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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
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

Hofer’s stay in St. Afra

At 9 o’clock in the morning the column of prisoners (Andreas Hofer, his wife Anna, née Ladurner, his son Johann and his scribe Kajetan Sweth, all guarded by 450 men) arrived at the Talfer bridge. From there they were made to walk along today’s Museumsstrasse and Laubengasse towards St. Afra.
Kajetan Sweth writes in his memoirs: “Our feet were in a terrible state, just one large, painful wound. When we first entered a heated room in the guard house in Bozen, our suffering became unbearable. A French doctor ordered that we should at once put our feet in cracked ice… We were tied hand and foot with rough cords… The Sandwirt [Hofer], who was perhaps more tightly bound than the others, could not move his hands for a quarter of an hour after his ties had been removed. When General Baraguay d’Hilliers saw our distress, he raged at these abuses and stamped his feet. From that moment on we were treated with more respect”.

This small portrait of Andreas Hofer was painted by Plazidus Altmutter on 3-4 September 1809 at the Mondscheinwirt Inn, Bozen, through the open door of a side room.

Photo: Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum

Visit of several French officers

Several senior French officers visited Hofer in his prison cell. It is generally reported that General Baraguay d’Hilliers interrogated him before the journey continued towards Mantua. The visit is also recorded of the high-ranking French officer Charles Pierre Grisois, who describes Hofer appreciatively: “A tall figure, with broad shoulders, a thick, black beard that reached to his chest and was beginning to turn grey, and a strict but calm and resigned expression all gave his appearance something of the venerable that greatly impressed me, like a patriarchal figure from ancient times”.
Karl Paulin, who describes the French generals on the whole as having a humane, compassionate attitude towards Hofer, writes: “As one of the senior officers, General Molard, visited Hofer in his cell and asked after his wishes, Hofer simply requested a little snuff. Molard fulfilled this wish with a gift of two pounds of the finest snuff and a beautiful box”.

Farewell to wife and son

Hofer’s last companion, Kajetan Sweth, provides the most credible record of the grave hours of farewell that Hofer surely knew would be their last together: “Before we left Bozen, Hofer’s wife and son were separated from him. During the night they took the tenderest, most touching farewell of each other; then only I remained with him, alone, his faithful companion unto death…”. His wife and son were then released, with Maria Anna von Pach (whose married name was von Giovanelli) and the wife of General Baraguay d’Hilliers, a German, interceding on their behalf. The son was initially admitted to hospital owing to frostbite.
On the morning of 30 January, a bitterly cold winter’s day, they travelled via the Johannsplatz (today’s Waltherplatz) in a carriage towards Neumarkt. French officers gave Hofer and Sweth blue coats to protect them from the cold.

Maria Anna von Pach, married name von Giovanelli (1766-1827).

From: Museumsverein Bozen, Bozen zur Franzosenzeit 1797-1814. 1984.
Text: Albin Pixner, MuseumPasseier
English translation: Gareth Norbury
Lewald August, Tyrol, vom Glockner zum Ortles, und vom Garda- zum Bodensee. Band 2. 1835.
Museumsverein Bozen (Hrg.), Bozen zur Franzosenzeit 1797-1814. Katalog zur Ausstellung. 1984.
Oberhofer Andreas, Der Andere Hofer. Der Mensch hinter dem Mythos. Schlern-Schriften, 2009.
Oberhofer Andreas, Weltbild eines Helden. Andreas Hofers schriftliche Hinterlassenschaft. Schlern-Schriften, 2008.
Paulin Karl, Andreas Hofer und der Tiroler Freiheitskampf 1809. 1970.
Pizzinini Meinrad, Andreas Hofer. Seine Zeit, sein Leben, sein Mythos. 2008.
Rohrer Josef, Heroes & Hofer. When Andreas Hofer came in the museum. 2009.