It is General Bisson with several thousand French troops, and Lieutenant-Colonel Wreden with a few hundred Bavarians. We had a hard fight with them yesterday at the bridge of Laditch and in the Muhlbacher Klause; but they were too strong, and were joined yesterday by another French column; therefore, we were unable to capture them, and had to let them march on.
"The peasants, I believe, intend to prevent us from crossing the river," said General Bisson, with a contemptuous shrug. "They have taken position in front of the bridge of Laditch, and so closely that I can see nothing of it," replied Lieutenant-Colonel von Wreden.
Yes, the Tyrolese had destroyed the bridge of Laditch; and while a small division of their men had quickly moved on to occupy the Muhlbach pass, the others, under the command of Anthony Wallner, had taken position on the opposite bank of the Eisach, in order to prevent the enemy from crossing the river.
Major von Baerenklau, the commander of the Bavarians in Sterzing, finally got frightened; and on being informed that Andreas Hofer moving against him on one side with the men of the Passeyr valley, and that Anthony Wallner with the men of the Puster valley, on the other side, had occupied the bridge of Laditch, he deemed it prudent to evacuate Sterzing and await our men in the open plain.
"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.
Forward, my friends! Forward to the gap of Brixen! We must roll down trees, detach large fragments from the rocks, and hurl them down on the enemy; we must fire at them from the heights with deadly certainty, and every bullet must hit its man. Forward! forward! To the bridge of Laditch!" "Yes, yes!" exclaimed the Tyrolese, with enthusiastic courage. "Forward to the bridge of Laditch!"
Suddenly he uttered a cry of surprise, and looked steadfastly toward the extremity of the valley, where the rocks jutted out again into it, and where the furious Eisach makes a sudden bend from one side of the valley to the other. Formerly there had risen here, between tremendous rocks, the majestic arch of the bridge of Laditch.
One detachment of our men, commanded by my Lieutenant Panzl, will push on quickly on the mountain-road to the Muhlbach pass. The rest of us will follow you, but we must previously detain the enemy at the gap of Brixen; and while we are doing duty, another detachment of our men will go farther down to the bridge of Laditch and destroy it in order to prevent the enemy from crossing the Eisach.
"And the Austrians are not coming yet," sighed Andreas Hofer. "Yes! they are!" exclaimed Eliza. "Anthony Wallner instructed me to tell you that too. Several hundred Austrians joined us already at the bridge of Laditch. It was their advanced guard, and they said that all the others would follow them soon." "It is General Hiller with the troops moving up from Salzburg," said Hofer.
We have fought already a bloody battle at the bridge of St. Lawrence, and another at the bridge of Laditch. Many soldiers of the enemy were killed in the gap of Brixen, and many French and Bavarians fell at the bridge of Laditch; but we also lost a great many men there.