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

The “Battle for Mori”

The “Battle for Mori”, which took place on 24 April 1809, forms part of the wider battle of Volano. As had already happened in autumn 1796, the Habsburg army followed the retreating French army down the Adige Valley with a pursuing column that, between Calliano and Volano, found great difficulty in advancing owing to the wide bend of the river that limited the room for manoeuvre. To aid the main column, a second column descended from the Sarca Valley that, having freed that territory, was tasked with taking possession of Mori and the right bank of the Adige so as to strike the enemy in the flank. Clashes between the Hapsburg army and French troops began at Volano on 23 April. On the morning of the 24th, insurgents from the Non and Sole valleys descended into the Lower Sarca; the inhabitants of Riva and Arco also rose up, driving out the French and moving towards the Vallagarina. It is reported that, during the day, Andreas Hofer himself passed through Arco with some 600 men from the Passiria Valley to support the insurgents. The Tyroleans entered Mori in the afternoon, broke down the door of the parish church and rang the bells as a signal to the townspeople to rise in rebellion. General Fontanelli, at the head of a body of Franco-Italian troops, responded to this action by the rebels by charging into the town with his cavalry; the parish priest, Don Emanuele Sardagna, courageously ran to meet the officer, begging him to spare the township and those of its parishioners who were not taking part in the uprising. Mori experienced a day of violence, however; the parish book of the dead records the details. Margherita Schelfi was hit in the head by a gunshot as she watched from a window as the rebels and the French troops fought. Two young insurgents, one an unknown man from the Val di Non, the other Antonio Manini from Terzolas, were killed during firefights, while Francesco Rigatti and Giovanni Meneghelli from Riva, and Giovanni Amistadi from Moletta di Arco, all peasants, were captured and shot by the French on the Piazza Cal di Ponte. A similar fate befell Antonio Sirtolo from Bergamo and Antonio Polo, a native of Carnia, both living and working in Mori: the French, suspecting they were rebels, summarily shot them in their homes. On 25 April Napoleon’s soldiers withdrew from the right bank of the Adige: on the next day the Imperial forces and the insurgents, numbering some 18,000 men and led by General Chasteler and Andreas Hofer respectively, triumphantly entered Rovereto.

Text: Elisa Bertò, Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino
English translation: Gareth Norbury
Bibliography:
Ischia, Marco: Andreas Hofer e l’Alto Garda. Dalle guerre napoleoniche alla rivoluzione dell’Anno Nove. 2009.
Ischia, Marco: La battaglia di Volano, 24 aprile 1809. In: Various authors, La battaglia di Volano e gli Atti del convegno Hofer, Lanz, Negrelli Insorgenti per la Fede. 2011.
Pattini, A.: La resistenza contro i francesi nella contea di Arco 1703–1809. 1998.
Sardagna, F.: Operazioni militari nel Trentino 1796–1797. 1908.
Zotti, Raffaele: Storia della Valle Lagarina, Vol. I und II, Tipografia Monauni. 1969.