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Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel By L. Mühlbach Characters: 22115

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

General Kinkel, governor of Innspruck, had just finished his dinner, and repaired to his cabinet, whither he had summoned some of the superior officers to give them fresh instructions. To-day, the 11th of April, all sorts of news had arrived from the Tyrol; and although this news did not alarm the Bavarian general, he thought it nevertheless somewhat strange and unusual. He had learned that Lieutenant-Colonel von Wreden, despite General Kinkel's express orders, had rashly evacuated his position at Brunecken and destroyed the bridge of Laditch. Besides, vague rumors had reached him about an insurrection among the peasants in the neighborhood of Innspruck; and even on the surrounding mountains, it was said, bands of armed insurgents had been seen.

"We have treated these miserable peasants by far too leniently and kindly," said General Kinkel, with a shrug; when his officer communicated this intelligence to him. "We shall adopt a more rigorous course, make examples of a few, and all will be quiet and submissive again. What do these peasants want? Are they already so arrogant as to think themselves capable of coping with our brave regular troops?"

"They count upon the assistance of Austria," replied Colonel Dittfurt; "and General von Chasteler is said to have promised the peasants that he will invade the Tyrol one of these days."

"It is a miserable lie!" cried the general, with a disdainful smile. "The Austrians will not be so bold as to take the offensive, for they know full well that the great Emperor Napoleon will consider every invasion of Bavarian territory an attack upon France herself, and that we ourselves should drive the impudent invaders from our mountains."

"That is to say, so long as the mountains are still ours, and not yet occupied by the peasants, your excellency," said Major Beim, who entered the room at this moment.

"What do you mean?" asked the general.

"I mean that larger and larger bands of peasants are advancing upon Innspruck, that they have already attacked and driven in our pickets, and that the latter have just escaped from them into the city."

"Then it is time for us to resort to energetic and severe steps," cried General Kinkel, angrily. "Colonel Dittfurt, send immediately a dispatch to Lieutenant-Colonel von Wreden, who is stationed at Brixen. Write to him in my name that I am highly indignant at his evacuating his position at Brunecken and destroying the bridge of Laditch. Tell him I order him to act with the utmost energy; every peasant arrested with arms in his hands is to be shot; every village participating in the insurrection is to be burned down; and he is to advance his patrols again to and beyond Brunecken. These patrols are to ascertain if Austrian troops are really following the insurgent peasants. Bring this dispatch to me that I may sign it, and then immediately send off a courier with it to Lieutenant-Colonel von Wreden." [Footnote: General Kinkel sent of this dispatch a day after Wreden had been defeated by the Tyrolese, and after the Austrians had invaded the Tyrol. The Bavarian authorities at Innspruck were in complete ignorance of all these events.]

Colonel Dittfurt went to the desk and commenced writing the dispatch. "Miserable peasants!" he murmured, on handing the dispatch to the general; "it is already a humiliation that we must devote attention to them and occupy ourselves with them."

"Yes, you are right," sighed the general, signing the dispatch; "these people, who know only how to handle the flail, become every day more impudent and intolerable; and I am really glad that I shall now at length have an opportunity to humiliate them and reduce them to obedience. Henceforth we will no longer spare them. No quarter! He who is taken sword in hand, will be executed on the spot. We must nip this insurrection in the bud, and chastise the traitors with inexorable rigor. Well, what is it?" he asked vehemently, turning to the orderly who entered the room at this moment.

"Your excellency, I have to inform you that all our pickets have been driven into the city. The peasants have assembled in large masses on the neighboring mountains and opened thence a most murderous fire upon our pickets. Only a few men of each picket have returned; the others lie dead outside the city."

"Matters seem to become serious," murmured General Kinkel. "All our pickets driven in! That is to say, then, the peasants are in the immediate neighborhood of the city?"

"All the environs of Innspruck are in full insurrection, your excellency, and the citizens of Innspruck seem likewise strongly inclined to join the insurrection. There are riotous groups in the streets, and on my way hither I heard all sorts of menacing phrases, and met everywhere with sullen, defiant faces."

"Ah, I will silence this seditious rabble and make their faces mild and modest!" cried the general, in a threatening voice. "Let all the public places in the city be occupied by troops, and field-pieces be placed on the bridges of the Inn. Let patrols march through the streets all night, and every citizen who is found in the street after nine o'clock, or keeps his house lighted up after that hour, shall be shot. Make haste, gentlemen, and carry my orders literally into execution. Have the patrols call upon all citizens to keep quiet and not appear in the streets after nine o'clock. Sentence of death will be passed upon those who violate this order."

