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The Patriots Of The Tyrol
by [?]

On the 9th of April, 1809, down the river Inn, in the Tyrol, came floating a series of planks, from whose surface waved little red flags. What they meant the Bavarian soldiers, who held that mountain land with a hand of iron, could not conjecture. But what they meant the peasantry well knew. On the day before peace had ruled throughout the Alps, and no Bavarian dreamed of war. Those flags were the signal for insurrection, and on their appearance the brave mountaineers sprang at once to arms and flew to the defence of the bridges of their country, which the Bavarians were marching to destroy, as an act of defence against the Austrians.

On the 10th the storm of war burst. Some Bavarian sappers had been sent to blow up the bridge of St. Lorenzo. But hardly had they begun their work, when a shower of bullets from unseen marksmen swept the bridge. Several were killed; the rest took to flight; the Tyrol was in revolt.

News of this outbreak was borne to Colonel Wrede, in command of the Bavarians, who hastened with a force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery to the spot. He found the peasants out in numbers. The Tyrolean riflemen, who were accustomed to bring down chamois from the mountain peaks, defended the bridge, and made terrible havoc in the Bavarian ranks. They seized Wrede’s artillery and flung guns and gunners together into the stream, and finally put the Bavarians to rout, with severe loss.

The Bavarians held the Tyrol as allies of the French, and the movement against the bridges had been directed by Napoleon, to prevent the Austrians from reoccupying the country, which had been wrested from their hands. Wrede in his retreat was joined by a body of three thousand French, but decided, instead of venturing again to face the daring foe, to withdraw to Innsbruck. But withdrawal was not easy. The signal of revolt had everywhere called the Tyrolese to arms. The passes were occupied. The fine old Roman bridge over the Brenner, at Laditsch, was blown up. In the pass of the Brixen, leading to this bridge, the French and Bavarians found themselves assailed in the old Swiss manner, by rocks and logs rolled down upon their heads, while the unerring rifles of the hidden peasants swept the pass. Numbers were slain, but the remainder succeeded in escaping by means of a temporary bridge, which they threw over the stream on the site of the bridge of Laditsch.

Of the Tyrolese patriots to whom this outbreak was due two are worthy of special mention, Joseph Speckbacher, a wealthy peasant of Rinn, and the more famous Andrew Hofer, the host of the Sand Inn at Passeyr, a man everywhere known through the mountains, as he traded in wine, corn, and horses as far as the Italian frontier.

Hofer was a man of herculean frame and of a full, open, handsome countenance, which gained dignity from its long, dark-brown beard, which fell in rich curls upon his chest. His picturesque dress–that of the Tyrol–comprised a red waistcoat, crossed by green braces, which were fastened to black knee breeches of chamois leather, below which he wore red stockings. A broad black leather girdle clasped his muscular form, while over all was worn a short green coat. On his head he wore a low-crowned, broad-brimmed Tyrolean hat, black in color, and ornamented with green ribbons and with the feathers of the capercailzie.

This striking-looking patriot, at the head of a strong party of peasantry, made an assault, early on the 11th, upon a Bavarian infantry battalion under the command of Colonel Baeraklau, who retreated to a table-land named Sterzinger Moos, where, drawn up in a square, he resisted every effort of the Tyrolese to dislodge him. Finally Hofer broke his lines by a stratagem. A wagon loaded with hay, and driven by a girl, was pushed towards the square, the brave girl shouting, as the balls flew around her, “On with ye! Who cares for Bavarian dumplings!” Under its shelter the Tyrolese advanced, broke the square, and killed or made prisoners the whole of the battalion.