Andrew Hoper
Posted by Admin on March 01 2013 01:42:25

Andrew Hoper

 

Andrew HoperThe fame of Napoleon is darkened by two shadows which the ingenuity and sophistry of his most enthusiastic apologists have never been able to efface.

 

The first of these was the execution -to call it by no harsher name of the Duc D'Enghien the second was the execution of the Typolean patriot Andrew Hofer. In both cases Napoleon expressed hypocritical regrets that the sentences had been carried out with undue haste and without his knowledge. Tyrol was called by the Emperor Maximilian "the Shield of Austria," and again by the Emperor Charles V., "the Heart of Austria." Never went those honorable titles more fully proved than in the resistance offered by the Tyrolese to the domination of Napoleon, when that conqueror had already the Continent of Europe prostrate at his feet. In the mountain strongholds of Tyrol did his crushing tyranny still encounter armed resistance ; and Andrew Hofer, a simple herdsman, was the soul of that resistance.

 

This patriot was born on the 22d of November, 1767. in the beautiful valley of Passeyr, at an inn called the Sands House, whence bis popular name of "Sandswirth," keeper or host of the Sands. Following the practice of his father, he became a wine·dealer, and in his trade drove horses into Northern Italy, whence he brought back casks of wine. He was one of the representatives of Tyrol in the Diet of 1790· The French invasion of Italy caused him to enter the Austrian army, in 1796, when he commanded a company of riflemen; and in recognition of his merit he received a gold medal of honor from the emperor. In 1803 he organized the rural militia, and two years later he was a member of the body to which was committed the political direction of his country. In spite of the unwillingness of the inhabitants, Tyrol was by the Treaty of Pres burg wrested from Austria and assign to Bavaria, which had taken sides with France.

 

Under the tyrannical government of the renegade Prince of Bavaria the old laws were abolished, new taxes were exacted and the churches plundered. After these outrages had lasted three years, Hofer went as a member of a secret deputation to Vienna to confer with the Archduke John on their grievances. The archduke advised. an insurrection in Tyrol, and Baron von Hormayr was, early in 1809, commissioned to put it in execution. Plans were skilfully laid, and in a few days the whole of Tyrol was in arms. Hofer being chosen to command a large division, surprised the Bavarians while toiling through the narrow valleys and defeated them at Sterzing. In other places 8,000 French and Bavarian troops were made prisoners. Reinforcements sent by Napoleon defeated the Tyrolese at Fenersinger and in other places but Hofer coming to the rescue, rallied his countrymen and again repulsed the Bavarians at Innspruck. After Napoleon's great victory at Wagram in July, the Emperor of Austria consented Lo evacuate Tyrol, but the patriot Hofer resolved to maintain the struggle, and displayed brilliant military genius in the effort. On the 13th of August he routed with great slaughter the combined French and Bavarian forces at Bergdsel. Tyrol was thus redeemed front foreign dominion.

 

The internal affairs of the country were now administered by an independent government, of which Hofer was the head, or practically the dictator. He caused coins to be struck bearing on one side the Terolese eagle crowned with laurels, and on the other the value of the coin, with the words, According to the Convention-1809." After the Peace of Vienna the archduke issued a proclamation directing the Tyrolese to submit to the French. Three veteran armies were now sent by Napoleon into the mountains to en force obedience. Finding resistance impossible against this force, Hofer sent his submission in November to Eugene Beauharnais, who was then Viceroy of Italy, and also to the Bavarian commander-in-chief. Later, however, the archduke entered Tyrol, and Hofer, hearing false reports of some Tyrolese victories, again took up arms. But his efforts were in vain, and he was compelled to Bee to the mountains. A price was set on his head, but the peasants refused to reveal his hiding-place. At last, one of his most trusted followers, for a reward of three hundred ducats, betrayed the secret to General Baraguay d' Hilliers. Hofer was arrested on the night of the 20th of January, 1810, and taken to Mantua. He was tried and condemned and though the judges recommended him to mercy, Napoleon gave orders that he should be shot within twenty four hours. On being led out for execution, On February 20th, 1810, he refused to have his eyes bound, and he himself ~ave the order to fire. His property was confiscated.

 

A patent of nobility had been grunted to Hofer by the Austrian emperor in 1809. and this was confirmed by the Emperor Francis in 1819- The family name was made Von P~yr, from the place of his home and capture, where a monument to his memory was erected. His own house was converted into an asylum for aged Tyrolese. In 1823 his remains were transferred from Mantua to Innspruck, where they were buried in the cathedral and later a marble monument was placed over his tomb.

 

THE EXECUTION OF HOFER.

 

Hofer reached Mantua, and was immediately tried by a court-martial. It was as difficult to define his crime as to procure a unanimous sentence of condemnation. There were, it seems, some men of honor and common sense amongst his judges. A telegraph from Milan decided the question he was to die within twenty-four hours. Yet at the moment the Corsican sent the above command, his minister at Vienna. had orders to express extreme regret at the hasty execution, and to declare his master would never have permitted it, could he only have been aware of it in time to have prevented it!

