting him
through the head. He died February 20, 1810. At a later date his remains were borne back to his native alps, a
handsome monument of white marble was erected to his memory in the church at Innsbruck, and his family was
Of the two other principal leaders of the Tyrolese, Haspinger, the Capuchin, escaped to Vienna, which
Speckbacher also succeeded in reaching, after a series of perils and escapes which are well worth relating.
After the dispersal of his troops he, like Hofer,
 sought concealment in the mountains where the Bavarians sought for him in troops, vowing to "cut his skin into
boot-straps if they caught him." He attempted to follow the mountain paths to Austria, but at Dux found the
roads so blocked with snow that further progress was impossible. Here the Bavarians came upon his track and
attacked the house in which he had taken refuge. He escaped by leaping from its roof, but was wounded in doing
For the twenty-seven days that followed he roamed through the snowy mountain forests, in danger of death both
from cold and starvation. Once for four days together he did not taste food. At the end of this time he found
shelter in a hut at Bolderberg, where by chance he found his wife and children, who had sought the same
His bitterly persistent foes left him not long in safety here. They learned his place of retreat, and pursued
him, his presence of mind alone saving him from capture. Seeing them approach, he took a sledge upon his
shoulders, and walked towards and past them as though he were a servant of the house.
His next place of refuge was in a cave on the Gemshaken, in which he remained until the opening of spring,
when he had the ill-fortune to be carried by a snow-slide a mile and a half into the valley. It was impossible
to return. He crept from the snow, but found that one of his legs was dislocated. The utmost he could do, and
that with agonizing pain, was to drag himself to a neighboring hut.
 Here were two men, who carried him to his own house at Rinn.
Bavarians were quartered in the house, and the only place of refuge open to him was the cow-shed, where his
faithful servant Zoppel dug for him a hole beneath the bed of one of the cows, and daily supplied him with
food. His wife had returned to the house, but the danger of discovery was so great that even she was not told
of his propinquity.
For seven weeks he remained thus half buried in the cow-shed, gradually recovering his strength. At the end of
that time he rose, bade adieu to his wife, who now first learned of his presence, and again betook himself to
the high paths of the mountains, from which the sun of May had freed the snow. He reached Vienna without
Here the brave patriot received no thanks for his services. Even a small estate he had purchased with the
remains of his property he was forced to relinquish, not being able to complete the purchase. He would have
been reduced to beggary but for Hofer's son, who had received a fine estate from the emperor, and who engaged
him as his steward. Thus ended the active career of the ablest leader in the Tyrolean war.
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