Owing to these orders issued by the general, a profound stillness reigned at night in the streets of Innspruck; no one was to be seen in the streets, and on marching through them the patrols did not find a single offender whom they might have subjected to the inexorable rigor of martial law. But no sooner had the patrols turned round a corner than dark forms emerged here and there from behind the pillars of the houses, the wells, and the crucifixes, glided with the noiseless agility of cats along the houses, and knocked here and there at the window-panes. The windows opened softly, whispers were heard and the rustling of paper, and the forms glided on to commence the same working and whispering at the next house.

The Bavarian patrols had no inkling of these dark ravens flitting everywhere behind them, as if scenting in them already the prey of death; but the citizens of Innspruck considered these birds of the night, who knocked at their windows, auspicious doves, even though, instead of the olive-branch, they brought only a sheet of paper with them. But this sheet of paper contained words that thrilled all hearts with joy and happiness; it announced that the Austrians had already invaded the Tyrol; that General von Chasteler was already advancing upon Innspruck; that the Emperor Francis sent the Tyrolese the greetings of his love; and that the Archduke John was preventing the French troops in Italy from succoring the Bavarians in the Tyrol; nay, that he and his army would deliver and protect the Tyrol. Some of the brave sharp-shooters of the Passeyr valley had been bold enough to steal into the city of Innspruck despite the presence of the Bavarian troops, and the patrols could not prevent the citizens from receiving the joyful tidings of the approach of the Austrians, nor the Tyrolese sharpshooters from whispering to them: "Be ready early tomorrow morning. Tomorrow we shall attack the city; assist us then, hurl down from the roofs of your houses on the Bavarians stones, jars, and whatever you may have at hand; keep your doors open, that we may get in, and hold food and refreshments in readiness. We shall come to-morrow. Innspruck must be delivered from the Bavarians to-morrow!"

The morrow came at last. The 12th of April dawned upon the city of


The Bavarians had carried out the orders of General Kinkel; they had occupied all the public places, and planted batteries on the bridges of the Inn.

But so ardent was the enthusiasm of the Tyrolese, that these batteries did not deter them. They rushed forward with loud shouts; using their spears, halberds, and the butt-ends of their muskets, they fell with resistless impetuosity upon the Bavarians, drove them back, shot the gunners at the guns, and carried the important bridge of Muhlau.

Tremendous cheers announced this first victory to the inhabitants of Innspruck. The Tyrolese then rushed forward over the bridge and penetrated into the streets of the Hottinger suburb. The street- doors of the houses opened to them; they entered them, or took position behind the pillars, and fired from the windows and their hiding-places, at the Bavarians who were stationed on the upper bridge of the Inn, and were firing thence at the Tyrolese. The Bavarian bullets, however, whistled harmlessly through the streets, the alert Tyrolese concealing themselves, before every volley, in the houses or behind the walls. But no sooner had the bullets dropped than they stepped forward, sang, and laughed, and discharged their rifles, until the exasperated Bavarians fired at them again, when the singing Tyrolese disappeared once more in their hiding- places.

All at once loud cheers and hurrahs resounded on the conquered bridge of Muhlau, and a tall, heroic form, surrounded by a detachment of armed Tyrolese, appeared on the bridge.

It was Joseph Speckbacher, who, after capturing Hall by a daring

COUP DE MAIN, had now arrived with his brave men to assist the

Tyrolese in delivering Innspruck from the Bavarians.

The Tyrolese thronged exultingly around him, informing him of the struggle that had already taken place, and telling him that the Bavarians had been driven from the bridge and hurled back into the city.

"And now you stand still here, instead of advancing?" asked Speckbacher, casting fiery glances toward the enemy. "What are you waiting for, my friends? Why do you not attack the enemy?"

Without waiting for a reply, Speckbacher took off his hat, swung it in the air, and shouted in a loud, enthusiastic voice "Long live the Emperor Francis! Down with the Bavarians!"

All repeated this shout amid the roost tumultuous cheers. All cried,

"Long live the Emperor Francis! Down with the Bavarians!"

"Now forward! forward! We must take the bridge!" shouted

Speckbacher. "Those who love the Tyrol will follow me!"

And he rushed forward, like an angry bear, toward the bridge of the


The Tyrolese, carried away by their enthusiasm, followed him at the double-quick toward the bridge, where the mouths of the cannon were staring at them menacingly. But the Tyrolese were not afraid of the cannon; death had no longer any terrors for them! their courage imparted to them resistless power and impetuosity. They rushed up to the cannon, slew the gunners with the butt-ends of their rifles, or lifted them up by the hair and burled them over the railing of the bridge into the foaming waters of the Inn. Then they turned the cannon, and some students from Innspruck, who had joined the Tyrolese, undertook to man them.

