MoboReader > Literature > Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel

   Chapter 24 THE ARCHDUKE JOHN AT COMORN.

Andreas Hofer: An Historical Novel By L. Mühlbach Characters: 20700

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The unheard-of event, then, had taken place. Napoleon had been defeated by the Austrians. The Archduke Charles had gained a brilliant victory; Napoleon had transferred his whole army to the island of Lobau; he himself passed his time in moody broodings at the castle of Ebersberg, and the unexpected disaster which had befallen him and which at the same time had brought about the death of one of his favorites, Marshal Lannes, seemed to have suddenly deprived the emperor of all his energy. He did not speak, he did not eat; he sat for whole days in his cabinet, staring at the maps spread out before him on his table, and yet forgetting to cover them, as he used to do on conceiving the plans of his campaigns, with the colored pins which represented the different armies. Victory had no longer been able to soften this marble Caesarean face, but defeat caused his features now to wear an expression of profound anger and grief. Nevertheless, he did not complain, and never did he confess even to his confidants that he was suffering. Only once, for a brief moment, he lifted the veil concealing his feelings, and permitted his marshals to see into the innermost recesses of his soul. Marmont had dared to pray the emperor, in the name of all the marshals, to yield no longer to his grief at what had occurred, but bear in mind that it was incumbent on him to preserve himself for the welfare of his subjects and the glory of his future. Napoleon had answered with a faint smile: "You think I am sitting here to brood over my misfortune? It is true, I am burying my dead, and, as there are unfortunately a great many of them, it takes me a long time to do it. But over the tomb of the dead of Essling I am going to erect a monument which will be radiant with the splendor of victory, and on its frontispiece shall be read the word 'Vengeance!' The Emperor of Austria is lost. Had I defeated him in this battle, I should, perhaps, have forgiven his arrogance and perfidy; but as he defeated me, I must and shall annihilate him and his army."

While Napoleon was thus burying his dead, and reflecting on his "monument of vengeance," the utmost rejoicings reigned at the headquarters of the Archduke Charles, the victor of Aspern; and all Austria, all Germany joined in these rejoicings, and blessed the glorious day of Bonaparte's first humiliation.

And this victory was soon followed by the news of a triumph hardly less glorious than the battle of Aspern. The Tyrolese, those despised peasants, had gained a brilliant victory over the French veterans, and their Bavarian auxiliaries, on the 21st of May, on Mount Isel, near the city of Innspruck. Andreas Hofer, commander-in- chief of the united forces of the Tyrolese, jointly with Speckbacher, Wallner, and the Capuchin Haspinger, had again defeated the Bavarians and French, who had re-entered the Tyrol, and delivered the province a second time from the enemy.

Count Nugent, quartermaster-general of the Archduke John, had entered the latter's room with this joyful news, and told him with sparkling eyes of the heroic deeds of the Tyrolese; of Hofer's pious zeal; of the bold exploits of Wallner and Speckbacher, whose deeds recalled the ancient heroes of Homer; of the intrepid Capuchin friar, Haspinger, who, with a huge wooden cross in his hand, led on the attack, and animated his followers not less by his example than the assurances of Divine protection which he held forth. Count Nugent had related all these heroic deeds with fervid eloquence to the archduke, and yet, to his utter astonishment, the latter's face had remained gloomy, and not a ray of joy had illuminated it.

"Your imperial highness, then, does not share my exultation?" he asked, mournfully. "You receive the news quite coldly and indifferently, and yet I am speaking of your beloved Tyrolese, of your heroes, Andreas Hofer, Joseph Speckbacher, and Anthony Wallner? They and their heroic men have delivered the Tyrol a second time from the enemy, and your imperial highness does not rejoice at it?"

"No, my dear Count," said the archduke, sighing, "for they will lose it again. All this blood will have been shed in vain, and my poor Tyrol will be lost in spite of it."

"You believe so?-you who called upon the Tyrolese to take up arms, who invited its heroes and champions to such daring efforts, who are ready yourself to fight for the courageous mountaineers to the last extremity?"

