Who was Andreas Hofer?

Andreas Hofer is still revered by many in Tyrol as a hero today, more than 250 years after his death.

In any case, he is – alongside Ötzi and Reinhold Messner – one of the most famous Tyroleans.
He was born on 22 November 1767 at the Sandhof Inn in St. Leonhard in Passeier and, after a difficult childhood, became captain of a militia company in the Passeier Valley. He rose to the command of the Tyroleans in the battles against the Bavarians, who had occupied the land in 1806, as well as against Napoleon’s troops. In the main battles on the Bergisel mountain near Innsbruck (in part supported by Austrian troops) he three times succeeded in repelling superior enemy forces. On 15 August 1809 he established himself in the Hofburg Palace in Innsbruck, where he acted as Regent for two and a half months. On 14 October, in an unexpected turn, Austria was compelled to cede the now re-annexed Tyrol to Bavaria under the Treaty of Schönbrunn. Unable to comprehend this act, Hofer lost the fourth Battle of Bergisel on All Saints’ Day, 1809. In the weeks that followed he paid excessive heed to radical fellow fighters, issuing pointless orders to continue the fighting. The French revenged themselves with terrible retaliatory measures on the local population. At the end of November Hofer fled to a mountain hut, the “Pfandleralm”. Betrayed by a compatriot, he was captured there on 27 January 1810 and first taken to Meran with his son Johann, wife Anna and scribe Kajetan Sweth: he was subsequently brought in several stages to Mantua where, on the orders of Napoleon, he was shot on 20 February 1810 following a mock trial. He did not attempt to flee as he was wedded to the belief that he would have to pay for his actions.

Text: Albin Pixner, MuseumPasseier
English translation: Gareth Norbury
Literature:
Oberhofer Andreas, Der Andere Hofer. Der Mensch hinter dem Mythos. Schlern-Schriften, 2009.
Rohrer Josef, Heroes & Hofer. When Andreas Hofer came in the museum. 2009.

Andreas Hofer, coloured etching of Johann Georg Schedler, 1809.

Photo: MuseumPasseier

Palazzo Taddei

With all hope of resuming the uprising gone, Andreas Hofer took refuge with his family at the Pfandleralm, a mountain hut in the Passiria mountains. Betrayed by a fellow countryman by the name of Franz Raffl, he was captured there by the French on 27 January 1810. During his journey to Mantua as a prisoner, he passed through Trento where, at 3 pm on 31 January, he was exhibited to the public on the Piazza del Duomo. The next day Hofer was in Rovereto and, on 2 February, he reached Ala where he would spend his last night in the Tyrol at the Palazzo Taddei. During the night he had the opportunity to escape: resigned to his fate, however, he decided not to take it. The carbon monoxide fumes from the stove had in fact overcome his guards and were about to poison Hofer himself: recovering and seeing his keepers collapsed on the ground, he ran for help, waking the other French soldiers. Hofer, the innkeeper from the Passiria Valley, reached Mantua on 5 February and was shot there by the French on the 20th of the same month.

Text: Elisa Bertò, Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino
English translation: Gareth Norbury
Bibliography:
Baroni, M.: Ricordando il 200° anniversario del passaggio di Andreas Hofer da Ala. In: I Quattro Vicariati, no. 107. 2010.
Bertoluzza, Aldo: Andrea Hofer. Il generale barbone. 1999.
Bresciani, Antonio: Sopra il Tirolo tedesco: lettere. 1844.
Zieger, Antonio: Andrea Hofer. Ricordi dell’insurrezione del 1809, Archivio per l’Alto Adige, vol. LIV. 1960.