A dense

column of Bavarians advanced upon them; the peasants uttered loud cheers, the cannon thundered and mowed down whole ranks of them. They gave way, and the Tyrolese, who saw it, advanced with triumphant shouts into the city and took street after street. And wherever they came, they met with willing assistance at the hands of the citizens; in every street which they entered, the windows opened, and shots were fired from them at the Bavarian troops; every house became a fortress, every tower a citadel. A frightful scene ensued: the Bavarians in some places surrendered and begged for quarter; in others they continued the combat with undaunted resolution; and in the melee several bloody deeds were committed, which, in their cooler moments, the Tyrolese would have been the first to condemn.

All at once loud cheers burst forth in the streets, and the Tyrolese repeated again and again the joyful news: "Major Teimer has arrived; he has several companies of the militia under his command, and with these brave men he has already penetrated into the heart of the city, up to the principal guardhouse! He has already surrounded the Engelhaus, General Kinkel's headquarters, and is negotiating a capitulation with the general." This almost incredible intelligence raised the enthusiasm of the Tyrolese to the highest pitch. They rushed forward with irresistible impetuosity toward the barracks and disarmed all the soldiers who had remained there in order to relieve their exhausted comrades. Then they rushed again into the street, toward the principal guard-house, where an obstinate struggle was going on. There, at the head of his regiment, stood Colonel Dittfurt, firmly determined to die rather than surrender to the peasants.

But the peasants came up in overwhelming numbers, and detachment of sharpshooters, headed by Major Teimer, had already penetrated into the general's house, and entered his sitting-room. From the houses all around, the Tyrolese were firing at the soldiers, who, gnashing their teeth with rage and grief, did not even enjoy the satisfaction of wreaking vengeance on them; for their enemies were concealed behind the walls and pillars, while the soldiers were defenceless, and had to allow themselves to be laid prostrate by the unerring aim of the sharpshooters.

Angry, scolding, imperious voices were now heard at General Kinkel's window, and a strange sight was presented to the eyes of the dismayed soldiers. Teimer's face, flushed with anger and excitement, appeared at the window. He was seen approaching it hastily and thrusting General Kinkel's head and shoulders forcibly out of it.

"Surrender!" threatened Teimer; "surrender, or I shall hurl you out of the window!" [Footnote: Hormayr's "History of Andreas Hofer," vol. i., p. 249.]

"Colonel Dittfurt," cried General Kinkel, in a doleful voice, "you see that further resistance is useless. We must surrender!"

"No!" shouted the colonel, pale with rage; "no, we shall not surrender; no, we shall not Incur the disgrace of laying down our arms before this ragged mob. We can die, but shall not surrender! Forward, my brave soldiers, forward!"

And Dittfurt rushed furiously, followed by his soldiers, upon the

Tyrolese who were approaching at this moment.

Suddenly he reeled back. Two bullets had hit him at the same time, and the blood streamed from two wounds. But these wounds, instead of paralyzing his courage, inflamed it still more. He overcame his pain and weakness, and, brandishing his sword, rushed forward.

A third bullet whistled up and penetrated his breast. He sank down; blood streamed from his mouth and his nose.

The Tyrolese burst into deafening cheers, and approached the fallen officer to take his sword from him. But he sprang once more to his feet, he would not fall alive into the hands of the peasants; he felt that he had to die, but he would die like a soldier on the field of Honor, and not as a prisoner of the peasants. Livid as a corpse, his face covered with gore, his uniform saturated with blood, Dittfurt reeled forward, and drove his soldiers, with wild imprecations, entreaties, and threats toward the hospital, whence the Tyrolese poured their murderous fire into the ranks of the Bavarians. But scarcely had he advanced a few steps when a fourth bullet struck him and laid him prostrate.

His regiment, seized with dismay, shouted out that it would surrender, and, in proof of this intention, the soldiers laid down their arms.

The Bavarian cavalry, to avoid the disgrace of such a capitulation, galloped in wild disorder toward the gate and the Hofgarten. But there Speckbacher had taken position with the peasants, who, mostly armed only with pitchforks, had hurried to the scene of the combat from the immediate environs of Innspruck. But these pitchforks seemed to the panic-stricken cavalry to be terrible, murderous weapons; cannon would have appeared to them less dreadful than the glittering pitchforks, with which the shouting peasants rushed upon them, and which startled not only the soldiers but their horses also. The soldiers thought the wounds made by pitchforks more horrible and ignominious than utter defeat, and even death. Thunderstruck at their desperate position, hardly knowing what befell them, unable to offer further resistance, they allowed themselves to be torn from their horses by the peasants, to whom they handed their arms in silence. The Tyrolese then mounted the horses, and in a triumphant procession, headed by Joseph Speckbacher, they conducted their prisoners back to Innspruck. [Footnote: Hormayr's "History of Andreas Hofer," vol. i., p. 250.]

