1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hofer, Andreas
HOFER, ANDREAS (1767–1810), Tirolese patriot, was born on the 22nd of November 1767 at St Leonhard, in the Passeier valley. There his father kept an inn known as “am Sand,” which Hofer inherited, and on that account he was popularly known as the “Sandwirth.” In addition to this he carried on a trade in wine and horses with the north of Italy, acquiring a high reputation for intelligence and honesty. In the wars against the French from 1796 to 1805 he took part, first as a sharp-shooter and afterwards as a captain of militia. By the treaty of Pressburg (1805) Tirol was transferred from Austria to Bavaria, and Hofer, who was almost fanatically devoted to the Austrian house, became conspicuous as a leader of the agitation against Bavarian rule. In 1808 he formed one of a deputation who went to Vienna, at the invitation of the archduke John, to concert a rising; and when in April 1809 the Tirolese rose in arms, Hofer was chosen commander of the contingent from his native valley, and inflicted an overwhelming defeat on the Bavarians at Sterzing (April 11). This victory, which resulted in the temporary reoccupation of Innsbruck by the Austrians, made Hofer the most conspicuous of the insurgent leaders. The rapid advance of Napoleon, indeed, and the defeat of the main Austrian army under the archduke Charles, once more exposed Tirol to the French and Bavarians, who reoccupied Innsbruck. The withdrawal of the bulk of the troops, however, gave the Tirolese their chance again; after two battles fought on the Iselberg (May 25 and 29) the Bavarians were again forced to evacuate the country, and Hofer entered Innsbruck in triumph. An autograph letter of the emperor Francis (May 29) assured him that no peace would be concluded by which Tirol would again be separated from the Austrian monarchy, and Hofer, believing his work accomplished, returned to his home. Then came the news of the armistice of Znaim (July 12), by which Tirol and Vorarlberg were surrendered by Austria unconditionally and given up to the vengeance of the French. The country was now again invaded by 40,000 French and Bavarian troops, and Innsbruck fell; but the Tirolese once more organized resistance to the French “atheists and freemasons,” and, after a temporary hesitation, Hofer—on whose head a price had been placed—threw himself into the movement. On the 13th of August, in another battle on the Iselberg, the French under Marshal Lefebvre were routed by the Tirolese peasants, and Hofer once more entered Innsbruck, which he had some difficulty in saving from sack. Hofer was now elected Oberkommandant of Tirol, took up his quarters in the Hofburg at Innsbruck, and for two months ruled the country in the emperor’s name. He preserved the habits of a simple peasant, and his administration was characterized in part by the peasant’s shrewd common sense, but yet more by a pious solicitude for the minutest details of faith and morals. On the 29th of September Hofer received from the emperor a chain and medal of honour, which encouraged him in the belief that Austria did not intend again to desert him; the news of the conclusion of the treaty of Schönbrunn (October 14), by which Tirol was again ceded to Bavaria, came upon him as an overwhelming surprise. The French in overpowering force at once pushed into the country, and, an amnesty having been stipulated in the treaty, Hofer and his companions, after some hesitation, gave in their submission. On the 12th of November, however, urged on by the hotter heads among the peasant leaders and deceived by false reports of Austrian victories, Hofer again issued a proclamation calling the mountaineers to arms. The summons met with little response; the enemy advanced in irresistible force, and Hofer, a price once more set on his head, had to take refuge in the mountains. His hiding-place was betrayed by one of his neighbours, named Josef Raffl, and on the 27th of January 1810 he was captured by Italian troops and sent in chains to Mantua. There he was tried by court-martial, and on the 20th of February was shot, twenty-four hours after his condemnation. This crime, which was believed to be due to Napoleon’s direct orders, caused an immense sensation throughout Germany and did much to inflame popular sentiment against the French. At the court of Austria, too, which was accused of having cynically sacrificed the hero, it produced a painful impression, and Metternich, when he visited Paris on the occasion of the marriage of the archduchess Marie Louise to Napoleon, was charged to remonstrate with the emperor. Napoleon expressed his regret, stating that the execution had been carried out against his wishes, having been hurried on by the zeal of his generals. In 1823 Hofer’s remains were removed from Mantua to Innsbruck, where they were interred in the Franciscan church, and in 1834 a marble statue was erected over his tomb. In 1893 a bronze statue of him was also set up on the Iselberg. At Meran his patriotic deeds of heroism are the subject of a festival play celebrated annually in the open air. In 1818 the patent of nobility bestowed upon him by the Austrian emperor in 1809 was conferred upon his family.
See Leben und Thaten des ehemaligen Tyroler Insurgenten-Chefs Andr. Hofer (Berlin, 1810); Andr. Hofer und die Tyroler Insurrection im Jahre 1809 (Munich, 1811); Hormayr, Geschichte Andr. Hofer’s Sandwirths auf Passeyr (Leipzig, 1845); B. Weber, Das Thal Passeyr und seine Bewohner mit besonderer Rücksicht auf Andreas Hofer und das Jahr 1809 (Innsbruck, 1851); Rapp, Tirol im Jahr 1809 (Innsbruck, 1852); Weidinger, Andreas Hofer und seine Kampfgenossen (3rd ed., Leipzig, 1861); Heigel, Andreas Hofer (Munich, 1874); Stampfer, Sandwirt Andreas Hofer (Freiburg, 1874); Schmölze, Andreas Hofer und seine Kampfgenossen (Innsbruck, 1900). His history has supplied the materials for tragedies to B. Auerbach and Immermann, and for numerous ballads, of which some remain very popular in Germany (see Franke, Andreas Hofer im Liede, Innsbruck, 1884).