 

Hofer heard his condemnation with the same unshaken :firmness that bad marked his character throughout Depending on his innocence, and the assurances voluntarily held out to him, he never anticipated a sentence of death i yet when it was pronounced, he listened to it with surprise, unmingled with dismay. For him to die was easy-he was closing a glorious life by an honorable death-honorable, because incurred by bis fidelity to bis country.

 

Submitting in dignified silence to the decree of the court, he calmly returned to his dungeon, and requested the attendance of a priest A worthy man of this order, Manifest, immediately hastened to him, and remained with him till the moment of his death. To this kind friend he confided his last tender and solemn adieu to his family. That trying duty performed, he engaged in the holy offices of religion, and presented before his Creator the most acceptable sacrifice-the sacrifice of a confiding and resigned spirit. During the short interval that followed, he spoke of Tyrol and her fate-prophesied her restoration to her legitimate sovereign, and entered with undecayed interest on the story of her rights and her claims.

 

The fatal morning dawned. The reneral6 sounded; a battalion of grenadiers was drawn out in front of the prison i and before mid-day, the officers who were to attend the execution entered bis dungeon. Calm and prepared., Hofer was ready for the summons. The solemn procession was formed muffled drums beat a mournful roll; the bell of the neighboring church tolled the knell for the departing spirit i the prisoner appeared amidst his guards. He was easily distinguished: unarmed, and in the simple dress of a Tyrolese soldier, he walked calmly by the side of his holy friend. His arms were folded on his bosom, not in the attitude of defiance, but of submission his step was firm, not daring: his eye was bent on the ground, except that occasionally it was raised to acknowledge some burst of compassion, or applause, from the surrounding crowd.

 

In moving past the Porta Molina, a fort in which many Tyrolese were confined, his fortitude sustained a severe trial. The mourning prisoners, collected together, were on their knees weeping aloud, and praying for their beloved Hofer. A severer trial awaited him at the citadel. Those of his countrymen who were at large all their parole were here assembled, and pressing as near to him as possible, knelt and implored his blessing. He stopped involuntarily his escort yielded to the general murmur and halted. Hofer profited by the brief delay to address a few words of comfort to his countrymen:

 

"Dear countrymen-beloved Tyrolese ! "You must be as I am-which God forbid I-to feel all I feel at this moment-my undiminished love for Tyrol, my heartfelt gratitude to you I You ask me for my blessing-I stand more in need of yours j but as approaching death sanctifies my words, be those last words a blessing all my countrymen.

 

Perhaps there arc among you some whom I have offended: they will I hope, pardon whatever I have said or done amiss. And all of you, beloved Tyrolese I an will, I trust, forgive me for having been so active in a war so disastrous. The time, I foresee, is not far distant, when you will return to the blessings of your ancient government, and cry aloud, as I do now-' Long live the Emperor Francis!

 

He spoke this last sentence with a clear and steady voice, and falling back into his station, gave a signal for the procession to advance.

 

On a broad bastion, at a little distance from the Porta Ceresa, the commanding officer halted his men. Hofer now delivered to Manifest all the valuables he possessed, imploring him to distribute them among his unfortunate countrymen. This wealth consisted of five hundred florins in Austrian bank-notes, his silver snuff-box, and his beautiful rosary. To his faithful attendant he gave the small silver rosary which he always carried about him.

 

The grenadiers formed a square, open in the rear. Twelve men and a corporal stepped forward, while Hofer remained standing alone in the center. No one in the circle was so calm and self-possessed as he appeared at that awfull moment A soldier offered him a white handkerchief to bind his eyes, and suggested to him that on these occasions it was customary for the sufferer to kneel. Hofer declined the handkerchief, and refused to kneel. I have been used, said he, "to stand upright before my Creator, and in that posture I will deliver up my spirit to him.

 

He now addressed the corporal, cautioned him to perform his duty well, and then gave him the only piece of money he had about him. As his last earthly farewell, he spoke a few words expressive of his unshaken attachment to his country. He stood a few moments in mental prayer, and then looked intently all the small baud before him. The sergeant marshaled its preparing movement. The muskets are charged presented: Hofer spoke in a firm voice-"Fire" They fired-he sank all his knee wounded, but alive. Another volley was discharged, and he was stretched lifeless on the ground.

 

The spot hallowed by his fall is still, and must forever be, sacred to every true-born Tyrolese. His body, instead of being left on the place of execution, or carried around the assembled troops, as is usually the case in military executions, was borne all a black bier, by the grenadiers, to the church of 8t. Michael. There it lay in state, and a guard of honor was appointed to watch it.

 

Thus perished Hofer in the prime of life-beloved by his friends, respected by his enemies. "Amidst the numerous crimes, that stain the name of Napoleon, there is not one of a deeper dye than the murder of Hofer.

 

Andrew Hoper