"Yes, I am always ready to do so," cried John, laughing bitterly, "but what good will it do? They will wind cunning shackles enough round my feet to make me fall to the ground; they will manacle my hands again, and put my will into the strait-jacket of loyalty and obedience. I cannot do what I want to; I am only a tool in the hands of others, and this will cause both my ruin and that of the Tyrol. I am willing to sacrifice my life for the Tyrol, and yet I shall be unable to save it. For the rest, my friend, I knew already all these particulars of the battle on Mount Isel. A courier from Hormayr had just reached me and brought me full details. I was able to send back by the courier a fine reward for the brave Tyrolese, a letter from the emperor, my august brother, which I received this morning with the order to forward it to them. I kept a copy of the imperial letter, for there may be a day when it will be necessary for me to remind the emperor of this letter. Here is the copy. Read it aloud, that I may hear, too, how fine the imperial words sound."

The archduke handed a paper to Count Nugent, who read as follows:

"After our arms had suffered heavy reverses, and after the enemy had captured even the capital of the empire, my army succeeded in defeating the French army under Napoleon on the 21st and 22d of May, on the Marshfield, and driving it in disorder across the Danube. The army and people of Austria are animated with greater enthusiasm than ever; every thing justifies the most sanguine hopes. Trusting in God and my just cause, I declare to my loyal provinces of the Tyrol and Vorarlberg, that they shall never again be separated from the Austrian empire, and that I will sign no peace but one which will indissolubly incorporate these provinces with my other states. Your noble conduct has sunk deep into my heart; I will never abandon you. My beloved brother, the Archduke John, will speedily be among you, and put himself at your head. FRANCIS."

[Footnote: Hormayr, "Das Heer von Inner-Oesterreich unter den

Befehlen des Erzherzogs Johann," p. 189.]

"And your imperial highness doubts, even after this solemn promise given to the Tyrolese by his majesty the emperor?"

"My friend," said the archduke, casting a long, searching look round the room, "we are alone, no one watches, and, I trust, no one hears us. Let me, therefore, for once, speak frankly with you; let me unbosom to you, my friend, what I have hitherto said to God alone; let me forget for a quarter of an hour that I am a subject of the emperor, and that his majesty is my brother; permit me to examine the situation with the eyes of an impartial observer, and to judge of men as a man. Well, then, I must confess to you that I cannot share the universal joy at the recent events, and-may God forgive me!-I do not believe even in the promises which the emperor makes to the Tyrolese. He himself may at the present hour be firmly resolved to fulfil them; he may have made up his mind never to sign any peace but one which will indissolubly incorporate the Tyrol with his empire; but the events, and especially men, will assuredly compel him to consent to another treaty of peace. You know full well that there are two parties about the emperor, and that there is a constant feud between these two parties. One wants war, the other wants peace; and the peace-party is unfortunately headed by the Archduke Charles, the generalissimo of our army. You know the fawning and submissive letter which the generalissimo addressed to Napoleon after the defeat of Ratisbon, and which Napoleon disdained to answer. [Footnote: The Archduke Charles wrote to Napoleon on the 30th of April, 1809: "Your Majesty announced your arrival by a salvo of artillery; I had no time to reply to it. But, though hardly informed of your presence, I speedily discovered it by the losses which I experienced. You have taken many prisoners from me, sire, and I have taken some thousands from you in quarters where you were not personally present. I propose to your majesty to exchange them, man for man, rank for rank; and, if that proposal proves agreeable to you, point out the place where it may be possible to carry it into effect. I feel flattered, sire, in combating the greatest captain of the age; but I should esteem myself much happier if Heaven had chosen me to be the instrument of procuring for my country a durable peace. Whatever may be the events of war, or the chances of an accommodation, I pray your majesty to believe that my desires will always outstrip your wishes, and that I am equally honored by meeting your majesty either with the sword or the olive- branch in your hand."] The war-party is headed by the empress and Count Stadion. But the empress has unfortunately little influence over her husband, and Count Stadion is no more influential than her majesty. His generous enthusiasm and fiery impetuosity are repugnant to the emperor, who will remove him so soon as he has discovered a more submissive and obsequious successor who has as much work in him as Stadion. But there is one point as to which these incessantly quarrelling parties are agreed and join hands, and that is their common hostility against the arch-dukes, the emperor's brothers; so virulent is this hatred, that the peace-party deserts its leader in order to operate with the war-party against him and his interests. The Austrian nobility has always claimed the privilege of filling all superior offices, and it is furious at seeing the archdukes animated with the desire of dedicating their abilities to their fatherland and their emperor. Hence, the nobility is decidedly opposed to the success of the archdukes, which might set bounds to its oligarchy. It opposes me as well as the other archdukes, whether this opposition may endanger the interests of the fatherland, and even the emperor, or not. Things would be even more p

rosperous in this campaign, if the generals serving under the archdukes had carried out the orders of their superiors with greater zeal, promptness, and willingness. But they have been intentionally slow; they have often hesitated, misunderstood, or purposely forgotten their orders. They are intent on proving the incapacity of the archdukes in order to overthrow them; and they well know that they are rendering a service to the emperor by doing so, for they are aware that the emperor does not love his brothers."

