Tyrolean Rebellion

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Tyrolean Rebellion
Part of the War of the Fifth Coalition
Franz von Defregger Heimkehrender Tiroler Landsturm.jpg
Homecoming of Tyrolean Militia in the War of 1809 by Franz Defregger
DateApril–November 1809
Result French victory
Rebellion crushed

Flag of France.svg French Empire

Flag of Tirol.svg Tyrolean partisans

Supported by:
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austrian Empire
Commanders and leaders
François-Joseph Lefebvre
Prince Eugène
Jean-Baptiste Drouet
Karl Philipp Wrede
Andreas Hofer Skull and crossbones.svg
Peter Mayr   (POW) Skull and crossbones.svg
25,000 80,000
Casualties and losses
5,000 12,250

The Tyrolean Rebellion of 1809 (German: Tiroler Volksaufstand) was a rebellion of peasants in the County of Tyrol led by Andreas Hofer against the occupation of their homeland by the French and Bavarian troops within the context of the War of the Fifth Coalition against Napoleon I.

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.

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.

First French Empire Empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804–1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852–1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.


Historical background: Bavarian occupation of Tyrol since 1805

Der Landsturm anno 1809 by Joseph Anton Koch, c. 1820 Tiroler Landsturm 1809.jpg
Der Landsturm anno 1809 by Joseph Anton Koch, c. 1820

In September 1805 the Electorate of Bavaria under Prince-elector Maximilian I Joseph of Wittelsbach, that had been allied with the Habsburg Monarchy under the common federally structured Holy Roman Empire, went over to Napoleonic France: the Bavarian Minister Count Maximilian von Montgelas, realizing the French superiority while fearing the ambitions of the newly established Austrian Empire, signed a secret defence alliance at Bogenhausen. At the end of the War of the Third Coalition shortly afterwards, Bavaria found itself on the victorious side. Upon the 1805 Peace of Pressburg it not only was elevated to a kingdom, it also gained French-occupied Tyrol, which since 1363 had been held by the Austrian Habsburgs, who, heavily defeated by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz, were forced to renounce it. The French officially handed over the Tyrolean county including the secularized Bishopric of Trent (Trentino) to Bavaria on February 11, 1806.

Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria King of Bavaria

Maximilian I Joseph was Duke of Zweibrücken from 1795 to 1799, prince-elector of Bavaria from 1799 to 1806, then King of Bavaria from 1806 to 1825. He was a member of the House of Palatinate-Birkenfeld-Zweibrücken, a branch of the House of Wittelsbach.

Habsburg Monarchy former Central European empire (1526–1804)

The Habsburg Monarchy, also called the Austrian Monarchy or Danubian Monarchy, is an unofficial umbrella term among historians for the kingdoms and countries in personal union with the Habsburg Archduchy of Austria between 1526 and 1804, when it was succeeded by the Austrian Empire. The Monarchy was a composite state of territories within and outside the Holy Roman Empire, and was united only in the person of the monarch. The dynastic capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague. From 1804 to 1867 the Habsburg Monarchy was formally unified as the Austrian Empire, and from 1867 to 1918 as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Holy Roman Empire Varying complex of lands that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe

The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.

In its policies, the Bavarian government under Count Montgelas angered the Tyrolean population by raising taxes there, but at the same time barring exports, e.g. of cattle, from Tyrol into Bavaria. Furthermore, the state mingled into the affairs of the church in Tyrol, banning traditional rural holidays, the ringing of church bells, processions etc. which were a vital part of Tyrolean culture. Additionally, on May 1, 1808, the County of Tyrol was disestablished and administratively split up into the three districts of Inn, Eisack and Etsch. The new Bavarian constitution also replaced the old Tyrolean constitution that had given privileges to the population, such as not having to fight in a foreign army and outside the Tyrolean borders. Conscription was thus introduced in Tyrol and Tyroleans called into Bavarian military service, which led to open revolt.

