Copyright
L. Mühlbach.

Andreas Hofer online

. (page 16 of 43)
Online LibraryL. MühlbachAndreas Hofer → online text (page 16 of 43)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


loud, ringing voice, "for God, the fatherland, and your emperor!"

"For God, the fatherland, and our emperor!" shouted the Tyrolese,
rushing down the mountain-path into the ravine whence they were to
attack the enemy.

But the Bavarians had been on their guard, and their commander,
Colonel Baerenklau, divining the tactics of the Tyrolese, had
ordered his two guns to be pointed against the ravine.

Now the first shots thundered from their mouths, and volleys of
musketry were discharged from all the squares at the same time, at
the advancing column of the Tyrolese. The Tyrolese, not prepared for
so sudden and violent an attack, dismayed at the havoc produced in
their ranks by the balls and bullets of the Bavarians, gave way and
ran over the corpses of their brethren back to the ravine. But there
stood the crowd of women who had accompanied the column, who had
hastened up from Sterzing, and the whole neighborhood, and had
advanced with the Tyrolese out of the ravine almost close to the
squares of the enemy. They received the fugitives with invectives
and angry glances; they strove to kindle their courage; they went
and begged them with clasped hands and tearful eyes not to desert
the cause of the fatherland, become discouraged in so disgraceful a
manner in the very first battle, and thereby make themselves the
laughing-stock of the hateful Bavarians and French.

And the men listened to these voices; they drank courage from the
wine which the women handed to them, and rushed forward a second
time. Their rifles crashed and mowed down the front ranks of the
Bavarians, but behind the corpses stood the rear ranks, and their
volleys responded to the Tyrolese, and the cannon thundered across
the plain reeking with gore and powder.

The Tyrolese gave way a second time, for the murderous fire of the
Bavarians filled them with stupor and dismay

"In this manner we shall never gain a victory, and our men will be
uselessly slaughtered," said Andreas Hofer, who was watching the
struggle with breathless suspense. "But we must not incur the
disgrace of losing the first battle, for that would discourage our
men for all time to come. Come, Ennemoser, run down to them and tell
them to try a third time. If they do not, Andreas Hofer will rush
ail alone upon the enemy and wait for a bullet to shatter his head."

Young Ennemoser, the secretary, sped down the ravine; Hofer pressed
his crucifix to his lips and prayed; Eliza Wallner advanced close to
the edge of the precipice, and peered down into the plain. Her eyes
filled with tears when she perceived the many corpses piled up on
both sides of the ravine, but the squares of the enemy likewise had
been considerably thinned, and death had made fearful havoc in their
ranks.

"Andreas Hofer," she cried, exultingly, "your message was
successful. Our men are rushing forward. Do you not hear their
cheers?"

"I do, and may the good God grant them success!" sighed Andreas
Hofer stepping close up to Eliza.

They saw the Tyrolese emerging again at the double-quick from the
ravine, and rushing upon the enemy, who received them with volleys
of musketry and artillery-fire. But, alas! they saw the Tyrolese
give way again and retreat, though more slowly than before, to the
ravine.

"This will never do," cried Hofer, despairingly. "Our men are
slaughtered in this way, and cannot reach the enemy, whose cannon
are mowing them down like scythes. O God, show the a way to help our
men!"

His eyes glanced despairingly over the plain, as if searching for
relief. All at once a bright flash of joy lit up his features.

"I have found a way! I thank Thee, my God!" he exclaimed, aloud.
"See, Lizzie, look there! What do you see in the plain yonder behind
the ravine?"

"I see there four large wagons tilled with hay," said Lizzie; "yes,
four wagons filled with hay, nothing else."

"And these wagons filled with hay will save us. They must be driven
toward the ravine directly toward the enemy; our sharpshooters will
conceal themselves behind them, and will safely advance; and when
close enough to the enemy, they will discharge their rifles, and
first pick off the gunners, in order to silence the guns which have
made such havoc among our men. Come, Lizzie, we will go down to
Sieberer and the other captains, and give them my orders. I hope
there will be four lads intrepid enough to drive the hay-wagons
toward the enemy."

