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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

In 1807 the Bavarian government abolished the Magnificent Community of Fiemme, establishing the Judicial District of Cavalese and downgrading the highest elected authority, the scario. The result was a strong aversion on the part of the whole valley towards officials appointed by the Bavarian government.

On 2 March 1809, the judicial authority at Cavalese received the order to introduce military conscription for all men up to the age of twenty-three. Judge Giuseppe Torresanelli moved swiftly to comply in full with the order. On 5 March he arrived in Moena to compile, despite several complaints, the conscription lists and that evening travelled to Predazzo so as to perform the same task the following day. There, however, the young men rebelled and confiscated the Moena lists from the judge, destroyed them and obtained a written promise that no further initiatives of the kind would be undertaken. Torresanelli was then brought to Cavalese, accompanied by around one thousand demonstrators. The judge left the valley between 7 and 8 March. The Adige district authorities then sent Francesco de Riccabona, a local man and the director of the commissariat chancellery, to calm the heated situation in Fiemme, but at the same time made arrangements to send a number of military companies whose task would be to shoot the leaders of the revolt and crush any further resistance.

These forces, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Ditfurth, entered Predazzo on 12 March in a brutal manner. The soldiers threatened to set fire to the town and sacked the houses of the rebel leaders, who were whipped. All young men from the class of 1790 were enlisted and many arrests were made, including Don Giorgio Jellici, the scario Delugan and others of an advanced age.

Letter sent by Captain Müller to the farmers of Val di Fiemme to invite them to join the Habsburg Imperial troops in the clash against the French Army stationed in the Adige Valley, 15 April 1809

Photo: Archivio storico Magnifica Comunità di Fiemme, cassetto Z, Sc. 57-6.8

“To the farmers in Fleimsthal
Brothers, friends, compatriots! Here once again is the proclamation of Emperor Francis II to the Tyrolean faithful. Join us, we are waiting for you, the vanguard of the victorious Imperial Army marches all the way to Trento today. Gather with weapons on the road to Gardolo and Lavis. Müller, Captain of the Jäger, will lead you with other officers to victory and the liberation of your country. Come as soon as possible, we are waiting for you”

Candido Giampietro, Le milizie locali fiemmesi: dalle guerre napoleoniche alla fine della I° guerra mondiale (1796-1918). Villalagarina (TN): Pezzini, 1981
Felicetti Chiara, Nequirito Mauro, Taiani Rodolfo (edited by), La Comunità di Fiemme e la sua storia: nell’anno di Hofer: catalogo della mostra: Cavalese, 5 luglio 2009-10 gennaio 2010. Trento: Fondazione Museo storico del Trentino, 2009
Pedrotti Pietro, “La sommossa del marzo 1809 in valle di Fiemme (in alcuni rapporti e atti ufficiali)”. In: Studi trentini. Trento, 1927: 225-239.