Battles of Bergisel

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Battles of Bergisel
Part of the Tyrolean Rebellion
Statue of Andreas Hofer near Bergisel in Innsbruck
Date12 April – 1 November 1809
Bergisel, south of Innsbruck, Austria
Result Eventual French/Bavarian victory
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Tyroleans Flag of Bavaria (striped).svg  Kingdom of Bavaria
Flag of France.svg First French Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Andreas Hofer
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Josef Speckbacher
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Peter Mayr
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Joachim Haspinger
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Martin Teimer
Flag of France.svg François Lefebvre
Flag of Bavaria (striped).svg Bernhard Deroy
Flag of Bavaria (striped).svg Karl von Wrede
Flag of Bavaria (striped).svg General Rechberg
Flag of France.svg Jean Drouet d'Erlon
5,000 5,000 (later 15,000)

The Battles of Bergisel were four battles fought between the forces of Emperor Napoleon I of France and the Kingdom of Bavaria against Tyrolese militiamen and a contingent of Austrian regular soldiers at the Bergisel hill near Innsbruck. The battles, which occurred on 25 May, 29 May, 13 August, and 1 November 1809, were part of the Tyrolean Rebellion and the War of the Fifth Coalition.

Kingdom of Bavaria kingdom in Central Europe between 1806–1918, from January 1871 part of the German Empire

The Kingdom of Bavaria was a German state that succeeded the former Electorate of Bavaria in 1805 and continued to exist until 1918. The Bavarian Elector Maximilian IV Joseph of the House of Wittelsbach became the first King of Bavaria in 1805 as Maximilian I Joseph. The crown would go on being held by the Wittelsbachs until the kingdom came to an end in 1918. Most of Bavaria's present-day borders were established after 1814 with the Treaty of Paris, in which Bavaria ceded Tyrol and Vorarlberg to the Austrian Empire while receiving Aschaffenburg and Würzburg. With the unification of Germany into the German Empire in 1871, the kingdom became a federal state of the new Empire and was second in size, power, and wealth only to the leading state, the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1918, Bavaria became a republic, and the kingdom was thus succeeded by the current Free State of Bavaria.

County of Tyrol Former county of Austria

The (Princely) County of Tyrol was an estate of the Holy Roman Empire established about 1140. Originally a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of the Counts of Tyrol, it was inherited by the Counts of Gorizia in 1253 and finally fell to the Austrian House of Habsburg in 1363. In 1804 the Princely County of Tyrol, unified with the secularised Prince-Bishoprics of Trent and Brixen, became a crown land of the Austrian Empire in 1804 and from 1867 a Cisleithanian crown land of Austria-Hungary.

Bergisel mountain

The Bergisel is a hill that lies to the south of Innsbruck, Austria, in the area of Wilten, where the Sill river meets the Inn Valley.


The Tyrolean forces, loyal to Austria, were led by Andreas Hofer, Josef Speckbacher, Peter Mayr, Capuchin Father Joachim Haspinger, and Major Martin Teimer. The Bavarians were led by French Marshal François Joseph Lefebvre, and Bavarian Generals Bernhard Erasmus von Deroy and Karl Philipp von Wrede. After being driven from Innsbruck at the start of the revolt, the Bavarians twice reoccupied the city and were chased out again. After the final battle in November, the rebellion was suppressed.

Austrian Empire monarchy in Central Europe between 1804 and 1867

The Austrian Empire was a Central European multinational great power from 1804 to 1867, created by proclamation out of the realms of the Habsburgs. During its existence, it was the third most populous empire after the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom in Europe. Along with Prussia, it was one of the two major powers of the German Confederation. Geographically, it was the third largest empire in Europe after the Russian Empire and the First French Empire. Proclaimed in response to the First French Empire, it partially overlapped with the Holy Roman Empire until the latter's dissolution in 1806.

Andreas Hofer Tirolean innkeeper and patriot

Andreas Hofer was a Tyrolean innkeeper and drover, who in 1809 became the leader of the Tyrolean Rebellion against the revolutionary Napoleonic invasion during the War of the Fifth Coalition. He was subsequently captured and executed.

Josef Speckbacher Austrian rebel

Josef Speckbacher was a leading figure in the rebellion of the Tyrol against Napoleon.


After his humiliating defeat of the Austrian Empire in the War of the Third Coalition, Napoleon transferred the County of Tyrol to Bavaria. When the new rulers imposed conscription and Bavarian legal codes on the territory, they flouted ancient Tyrolean social and religious rights. [1] Before the outbreak of the War of the Fifth Coalition, Austrian agents circulated the Tyrol to take advantage of the existing tensions. When Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen invaded Bavaria on 10 April 1809, the Tyrol exploded in revolt. [2]

War of the Third Coalition war

The War of the Third Coalition was a European conflict spanning the years 1803 to 1806. During the war, France and its client states under Napoleon I defeated an alliance, the Third Coalition, made up of the Holy Roman Empire, Russia, Britain and others. Prussia remained neutral during the war.