"No, your imperial highness," exclaimed Nugent, when the archduke paused with a sigh. "I hope that this is going too far, and that you are likewise mistaken about it. It is impossible that the emperor should not love his brothers, who are doing so much honor to the imperial house by their surpassing accomplishments, virtues, and talents."

"My friend, you speak like a courtier," said John, shaking his head, "and you exaggerate as a friend. But even though you were right, those qualities would not be calculated to render the emperor's heart more attached to us. He wants the emperor alone to shed lustre on, and do honor to the imperial house, and not the archdukes, his father's younger sons, whom he hates."

"No, no, your imperial highness, it is impossible that the emperor should hate his brothers!"

"And why impossible?" asked John, shrugging his shoulders. "Do not his brothers, the archdukes, hate each other? Or do you believe, perhaps, that the Archduke Charles, our generalissimo, loves me, or even wishes me well? I was so unfortunate as to be twice victorious during the present campaign, while he was twice defeated; I beat the French at Sacile and St. Boniface, while he lost the battles of Landshut and Ratisbon. This is a crime which the archduke will never forgive me, and for which he will revenge himself."

"Perhaps he thinks that he took a noble and glorious revenge at the battle of Aspern?"

"Oh, my friend, you forgot that our mother was a daughter of Italy, and that we, therefore, do not care for a noble and glorious revenge, but long for an Italian vendetta. The generalissimo will not content himself with having obtained glory, but I must suffer a defeat, a disgrace, which will neutralize what few laurels I gathered at Sacile and St. Boniface. Oh, I know my brother the generalissimo; I see all the little threads which he is spinning around me, and which, as soon as they are strong enough, he will convert into a net, in which he will catch me, in order to exhibit me to the world as an ignoramus and dreamer, destitute both of ability and luck as a general. Do not tell me that I am mistaken, my friend; I have hitherto observed every thing with close attention, and my observations unfortunately do not deceive me. The generalissimo is desirous of punishing me for my victories at Sacile and St. Boniface, and for advocating a declaration of war when he pronounced three times against it. He has already several times told the emperor that I am self-willed, disobedient, and always inclined to oppose his orders by words or even deeds; and the emperor always takes pleasure in informing me of the generalissimo's complaints."

"It is true," sighed Count Nugent; "this aversion of the generalissimo to your imperial highness unfortunately cannot be denied, and you yourself have to suffer by it."

"Oh," cried John, impetuously, "if that were all, I should not complain; I should add it to the many other pin-pricks of my fate, and strive to bear it without murmuring. But my soldiers and the glory of the Austrian arms suffer by it, and it will destroy the liberty of the Tyrol. It is well known that this is my most vulnerable point; that I love the Tyrol, and am determined to leave nothing undone in order to redeem the emperor's pledges to preserve the Tyrol to the imperial house, and restore its ancient privileges and liberties. It is known, too, that I long intensely to live in the future days of peace as the emperor's lieutenant in the Tyrol; to live, far from the noisy bustle of the capital, in the peaceful seclusion of the mountain country, for myself, my studies, and the men whom I love, and who love me. Oh, my poor, unfortunate Tyrol will grievously suffer for the love which I bear it; Austria will lose it a second time, and now, perhaps, forever."

"Does your imperial highness believe so?" cried Nugent, in dismay. "You believe so, even after communicating to me the letter in which the emperor promises to the Tyrolese never to sign a peace that will not indissolubly incorporate the Tyrol and Vorarlberg with his monarchy, and in which he announces the speedy arrival of his beloved brother John, who is to put himself at the head of the Tyrolese?"