Inn (river) river in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, a right tributary of the Danube

The Inn is a river in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. It is a right tributary of the Danube and is 518 kilometres (322 mi) long. The highest point of its drainage basin is the summit of Piz Bernina, at 4,049 metres (13,284 ft). The Engadine, the valley of the En, is the only Swiss valley whose waters end up in the Black Sea.

Eisack river in Northern Italy

The Eisack is a river in Northern Italy, the second largest river in South Tyrol. Its source is near the Brenner Pass, at an altitude of about 1990 m above sea level. The river draws water from an area of about 4,200 km². After about 96 km, it joins the Adige river south of Bolzano. At first the river flows through the Wipptal and after the village of Vahrn through the Eisacktal. Its source is sung of in the Bozner Bergsteigerlied as the northern frontier of the South Tyrolean homeland.

Adige river in Northern Italy

The Adige is the second longest river in Italy after the Po, rising in the Alps in the province of South Tyrol near the Italian border with Austria and Switzerland, flowing 410 kilometres (250 mi) through most of North-East Italy to the Adriatic Sea.

The war of the Fifth Coalition and outbreak and course of the rebellion

The trigger for the outbreak of the uprising was the flight to Innsbruck of young men that were due to be called into the Bavarian army by the authorities at Axams on March 12 and 13, 1809. The partisans stayed in contact with the Austrian court in Vienna by their conduit Baron Joseph Hormayr, an Innsbruck-born Hofrat and close friend of Archduke John of Austria. The Austrian Empire, citing a breach of the conditions agreed in the Peace of Pressburg guaranteeing Tyrolean constitutional autonomy, declared war on the Bavarian-French allies on April 9, 1809. Archduke John explicitly stated that Bavaria had forfeit all rights to Tyrol, which rightfully belonged with the Austrian lands, and therefore any resistance against Bavarian occupation would be legitimate.

Innsbruck Capital city of Tyrol, Austria

Innsbruck is the capital city of Tyrol in western Austria and the fifth-largest city in Austria. It is in the Inn valley, at its junction with the Wipp valley, which provides access to the Brenner Pass some 30 km (18.6 mi) to the south.

Axams Place in Tyrol, Austria

Axams is a municipality in the district of Innsbruck Land in the Austrian state of Tyrol.

Vienna Capital city and state of Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today it is the second largest German-speaking city after Berlin and just before Hamburg. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Tyrolean districts, 1808 Tirol 1808.png
Tyrolean districts, 1808

An Austrian corps under General Johann Gabriel Chasteler de Courcelles operating from Carinthia occupied Lienz and marched against Innsbruck, but was defeated by Bavarian troops led by French Marshal François Joseph Lefebvre near Wörgl on 13 May. Meanwhile, an irregular army led by the innkeeper Andreas Hofer upon the war message had gathered around Sterzing and marched north towards the Brenner Pass. In the First and Second Battle of Bergisel near Innsbruck on April 12 and 25 May, the peasant troops clashed with the Bavarians, who were forced to retreat.

Johann Gabriel Chasteler de Courcelles Austrian general

Johann Gabriel Josef Albert, Marquess of Chasteler and Courcelles was a Walloon, born near Mons, Belgium. He entered the military service of Habsburg Austria at an early age and trained as an engineer at the Ingenieurakademie in Vienna. Serving as Chief of Staff to Spleny in the Turkish War from 1788, he won the Ritterkreuz of the Order of Maria Theresa for outstanding bravery at the Battle of Focsani in action against the Ottoman Turks.

Duchy of Carinthia

The Duchy of Carinthia was a duchy located in southern Austria and parts of northern Slovenia. It was separated from the Duchy of Bavaria in 976, and was the first newly created Imperial State after the original German stem duchies.

Lienz Place in Tyrol, Austria

Lienz is a medieval town in the Austrian state of Tyrol. It is the administrative centre of the Lienz district, which covers all of East Tyrol. The municipality also includes the cadastral subdivision of Patriasdorf.

The Tyroleans celebrated the news that Napoleon had suffered his first defeat at the Battle of Aspern-Essling on 22 May. Nevertheless, after the French again gained the upper hand at the Battle of Wagram on July 5/6, Archduke Charles of Austria signed the Armistice of Znaim whereafter the Austrian forces withdraw from Tyrol. Thus, the rebels, who had their strongholds in Southern Tyrol, were left fighting alone. They however were able to inflict several defeats to the French and Bavarians forces under Marshal Lefebvre in July, culminating in a complete French retreat after the Third Battle of Bergisel on August 12/13. Hofer now took over the administration of the unoccupied territories at Innsbruck; large parts of Tyrol enjoyed a brief period of independence.

Battle of Aspern-Essling battle

In the Battle of Aspern-Essling, Napoleon attempted a forced crossing of the Danube near Vienna, but the French and their allies were driven back by the Austrians under Archduke Charles. The battle was the first time Napoleon had been personally defeated in over a decade. However, Archduke Charles failed to secure a decisive victory as Napoleon was able to successfully withdraw most of his forces.

Battle of Wagram battle

The Battle of Wagram was a military engagement of the Napoleonic Wars that ended in a costly but decisive victory for Emperor Napoleon I's French and allied army against the Austrian army under the command of Archduke Charles of Austria-Teschen. The battle led to the breakup of the Fifth Coalition, the Austrian and British-led alliance against France.

The Armistice of Znaim was a ceasefire agreed between Archduke Charles and Napoleon I on 12 July 1809 following the Battle of Znaim, effectively ending hostilities between Austria and France in the War of the Fifth Coalition.

However, in the Treaty of Schönbrunn of October 14, the peace treaty ending the War of the Fifth Coalition, Emperor Francis I of Austria officially gave up any claims to Tyrol. Napoleon ordered the re-conquest of the province the same day. A combination of French military force under the new command of General Jean-Baptiste Drouet and diplomatic de-escalation measures by the rather pro-Tyrolean and anti-Napoleonic Bavarian commander, Prince Ludwig I, was successful in decreasing the numbers of rebel troops that were ready to fight to the death. Those last loyal troops were defeated at the Fourth Battle of Bergisel on November 1, that effectively crushed the rebellion despite minor rebel victories later in November.

Aftermath and execution of Andreas Hofer

The shooting of Andreas Hofer in Mantua, 1810 20 02 1810-die-erschiessung-von-andreas-hofer-in-mantua 1.jpg
The shooting of Andreas Hofer in Mantua, 1810

Many of the rebels were executed by the French and Bavarian forces in the following weeks. The leader Andreas Hofer fled into the mountains and hid at several places in South Tyrol. He was betrayed by a Tyrolean peasant to the French near St Martin in Passeier on January 28, 1810. Hofer was arrested and brought to Mantua, where Eugène de Beauharnais, the French viceroy of Italy, first wanted to pardon him, but was overruled by his stepfather Napoleon. The death penalty was issued on February 19 and executed the next day. Hofer's mortal remains were buried at the Innsbruck Hofkirche in 1823.

In consequence of the insurrection, Bavaria pressurised by the French on February 28, 1810 had to cede large parts of Southern Tyrol with the Trentino to Italy and the eastern Hochpustertal with Lienz to the Illyrian Provinces. Upon Napoleon's fall in 1814 and the Congress of Vienna, all parts of Tyrol were re-united under Austrian rule.

With the rise of nationalism in the 19th century, the tragic fate of the rebellion and of Andreas Hofer became a national myth especially for the German speaking Tyroleans. The song Zu Mantua in Banden deals with the death of Hofer and his vain resistance against the "foreign" occupants. It became the anthem of the Austrian State of Tyrol in 1948. Hofer's life and death was the model for the 1923 film Der Rebell by Luis Trenker.

Further reading

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