War of the Fifth Coalition 1809 conflict during the Napoleonic Wars

The War of the Fifth Coalition was fought in 1809 by a coalition of the Austrian Empire and the United Kingdom against Napoleon's French Empire and its allied Allied German states, including Bavaria. Prussia and Russia did not participate. Major engagements between France and Austria, the main participants, unfolded over much of Central Europe from April to July, with very high casualty rates for both sides. Britain, already involved on the European continent in the ongoing Peninsular War, took advantage of the Austrian intervention to launch the Walcheren Campaign, although this effort had little impact on the outcome of the conflict.

Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen Archduke of Austria

Archduke Charles Louis John Joseph Laurentius of Austria, Duke of Teschen was an Austrian field-marshal, the third son of Emperor Leopold II and his wife, Maria Luisa of Spain. He was also the younger brother of Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor. Despite being epileptic, Charles achieved respect both as a commander and as a reformer of the Austrian army. He was considered one of Napoleon's more formidable opponents.


The Tyrol 1809 Order of Battle lists the regular units and organizations of both armies.

First Battle of Bergisel (12 April 1809)

Bergisel today with ski jump Bergisel-N.jpg
Bergisel today with ski jump

On 11 April Hofer and 5,000 armed peasants scored a victory at Sterzing in the South Tyrol when they captured 420 Bavarians of the 4th Light Infantry Battalion. [3]

Sterzing Comune in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy

Sterzing is a comune in South Tyrol in northern Italy. It is the main village of the southern Wipptal, and the Eisack River flows through the medieval town.

Under Teimer and other leaders, the Tyroleans irregulars won a brilliant initial success. Attacked incessantly for 48 hours, Lieutenant General Baron Kinkel surrendered his Innsbruck garrison of 3,860 Bavarian soldiers on 13 April. [4] A body of 2,050 French conscripts under hard-drinking General of Division Baptiste Pierre Bisson unwittingly marched into the trap. After an ineffectual defense, the French also put up the white flag. [5] The rebels seized five cannon, two mortars, considerable equipment, and many muskets. The captured material would keep the rebellion supplied with weapons for months.

Baptiste Pierre Bisson French general

Baptiste-Pierre-François Bisson joined the French army and rose rapidly in rank during the French Revolutionary Wars. He served as a division commander in the Grande Armée of Emperor Napoleon in 1805 and 1807, playing a leading role at the Battle of Friedland. He was captured by Tyrolean rebels in 1809. Known as a gourmand, he became very fat before dying prematurely. His surname is one of the Names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe.

May 1809

Soon reinforced by a regular Austrian division under Feldmarschallleutnant Johann Gabriel Chasteler de Courcelles, the Tyrolese posed a threat to the rear areas of Napoleon's armies in northern Italy and Bavaria. One column of irregulars stiffened by a few regulars under General-Major Franz Fenner raided the area of Lake Garda in Italy. In consequence, Viceroy of Italy Eugène de Beauharnais was forced to provide substantial Franco-Italian garrisons to guard the area. [4]

In early May, Napoleon directed Marshal François Joseph Lefebvre and the VII Corps (made up of Bavarians) to move against the Tyrol. [6] The Bavarian garrison of Kufstein Fortress was relieved on 11 May. Lefebvre routed Chasteler at the Battle of Wörgl on 13 May. [7] After several more actions, Lefebvre occupied Innsbruck around 19 May. [8]

Second Battle of Bergisel (29 May 1809)

On 25 May 1809, Lieutenant General Deroy's 3rd Bavarian Division clashed with the Tyrolese rebels at the Bergisel. Deroy committed 4,000 troops and 12 artillery pieces to the combat. Hofer commanded the rebel army and his lieutenants were Speckbacher, Teimer, Josef Eisenstecken, and Oberstleutnant Ertel. Hofer's army included 9,400 armed rebels and 900 Austrian regulars. The regulars included one battalion each of the 16th Lusignan Infantry Regiment and 25th De Vaux Infantry Regiment, two companies of the 9th Jäger battalion, a half-squadron of the 3rd O'Reilly Chevau-léger Regiment and five guns. The Bavarians lost 20 to 70 dead and 100 to 150 wounded, while inflicting losses of 50 dead and 30 wounded on the Tyrolese. Though historian Digby Smith labels the action a Bavarian victory, his narrative says the battle was a draw. He notes that the rebels, discouraged that more local people had not joined the revolt, retreated to the south. [9]

The rebels returned on 29 May and subjected Deroy to a second attack, which he resisted with 5,240 troops organized in 12 battalions, eight squadrons, and 18 guns. The 13,600 Tyrolese irregulars were joined by 1,200 Austrian regulars and six pieces of artillery. The rebels included 35 North Tyrol and 61 South Tyrol schützen and landsturm companies. The Bavarians managed to hold their ground after suffering 87 dead, 156 wounded, and 53 missing. The rebels lost 90 dead and 160 wounded. [10] The next day, low on ammunition and food, Deroy evacuated Innsbruck and retreated to Kufstein Fortress in the north. [11] [ unreliable source? ]