"There will be!" exclaimed Eliza, enthusiastically.

"It is only necessary for one to risk his life, and drive the first
wagon. The other wagons will be covered by the first. But the driver
of the first wagon will doubtless be killed, and I shall be
responsible for his death."

"He will die for the fatherland," exclaimed Eliza. "Go, Andreas
Hofer, descend and tell our men what is to be done, for it is high
tune for the hay-wagons to come up and cover our men."

"Come, let us go, Lizzie; give me your hand."

"No, lead the way; I will follow you immediately."


CHAPTER XVII.

THE HAY-WAGONS.


Andreas Hofer had already descended half the mountain-path with a
rapid step, and he did not once look behind him, for he was sure
that Wallner's daughter was following him, and he kept his eyes
steadfastly fixed on his friends and brethren.

But Eliza did not follow him. She looked after him until the dense
shrubbery below concealed her from his eyes; then she knelt down,
and, lifting both her hands to heaven, exclaimed, in a loud,
beseeching voice: "Holy Virgin, protect me! Grant. success to my
enterprise for the beloved fatherland!"

She then jumped up, and, quick as a chamois, scarcely with her feet,
she hastened toward the point where the hay-wagons were standing.

Meanwhile, Andreas Hofer had descended into the ravine whence
constantly new crowds of Tyrolese were rushing forward, although
they were driven back again and again by the murderous fire of the
enemy. On beholding Hofer's erect and imposing form, and his fine
head, with the splendid long beard, the Tyrolese burst into loud
cheers, and his presence seemed to inspire them with fresh courage.
They advanced with the most intrepid impetuosity. Andreas Hofer
called the brave captains of his sharpshooters to his side, and
communicated to them briefly the stratagem he had devised.

"That is a splendid and very shrewd idea," said Anthony Sieberer.

"The hay-wagon is your Trojan horse with which, like Ulysses, you
will conquer your Troy," exclaimed the learned Ennemoser, Hofer's
young secretary.

"I do not know where Troy is situated," said Andreas Hofer, quietly,
"but I know where the Sterzinger Moos lies, and what should be done
there. For the rest, there are no horses before the hay-wagons, but
oxen, and it is all-important that the gunners should not
immediately hit the driver of the first wagon."

"But his last hour has surely come, and he may rely on going to
paradise to-day!" exclaimed Ennemoser. "But look! what throng is
yonder in the ravine, and what causes the women to shout so
vociferously? Their shouts sound like triumphant cheers. And the
lads now join in the acclamations too, and all are rushing forward
so impetuously."

Indeed, the whole mass of men and women assembled in the rear of the
ravine rushed forward with loud shouts, like a single immense wave,
surging with extraordinary impetuosity up to Andreas Hofer and the
captains standing by his side.

All at once this wave parted, and in the midst of all this eager,
shouting throng, which took position on both sides of the ravine,
appeared two of those broad-horned, brown-red oxen, of a beauty,
majesty, and strength such as can be found only in the Tyrol and in
Switzerland. Behind these two oxen came the wagon filled up with
hay.

But who drove the hay-wagon? Was it really the lovely young girl
hanging on the back of the ox - the beautiful creature whose face was
radiant with enthusiasm, whose cheers were glowing like the morning
sun, and whose eyes flashed like stars?

Yes, it was she - it was Eliza Wallner, who, with sublime courage,
had mounted the back of the ox, and who now was driving forward with
loud shouts and lashes of the whip the two animals, frightened by
the crowd and the shots crashing incessantly.

"Eliza Wallner!" cried Andreas Hofer, with an air of dismay, as the
heavily-laden wagon rolled more rapidly forward.

She turned her head toward him, and a wondrous smile illuminated her
face. "Send greetings to my dear father!" she exclaimed. "Send
greetings to him in my name, if I should die."

"I cannot allow her to do it - it is certain death!" cried Andreas
Hofer, anxiously. "Let me go and lift her from the ox."

"No, no, Andreas," said Anthony Sieberer. "Let her proceed. The
intrepidity of this young girl will fire the courage of the lads;
and, for the rest, if lives have to be sacrificed, the life of a
girl is not worth any more than that of a lad. We are all in God's
hand."

"May God and His heavenly host protect her!" said Andreas Hofer,
laying his hand on the image of St. George, which adorned his
breast.

"Now, boys," shouted Anthony Sieberer, "do not allow the girl to
make you blush. Quick, march behind the hay-wagon, and when you are
close enough to the enemy, step forward and shoot down the gunners."

Ten young lads hastened forward, amid loud cheers, and took position
in pairs behind the wagon, which advanced heavily and slowly, like
an enormous avalanche.

There was a breathless silence. All eyes followed the wagon, all
hearts throbbed and addressed to heaven prayers in behalf of the
courageous girl who was driving it.

Suddenly a cry of horror burst from all lips. A cannon-ball had
struck the hay-wagon, which was shaking violently from the
tremendous shock.

But now a ringing cheer was heard in front of the wagon. By this
cheer Eliza Wallner announced to the Tyrolese that the ball had not
hit her, and that she was uninjured.

The cannon boomed again, and Eliza's ringing voice announced once
more that the balls had penetrated harmlessly into the closely
compressed hay.

Meanwhile the wagon rolled out farther and farther into the plain of
the Sterzinger Moos. Even the oxen seemed to be infected with the
heroism of their fair driver, and trotted more rapidly toward the
enemy, whose balls whistled round them without hitting them.

Suddenly Eliza stopped their courageous trot, and, turning back her
head, she shouted: "Forward now, boys! Do not be afraid of the
Bavarian dumplings. They do not hit us, and we do not swallow them
as hot as the Bavarians send them to us!"

The young sharpshooters concealed behind the wagon replied to Eliza,
amid merry laughter: "No, we are not afraid of the Bavarian
dumplings, but we are going to pick off the cooks that send them to
us."

And with their rifles lifted to their cheeks, five sharpshooters
rushed forward on either side of their green bulwark. Before the
Bavarians had time to aim at the ten daring sharpshooters, the
latter raised their rifles and fired, and the gunners fell dead by
the sides of their guns.

The Bavarians uttered loud shouts of fury, and aimed at the
sharpshooters; but the Tyrolese had already disappeared again,
whistling and cheering, behind the wagon, which was still advancing
toward the enemy.

The other hay-wagons now rolled likewise from the ravine. The first
of them was driven by another young girl. Imitating the heroic
example set by Eliza Wallner, Anna Gamper, daughter of a tailor of
Sterzing, had courageously mounted the back of an ox, and drove
forward the wagon, filled with an enormous quantity of hay. Twenty
young sharpshooters, encouraged by the success of their comrades,
followed this second wagon. Behind them came the third and fourth
wagons, followed by twenty or thirty more sharpshooters, who were
well protected by the broad bulwark which the wagons formed in front
of them.

The gunners had fallen; hence the cannon no longer thundered or
carried destruction and death into the ranks of the Tyrolese; only
the musketry of the Bavarians was still rattling, but they only hit
the hay, and not the brave girls driving the, oxen, nor the
sharpshooters, who, concealed behind the hay, rushed from their
covert whenever the enemy had fired a volley, raised their rifles
triumphantly, and struck down a Bavarian at every shot.

All four hay-wagons had now driven up close enough, and the
Tyrolese, who were nearly one hundred strong, burst with cheers from
behind them, and rushing forward in loose array, but with desperate
resolution, using the butt-ends of their rifles, fell with savage
impetuosity upon the Bavarians, who were thunderstruck at this
unexpected and sudden attack.

Loud cheers also resounded from the ravine. The whole force of the
Tyrolese advanced at the double-quick to assist their brethren in
annihilating the enemy.

A violent struggle, a fierce hand-to-hand fight now ensued.

The Bavarians, overwhelmed by the terrible onset of the peasants,
gave way; the squares dissolved; and the soldiers, as if paralyzed
with terror, had neither courage nor strength left to avoid the
furious butt-end blows of the peasants.

Vainly did Colonel von Baerenklau strive to reform his lines; vainly
did those who had rallied round him at his command, make a desperate
effort to force their way through the ranks of the infuriated
Tyrolese. The fierce bravery of the latter overcame all resistance,
and rendered their escape impossible.

"Surrender!" thundered Andreas Hofer to the Bavarians.

"Lay down your arms, and surrender at discretion!"

A cry of rage burst from the pale lips of Colonel von Baerenklau,
and he would have rushed upon the impudent peasants who dared to
fasten such a disgrace upon him. But his own men kept him back.

"We do not want to be slaughtered," they cried, perfectly beside
themselves with terror; "we will surrender, we will lay down our
arms!"

A deathly pallor overspread the cheeks of the unfortunate officer.

"Do so, then," he cried. "Surrender yourselves and me to utter
dishonor! I am no longer able to restrain you from it."

And with a sigh resembling the groan of a dying man, Colonel von
Baerenklau fainted away, exhausted by the terrible exertion and the
loss of blood which was rushing from a gunshot wound on his neck.

"We surrender! We are ready to lay down our arms!" shouted the
Bavarians to the Tyrolese, who were still thinning their ranks by
the deadly fire of their rifles and their terrible butt-end blows.

"Very well, lay down your arms," cried Andrews Hofer, in a powerful
voice. "Stop, Tyrolese! If they surrender, nobody shall hurt a hair
of their heads, for then they are no longer our enemies, but our
brethren. - Lay down your arms, Bavarians!"

The Tyrolese, obedient to the orders of their commander, stopped the
furious slaughter, and gazed with gloomy eyes at their hated
enemies.

There was a moment of breathless silence, and then the Bavarian
officers were heard to command in tremulous voices, "Lay down your
arms!"

And their men obeyed readily. Three hundred and eighty soldiers, and
nine officers, laid down their arms here on the plain of the
Sterzinger Moos, and surrendered at discretion to the Tyrolese.
[Footnote: "Gallery of Heroes: Andrews Hofer," p. 3l.]

On seeing this, the Tyrolese burst into loud cheers, and Andreas
Hofer lifted his beaming eyes to heaven. "I thank Thee, Lord God,"
he said; "with Thy assistance we have achieved a victory. It is the
first love-offering which we present to fatherland and our Emperor
Francis."

"Long live the Tyrol and our Emperor Francis!" shouted the Tyrolese,
enthusiastically.

The Bavarians stood silent, with downcast eyes and pale faces, while
the active Tyrolese lads hastily collected the arms they bad laid
down and placed them on one of the wagons, from which they had
quickly removed the hay.

"What is to be done with our prisoners, the Bavarians?" said Anthony
Sieberer to Andreas Hofer. "We cannot take them with us."

"No, we cannot, nor will the enemy give us time for doing so,"
replied Hofer. "Anthony Wallner has informed me that a strong corps
of Bavarians and French is approaching in the direction of the
Muhlbacher Klause. They must not meet us here on the plain, for a
fight under such circumstances would manifestly be to our
disadvantage. They would be a great deal stronger here than we. But
in the mountains we are able to overcome them. They are the
fortresses which the good God built for our country; and when the
enemy passes, we shall attack and defeat him."

"And shall we take the prisoners with us into the mountains,
commander?"

"No, we will not, for we cannot guard them well up there, and they
would escape. We will not take the prisoners with us, but convey
them to the Baroness von Sternberg at Castle Steinach. She is
ardently devoted to our cause, and loves the Tyrol and the emperor.
She will take care of the prisoners, and they will be unable to
escape from the large tower, the Wolfsthurm, on the crest yonder,
which you can see from here."

"But who is to convey the prisoners to Castle Steinach? Are we all
to march thither and deliver them before advancing farther?"

"No, no, Anthony Sieberer; we have not time for that. We must bury
the corpses here quickly, and remove every trace of the contest, in
order that the French, on arriving here, may not discover what has
occured, and that we are close by. Only thirty of our men shall
escort the prisoners to Castle Steinach."

"Only thirty, commander? Will that be sufficient for three hundred
and eighty prisoners? If they should attack our men on the road,
they would beat them, for they would be twelve to one."

"That is true," said Andreas Hofer in confusion; "what are we to do
to get a stronger escort for the prisoners?"

He stroked his beard nervously, as was his wont in moments of great
excitement, and he glanced uneasily, now here, now there. All at
once a smile illuminated his face.

"I have got it," he said merrily. "Look there, Sieberer, look there.
What do you see there?"

"The women who have accompanied us, and who are kissing Eliza
Wallner and Anna Gamper for their heroic conduct."

"The women shall help our thirty sharpshooters to escort the
prisoners to Castle Steinach. Our women have brave hearts and strong
arms, and they know how to use the rifle for the fatherland and the
emperor. Let them, then, take some of the arms which we have
conquered, and, jointly with thirty of our men, escort the prisoners
to the good Baroness von Sternberg. Oh, Lizzie Wallner, Lizzie
Wallner!"

"Here I am, commander," cried Eliza, hastening to Andreas Hofer with
flushed cheeks and beaming eyes.

He patted her cheeks smilingly. "You are a brave, noble girl," he
said, "and none of us will ever forget what you have done to-day;
and the whole Tyrol shall learn what a splendid and intrepid girl
you are. But I wish to confer a special reward on you, Lizzie; I
wish to appoint you captain of a company, and your company is to
consist of all those women."

"And what does the commander-in-chief order me to do with my company
of women?" asked Eliza Wallner.

"Captain Lizzie, you are to escort with your company and thirty
Tyrolese sharpshooters the three hundred and eighty Bavarians to
Castle Steinach. Your arms you will take from the wagon yonder,
which Captain Lizzie drove so heroically toward the enemy. Will you
undertake to escort the prisoners safely to Steinach?"

"I will, commander. But after that I should like to return to my
father. He must be uneasy about me by this time, acid he would like
also to know how the Tyrolese have succeeded on this side. Oh! he
will be exceedingly glad when I bring him greetings from his beloved
Andreas Hofer."

"Go, then, my dear child," said Andreas Hofer, nodding to her
tenderly, and laying his hand on her beautiful head.

"Go, with God's blessing, and greet your father in my name. Tell him
that God and the Holy Virgin are with us and have blessed our cause;
therefore we will never despond, but always fight bravely and
cheerfully for our liberty and our dear emperor. Go, Lizzie; escort
the prisoners to Steinach, and then return to your father."

Eliza kissed his hand; then left him and communicated Andreas
Hofer's order to the women. They received it joyously, and hastened
to the wagon to get the arms.

Half an hour afterward a strange procession was seen moving along
the road leading to Castle Steinach. A long column of soldiers,
without arms, with heads bent down and gloomy faces, marched on the
road. On both sides of them walked the women, with heads erect, and
proud, triumphant faces, each shouldering a musket or a sword. Here
and there marched two Tyrolese sharpshooters, who were watching with
the keen and distrustful eyes of shepherds' dogs the soldiers
marching in their midst.


CHAPTER XVIII.

CAPTURE OF INNSPRUCK.


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!



Online LibraryL. MühlbachAndreas Hofer → online text (page 16 of 43)