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Andreas Hofer

      Andreas Hofer, a native of the village of St. Leonard, in the valley of Passeyr, was born on November 22, 1767. During the greater part of his life he resided peaceably in his own neighborhood, where he kept an inn, and increased his profits by dealing in wine, corn, and cattle. About his neck he wore at all times a small crucifix and a medal of St. George. He never held any rank in the Austrian army; but he had formed a secret connection with the Archduke John, when that prince had passed a few weeks in the Tyrol making scientific researches. In November, 1805, Hofer was appointed deputy from his native valley at the conference of Brunnecken, and again at a second conference, held at Vienna, in January, 1809.

      The Tyrol had for many years been an appendage of the Austrian states, and the inhabitants had become devoted to that government; so that when, by the treaty of Presburg, the province was transferred to the rule of the King of Bavaria, then the ally of Napoleon I., the peasants were greatly irritated, and their discontent was further provoked by the large and frequent exactions which the continual wars obliged the new government to levy on the Tyrolese. The consequence was, that when their own neighborhood became the theatre of military operations between Austria and France, in the spring of 1809, a general insurrection broke out in the Tyrol. His resolution of character, natural eloquence, and private influence as a wealthy citizen, joined to a figure of great stature and strength, pointed out Andreas Hofer to his countrymen as the leader of this revolt; and with him were united Spechbacher, Joseph Haspinger, and Martin Teimer, whose names have all become historical. A perfect understanding was maintained between the insurgents and their late masters, and the signal of the insurrection was given by the Archduke John in a proclamation from his head-quarters at Klagenfurth. An Austrian army of 10,000 men, commanded by the Marquis Castellar, was directed to enter the Tyrol and support the insurrection, which broke out in every quarter on the night of April 8, 1809. The Austrian general himself crossed the frontier at daybreak on the 9th. On their side the Bavarians marched an army of 25,000 men into the province to quell the revolt. Hofer and his band of armed peasantry fell upon the Bavarians while entangled in the narrow glens, and on April 10th defeated Besson and Lemoine at the Sterzinger Moos. The next day a troop of peasants under Teimer took possession of Innsbrueck. On the 12th Besson surrendered with his division of 3,000 men. In a single week all the fortresses were recovered, nearly 10,000 troops of the enemy were destroyed, and the whole province was redeemed.

Andreas Hofer led to Execution.

      Incensed by this interruption of his plans, Napoleon despatched three armies almost simultaneously to assail the province at three different points. One of these forces was under the command of Marshal Lefebvre, who, on May 12th, defeated the united army of the Austrian soldiers, under Castellar, and the Tyrolese peasantry, under Haspinger and Spechbacher, at Feuer Singer. The troops made a bad use of their victory, slaughtering the inhabitants of the villages on their route, without distinction of age or sex. The Bavarian and French officers encouraged and took part in the excesses of the soldiers; while the insurgents, far from retaliating, refrained from every species of license, and nursed their wounded prisoners with the same care as their own friends. Hofer himself was not always present in action, his talent consisting rather in stimulating his countrymen than in actual fighting; but at the battle of Innsbrueck (May 28, 1809), he led the Tyrolese, exhibited both skill and daring, and defeated the Bavarians with a loss of 4,000 men. The whole of the Tyrol was delivered a second time. But after the battle of Wagram (July 6th), and the armistice of Znaim which immediately followed, the Austrian army was obliged to evacuate the Tyrol, leaving the helpless insurgents to the mercy of an exasperated enemy. Marshal Lefebvre now invaded the province a second time, and entered it by the road from Salzburg, with an army of 21,000 troops, while Beaumont, having crossed the ridge of Schnartz with a force 10,000 strong, threatened Innsbrueck from the north. On July 30th Innsbrueck submitted. A series of desperate contests followed along the line of the Brenner, mostly with doubtful success, but in one the marshal was defeated, when twenty-five pieces of artillery and a quantity of ammunition fell into the hands of the Tyrolese. Again, on August 12th, Marshal Lefebvre, with an army of 25,000 Bavarian and French soldiers, 2,000 of whom were cavalry, was totally beaten by the Tyrolese army, consisting of 18,000 armed peasants. The battle, which was fought near Innsbrueck, is said to have lasted from six in the morning until midnight. For a third time the Tyrol was free.

      After this victory, entirely achieved by the peasantry themselves, Hofer became the absolute ruler of the country; coins were struck with his effigy, and proclamations issued in his name. His power, however, scarcely lasted two months, and became the cause of his ruin ultimately. Three veteran armies, comprising a force of nearly 50,000 French and Bavarian troops, were despatched in October to subdue the exhausted province; and, unable to make head against them, Hofer was obliged to take refuge in the mountains. Soon after, a price having been set on his head, a pretended friend (a priest named Donay) was induced to betray him, January 20, 1810. After his arrest he was conveyed to Mantua, and the intelligence having been communicated by telegraph to the French emperor, an order was instantly returned that he must be tried. This order was a sentence; and after a court-martial, at which, however, the majority were averse to a sentence of death, Hofer was condemned to be shot. His execution took place on February 20, 1810, his whole military career having occupied less than forty weeks. The Emperor Francis conferred a handsome pension upon the widow and family of Hofer, and created Hofer's son a noble. The Austrian government also raised a marble statue of heroic size in the cathedral of Innsbrueck, where the body of the patriot was interred; while his own countrymen have commemorated his efforts by raising a small pyramid to mark the spot where he was taken.

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