"My friend, these numerous and liberal promises are the very things that make me distrustful, and convince me that they are not meant seriously. If the emperor had the preservation of the Tyrol really at heart, and intended earnestly that my army should succor and save the Tyrolese, would he not have left me at liberty to operate according to the dictates of my own judgment and in full harmony with the Tyrolese, instead of tying my hands, and regarding and employing my force only as a secondary and entirely dependent corps of the generalissimo's army? Look into the past, Nugent, bear in mind all that has happened since we took the field, and tell me then whether I am right or not?"

"Unfortunately you are," sighed Nugent; "I can no longer contradict your imperial highness, I cannot deny that many a wrong has been inflicted on you and us; that you have have always been prevented from taking the initiative in a vigorous manner; that you and your army have constantly been kept in a secondary and dependent position; that your plans have incessantly been frustrated, and that your superiors have often done the reverse of what you wished and deemed prudent and advisable."

"My friend at they will hereafter say that I was alone to blame for the failure of my plans," cried the archduke, with a mournful smile; "they will charge me with having been unable to carry out the grandiloquent promises which I made to the emperor and the Tyrolese, and the emperor will exult at the discomfiture of the boastful archduke who took it upon himself to call out the whole people of the Tyrol, put himself at their head, and successfully defend against all enemies this fortress which God and Nature erected for Austria. The faithful Tyrolese have taken up arms; I am ready to put myself at their head, but already I have been removed from the Tyrol, and my arm is paralyzed so that I can no longer stretch it out to take the hand which the Tyrol is holding out to me beseechingly. If I had been permitted to advance after the victories which my army gained over the Viceroy of Italy and Marmont, I should probably now already have expelled the enemy from Upper Italy and the Southern Tyrol. But I was not allowed to follow up my successes; I was stopped in the midst of my victorious career. Because the generalissimo's army had been defeated at Ratisbon, I was compelled, instead of pursuing the enemy energetically and obliging him to keep on the defensive, to retreat myself, and, instead of being the pursuer, be pursued by the forces of the viceroy. Instead of going to the Tyrol, I was ordered by the generalissimo to turn toward Hungary and unite with the volunteers in that country. No sooner had I done so, than I was ordered to advance again toward the Southern Tyrol, march upon Villach and Salzburg, unite with Jellachich, form a connection with Field-Marshal Giulay, and operate with them in the rear of the enemy, who was already in the immediate neighborhood of Vienna. And he who gave me these orders did not know that Jellachich had in the meantime been beaten at Wurzl; that Villach had been occupied by the French; that I was not in the rear of the enemy, but that the enemy was in my rear; be did not or would not know that the Viceroy of Italy was in my rear with thirty-six thousand men, and that the Duke of Dantzic was in front of my position at Salzburg. Since then we have been moving about amidst incessant skirmishes and incessant losses; and scarcely had we reached Comorn to re-organize and re-enforce my little army, when we received orders to march to the island of Schutt and toward Presburg. I vainly tried to remonstrate and point to the weakness and exhaustion of my troops; I vainly asked for time to reorganize my forces, when I would attack Macdonald and prevent him from uniting with Napoleon. I vainly proved that this was his intention, and that no one could hinder him from carrying it into effect, so soon as I had to turn toward Presburg and open to Macdonald the road to Vienna. My remonstrances were disregarded; pains were taken to prove to me that I was but a tool, a wheel in the great machine of state, and the orders were renewed for me to march into Hungary. Well, I will submit again-I will obey again; but I will not do so in silence; I will, at least, tell the emperor that I do it in spite of myself, and will march to Presburg and Raab only if he approves of the generalissmo's orders."

"That is to say, your imperial highness is going to declare openly against the generalissimo?"

"No; it is to say that I am going to inform my sovereign of my doubts and fears, and unbosom to him my wishes and convictions. You smile, my friend. It is true, I am yet a poor dreamer, speculating on the heart, and believing that the truth must triumph in the end. I shall, however, at least be able to say that I have done my duty, and had the courage to inform the emperor of the true state of affairs. I shall repair this very day to his majesty's headquarters at Wolkersdorf. I will dare once more to speak frankly and fearlessly to him. I will oppose my enemies at least with open visor, and show to them that I am not afraid of them. God knows, if only my own personal honor and safety were at stake, I should withdraw in silence, and shut up my grief and my apprehensions in my bosom; but my fatherland is at stake, and so is the poor Tyrol, so enthusiastic in its love, so unwavering in its fidelity; and so are the honor and glory of our arms. Hence, I will dare once more to speak the truth, and may God impart strength to my words!"

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares