Haspinger, JOHANN SIMON (JOACHIM), Tyrolese priest and patriot; b. at Gries, Tyrol, October 28, 1776; d. in the imperial palace of Mirabell, Salzburg, January 12, 1858. His parents were well-to-do country people, and destined their son for the priesthood. It was, however, only in 1793, after having devoted himself until his seventeenth year to farm work and mountain-climbing, that he entered the gymnasium at Bozen. While yet a mere youth, he found occasion to give proof of his intrepidity. In 1796 he joined a troop of volunteer marksmen, intended to assist the regular troops in defending their native soil against the army of the French Revolution, and, by capturing one of the enemy’s officers, won the medal for bravery. He also took an active part in the engagements near Spinges in 1797, in consequence of which General Joubert was compelled to retire from the Pusterthal. Young Haspinger then resumed his studies and in 1799 attended for some time the University of Innsbruck. The almost immediate renewal of hostilities, however, did not permit the continuation of his studies. The fight in the Taufersthal saw him again among the foremost. Returning later to the university, he attended medical lectures for a few terms, but in 1802 joined the Capuchin Order at Eppan, near Bozen, receiving Joachim as his name in religion. Ordained priest on September 1, 1805, he labored first at Schlanders in Vintschgau. During the Austro-Russian war against Napoleon, he served as chaplain among his fellow-countrymen, but even then could not altogether resist his inclination towards the soldier’s life. On the unfortunate termination of the struggle begun under such fair auspices, Father Joachim retired to his cell at Schlanders.
The Peace of Presburg ceded Tyrol to Bavaria, whose Government, under the influence of atheistical reformers and visionaries, soon exasperated, by its inconsiderateness and brutality, the mountaineers, stanch in their fidelity to their God and to the imperial house. An especial bitterness was aroused by the detestable policy adopted towards the universally esteemed mendicant friars, who were dragged forcibly from their abodes and thrust, like criminals, into the so-called “Central Cloisters”. Like the rest, Haspinger had to submit to this rough treatment, and took little pains to conceal his indignation. He was not long in getting into connection with Andreas Hofer (q.v.), the peasant patriot, to whom the Archduke John and others had entrusted the task of inciting Tyrol to rebel once more against France and its vassal States. So busily and successfully did the conspirators bestir themselves that at the beginning of April, 1809, the Austrian troops threw in their lot with the movement, and soon the whole country was in arms. On the morning of Whit-Sunday Haspinger announced from the pulpit at Klausen Hofer’s summons to rise, and by midday had formed, at Verdings, a company of picked marksmen and placed himself at their head. In the first battle on Mount Isel (28—May 29) he commanded the left wing of the peasant army, operating near Natters. Armed only with his stick, and reckless of danger, hour after hour he led attacks on the well-posted Bavarian troops and their artillery, without pausing to partake of food, until the enemy were dislodged and their battery captured. On the following day he marched victoriously to Innsbruck in company with Hofer, whose urgent representations alone succeeded in prevailing on Haspinger’s religious superiors to allow him to remain with the patriotic defenders of the soil.
A little later he played an illustrious part in the contests in the Eisckthal (4—August 5), where his “stone batteries” proved fatal to hundreds of men and horses, and compelled the majority of the enemy to capitulate (the “Saxon ambush”). To “the red-bearded Capuchin” (Pater Rothbart) also belongs the chief credit of blocking the way of General Lefebre, who was advancing from Sterzing, forcing him to withdraw, and inflicting severe losses on his troops during their retreat. For the victory in the second battle on Mount Isel (August 15) the Tyrolese were again chiefly indebted to Haspinger, who once more led the left wing. Unfortunately, these successes seemed to intoxicate Haspinger, to whom everything now seemed possible, and who proceeded in all earnestness with preparations to carry the war beyond the frontiers, to incite to rebellion the populations of the Austrian Alps, and, if possible, to capture Napoleon and his army. However, after some early successes, his undisciplined followers were dispersed at Hallein. Although no one of calm judgment could have failed to recognize the futility of further prolonging the struggle, Haspinger would not hear of submission, and thus he became the evil genius of Hofer and of many other brave men. Even the adverse issue of the third battle on Mount Isel (November 1) did not bend his iron spirit; he took the field for the last time near Klausen, where his levies with indescribable valor vainly strove to prevent the enemy from penetrating to Bozen.
The whole country now fell rapidly into the hands of the allied French and Bavarians, and a price was set upon the heads of the insurgent leaders. Being thus compelled to take flight, Haspinger withdrew at first to Switzerland, but later returned to his native mountains, and lay for some months in concealment at Tschengls. Danger again threatening him here, he once more sought shelter in Swiss territory and, under an assumed name, worked for a whole year as an upholsterer’s assistant. He then contrived to make his way through Upper Italy to Klagenfurt, where he could at last rest in safety. The emperor gave him all necessary assistance from the privy purse until the Archbishop of Vienna assigned him to a good parish in Lower Austria. In 1816 he again performed important services for his country as a spy and agitator. He subsequently administered the parish of Frauenfeld until 1836, after which date he received a pension and resided at Hietzing, near Vienna. In 1848, although he was then seventy-two years of age, he again took the field as chaplain to a company of Tyrolese riflemen enrolled at Vienna. It was then that he wrote on the muster roll: “Joachim Haspinger gibt Blut und Leben fur Gott, Kaiser u. Vaterland” (Joachim Haspinger gives blood and life for God, emperor, and fatherland). The aged patriot naturally took no active part in the campaign, but he well knew how to fan into a flame the glowing spirits of his young comrades. On the successful termination of the war against the Piedmontese, he took up his residence at Vienna, whence he later removed to Salzburg, celebrating the golden jubilee of his priesthood in the latter city. The Emperor Francis Joseph, whose favor he enjoyed, placed at his disposal a splendid suite of apartments in the Mirabell palace, and there Haspinger met his end calmly and in a truly Christian manner. A battalion of Jager, such as had escorted the remains of Hofer, accompanied those of Haspinger to Innsbruck, where he rests in the castle church beside Hofer and Speckbacher.
Haspinger and Speckbacher must be regarded as the heroic protagonists in the great drama enacted in Tyrol at the opening of the nineteenth century. Hofer’s services consisted rather in organizing and guiding the insurrection, and, although a man of undoubted courage, he never equalled the personal prowess of his two companions. This difference was very clearly indicated by Haspinger himself when he wrote: “Hofer was more priest than soldier; I am more soldier than priest.” The quondam religious and general, however, never failed to discharge his duties as a priest.