July and early August 1809

After Napoleon's war-winning victory at the Battle of Wagram on 5 and 6 July, [12] Lefebvre invaded the Tyrol again and Deroy won a minor action at the Lueg Pass on 24 July. However, the Tyrol responded to Hofer's call for another uprising. [13] About 5,000 Tyrolese led by Haspinger and Speckbacher smashed French General Marie François Rouyer's 3,600 Confederation of the Rhine troops at Franzensfeste on 4 and 5 August. The Ducal Saxon Infantry Regiment was annihilated with 988 casualties, while the Bavarians lost an additional 100 men and two cannons. Tyrolean losses were trifling. The valley is still known as the Sachsenklemme (Saxon Trap). The next day, Lefebvre arrived with the 1st Bavarian Division, but he was also repulsed by the Tyrolese. [14] On 8 and 9 August at Prutz, 920 Tyrolese led by Roman Burger routed Oberst Burscheidt's 2,000 soldiers of the 10th Bavarian Infantry and 2nd Dragoon Regiments, which belonged to Deroy's 3rd Division. The Tyrolese inflicted 200 killed and wounded on their enemies while capturing 1,200 men and two cannons. Rebel losses were only seven killed. [15]

Third Battle of Bergisel (13 August 1809)

The Saxon Trap at Franzensfeste Forte di Fortezza.jpg
The Saxon Trap at Franzensfeste

On 13 August, Hofer and 18,000 Tyrolese fought Deroy's division in the third battle of Bergisel. Four Bavarian battalions belonging to General Siebein's 2nd Brigade lost 200 dead and 250 wounded. The 70 companies of rebels lost 100 dead and 220 wounded. After taking hostages from leading local families, Lefebvre abandoned Innsbruck and the last occupation troops were gone from the Tyrol by 18 August. [16]

September and October 1809

Speckbacher and 2,000 irregulars attacked the Bavarian garrisons in the villages of Lofer, Luftenstein, Unken, and Mellek on 25 September. Of the 700 soldiers belonging to the Leib Infantry Regiment # 1, 50 were killed and wounded, 300 captured, and 100 missing. The troops were dispersed with only two companies in each village. The detachment in Mellek broke out and retreated north to Bad Reichenhall; the other garrisons were wiped out. [17] On the same day Haspinger with 2,400 Tyrolese and four guns evicted General-Major Stengel's brigade from the Lueg Pass near Golling an der Salzach. The 3,500 Bavarians and three cannons retreated north to Salzburg. Lefebvre, with 2,000 of Stengel's troops attacked Hallein on 3 October. Haspinger's force, which had lingered in the town, was chased back into the mountains, leaving their six cannons behind. [18]

Button showing Andreas Hofer Button2.png
Button showing Andreas Hofer

At this time, Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon replaced Lefebvre in command of VII Corps and the third invasion of the Tyrol was launched. On 17 October, the 1st Bavarian Division led by General-Major Rechberg caught Speckbacher and his 2,000 men by surprise at Bodenbichl. The Tyrolese failed to properly picket their camp and the 3,000 Bavarians inflicted a serious defeat on the irregulars. Rebel losses were 300 dead and 400 captured, while the Bavarians admitted only seven casualties. For this action, Rechberg was awarded the Military Order of Max Joseph from his grateful sovereign. [18]

Fourth Battle of Bergisel (1 November 1809)

The fourth battle of Bergisel took place on 1 November 1809. Lieutenant General Wrede's 2nd Bavarian Division defeated Hofer's and Haspinger's 70 companies of irregulars. The Bavarians committed 6,000 troops and 12 guns to the action and lost only one killed and 40 wounded. The 8,535 Tyrolese suffered 350 killed, wounded, and captured, and abandoned five cannons. The fourth battle and the disaster at Bodenbichl broke the back of the rebellion. [19]

Hofer was betrayed to the French on 28 January 1810 and was shot on 20 February 1810 at Mantua in Italy. [16]

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  1. Arnold Napoleon, p 20
  2. Arnold Crisis, p 67
  3. Smith, p 285
  4. 1 2 Arnold Napoleon, p 103
  5. Arnold Napoleon, p 21
  6. Petre, pp 249–250
  7. Petre, p 263
  8. Petre, p 272
  9. Smith, pp 311–312
  10. Smith, p 313
  11. German wikipedia, Bernhard Erasmus von Deroy
  12. Smith, p 322
  13. Smith, p 326
  14. Smith, p 329
  15. Smith, 330
  16. 1 2 Smith, p 331
  17. Smith, pp 332–333
  18. 1 2 Smith, p 333
  19. Smith, p 336