There the enemy had likewise surrendered in the mean time, and the barracks which, until yesterday, had been the quarters of the oppressors of the Tyrolese, the Bavarian soldiers, became now the prisons of the defeated. Escorted by the peasants, the disarmed and defenceless Bavarians were hurried into the barracks, whose doors closed noisily behind them.

Innspruck was now free; not an armed Bavarian soldier remained in the city, but the Tyrolese, to the number of upward of fifteen thousand, poured into the streets, and the citizens joined them exultingly, and thanked the courageous peasants for delivering them from the foreign yoke. The city, which for three hours had been a wild scene of terror, havoc, bloodshed, and death, resounded now at the hour of mid-day with cheers and exultation; nothing was heard but hurrahs, songs, and cheers for the Emperor Francis and the beloved Tyrol.

Every minute added to the universal joy. The victorious Tyrolese, mounted on the horses of Cite Bavarian cavalry, and headed by the proud and triumphant Speckbacher and a rural band of music, appeared with their prisoners. Two badly-tuned violins, two shrill fifes, two iron pot-lids, and several jews'-harps, were the instruments of this band. But the musicians tried to make as much noise with them as possible, and the citizens considered their music sweeter and finer than the splendid tunes which the bands of the Bavarian regiments had played to them up to this time.

New cheers rent the air at this moment. A squad of peasants brought the great imperial eagle, which they had taken down from the tomb of Maximilian in the High Church of Innspruck. They had decorated it with red ribbons, and carried it amid deafening acclamations through the streets. On beholding the eagle of Austria, the excited masses set no bounds to their rejoicings; they flocked in crowds to gaze at it; citizens and peasants vied in manifesting their devotion to the precious emblem; they blessed it and kissed it. No one was permitted to stay a long while near it, for the impatience of his successor compelled him to pass on. But an aged man, with silvery hair, but with a form still vigorous and unbent, would not allow himself to be pushed on in this manner. An hour ago he had fought like a lion in the ranks of the Tyrolese, and anger and rage had flashed from his face; but now, at the sight of the Austrian eagle, he was as mild and gentle as a lamb, and only love and blissful emotion beamed from his face. He encircled the eagle with both his arms, kissed the two heads and gilded crowns, and, stroking the carved plumes tenderly, exclaimed: "Well, old eagle, have your plumes really grown again? Have you returned to the loyal Tyrol to stay here for all time to come? Will-"

Loud cheers interrupted him at this moment. Another crowd of Tyrolese came up the street, preceded by four peasants, who were carrying two portraits in fine golden frames.

Deafening acclamations rent the air as soon as the people beheld these two portraits. Everybody recognized them as those of the Emperor Francis and the Archduke John. The peasants had found them in the old imperial palace.

"John!" shouted the people in the streets, and in the houses which the procession passed on its march through the city. Even the Austrian eagle, which had been greeted so tenderly, was forgotten at the sight of the two portraits, and all accompanied this solemn procession of love and loyalty.

This procession moved through the whole city until it finally reached the triumphal arch which Maria Theresa had ordered to be erected in honor of the wedding of her son Leopold. The Tyrolese placed the portraits of Leopold's two sons on this triumphal arch, and surrounded them by candles kept constantly burning; every one then bent his knee, and exclaimed: "Long live the Emperor Francis! Long live our dear Archduke John!" Woe unto him who should have dared to pass these portraits without taking off his hat! the Tyrolese would have compelled him to do it, and to bend his knee.

"Well," they exclaimed, "there is our Francis, and there is our John. Look, does it not seem as though he were smiling at us, and were glad of being here again and able to gaze at us? Long live our dear Archduke John!"

And they again burst into cheers which, if the Archduke John had been able to hear them, would have filled his heart with delight and his eyes with tears.

These rejoicings around the eagle and the portraits lasted all day. The whole city presented a festive spectacle, and the overjoyed Tyrolese scarcely thought to-day of eating and drinking, much less of the dangers which might menace them. They sang, and shouted, and laughed; and when night came they sank down exhausted by the efforts of the fight, and still more by their boundless rejoicings, to the ground where they were standing, in the streets, in the gardens, in the fields, and fell asleep.

Profound silence reigned now in the streets of Innspruck. It was dark everywhere, bright lights beamed only from the portraits of the emperor and the Archduke John; and the stars of heaven looked down upon the careless and happy sleepers, the victors of Innspruck.

They slept, dreaming of victory and happiness. Woe to them if they sleep too long and awake too late, for the enemy does not sleep! He is awake and approaching, while the victors are sleeping.

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