Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Summary of Walking Napoleonic Battlefields

Jan and I have two main interests, Napoleonic history and hill walking. In 1971 we decided to spend our summer holiday visiting the battlefield of Waterloo. I remember it as one of those holidays when the sun is always shining and you enjoy every moment. It was to be the first of many enjoyable holidays spent walking and exploring Napoleonic battlefields.

On 9 April 2009 I started a blog to record those visits, and I started with our visit to Waterloo. I wanted to create a personal diary of our walks, which I hoped would also be of general interest. Particularly for anyone interested in visiting Napoleonic battlefields.

When I started I realised that we had visited quite a few battlefields, but I did not appreciate how many until I started researching for the blog. Over the years I have kept a scrapbook/photograph album of each visit, and they formed the basis of each blog.

I wanted to be able to refer back to each walk, so I have created an index of the walks. Each holiday has its own blog. There are nine Blogs:

Walking Napoleonic Battlefields

Waterloo 1971

Spain and Portugal 1991

Northern Spain 1994

The Pyrenees 1996

Austerlitz 1998

Germany 1999

Italy 2000

Aspern/Austerlitz 2002

You will find a link to each blog on the My Blogs List on the right

There are 90 blog entries in total, each one covering a different walk. Some are return visits to a particularly interesting battlefield. Each blog has a list of Lables, one for each walk.

At a rate of one blog per week it has taken just over two years to complete the exercise.

This blog, Walking Napoleonic Battlefields, is a summary of the other Blogs. It also contains a link to each one.

It is almost ten years since our last battlefield holiday.

We are now living in Spain, and we still walk regularly.

I often think it would be nice to explore the battlefields of eastern Spain, but it would require a lot of research. Then I think it would be nice to visit Russia and Borodino. Or perhaps return to Italy and the battlefields we missed last time. So this may not be The End.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


On our last day at Austerlitz we only had a few hours before we had to drive to Vienna and the flight back to UK. Just long enough to visit Schlapanitz. Its a short walk from the monument marking Napoleon's command post on Zuran Hill to the small town of Schlapanitz.

Its expanded some since the battle, but the old town is largely unchanged and must have looked much the same in 1805. Unfortunately the museum was closed during our visit, but we spent a pleasant half hour sipping wine at the nearby cafe.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


The small chapel on the hill overlooking the village of Augezd is one of the most difficult locations to find on the Austerlitz battlefield. The path from the Pratzenberg monument is not sign posted, and it appears to lead to a military installation bristling with communications equipment. Apparently this was a soviet communications site during the Cold War, and would have been strictly out of bounds. It was still occupied when we were there, but not by the Russian army. No one stopped or questioned us, but we did take a wide detour downhill to avoid actually walking past the walls or door.

We followed the path beyond the buildings, eventually leading downhill to the small church overlooking the village of Augezd, an the site of the famous Satschen ponds. At the end of the battle the allied army retreated over the frozen ponds. Napoleon positioned a battery of artillery near this church and ordered it to fire on the ice. He claimed in his Bulletin that 20,000 allied troops had drowned here.

However after the battle the ponds were drained and the remains of only two human bodies were found, plus a handful of horses. So much for Napoleon's Bulletin!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Stare Vinhorady

The afternoon we spent exploring Stare Vinhorady was one of those really memorable experiences.

This should have been one of the easiest locations to find. We had a good map, and it is clearly marked just north of a cross roads. We followed the track from Pratzenberg monument, and found the cross roads. But we could see no hill in the area shown on the map. There are two contour lines, so it should be easily identified. But we could see no mound or hill anywhere, certainly not in the spot shown on the map.

I understand that Stare Vinhorady means Old Vines, but the vineyard has long since disappeared. We were surrounded by a large area of cut corn, with spectacular views of the whole battlefield.

We were fortunate to have another warm sunny afternoon, so we settled down with our picnic lunch, maps and photocopies. As we ate lunch we identified the villages, and the area of the French advance towards Pratzen and Vinhorady.

This was the scene of the fiercest and most critical fighting of the battle. It was held by the Russian Guard who contested possession with Vandamme. The Russian Guard cavalry broke the French left, but Napoleon was at hand to send his own Guard Cavalry in to save the day. The French victory here signaled the end of the battle.

The combination of lovely weather, satisfaction with finding the location and a long picnic lunch whilst reading and imagining what has happened on this very spot all made for an ideal battlefield visit, and one we shall always remember with affection.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Telnitz and Sokolnitz

We had previously visited both villages during our 1998 visit to Austerlitz. Although it had been wet and miserable on that earlier visit, it had given us a very good idea of the layout of the area, and made it easy to plan this visit.

After the earlier visit I had bought Scott Bowden’s “Napoleon and Austerlitz”. This excellent book deals with the fighting in some detail, and of particular interest was a section on how the French held villages. The theory was to hold a strong point in the centre, and deploy a skirmish screen facing the enemy. The screen would retire, the strong point would break up the attack, and a strong counter attack would retake the village.

We also relied on Christopher Duffy’s “Austerlitz 1805”. Although it has only 194 pages, as opposed to 520 in Bowden, both are excellent descriptions of the battle. Bowden has lots of technical detail; Duffy is just a really good read. We studied both during our days walk around the villages.

We started at The Pratzen and walked over the fields to Telnitz. We examined the approach and the village itself. It was very hot tramping over the fields, and we had a welcome cold beer in a café near the church.

Then we followed the old track at the back of the village to Sokolnitz. This was the route taken by the French reinforcements who were involved in a “blue on blue” episode, when they were mistaken for an allied attack. We even found a likely spot for this to have happened.

In Sokolnitz we explored the walled garden called the Pheasantry. The walls facing the Pratzen were knocked down to allow the artillery to fire on the attackers, and are now marked with large crosses. We then walked through the village, noting the castle and large barns which would have provided the defence strong points, to the hill behind. It was here that the French defenders rallied and launched their attacks to retake the village.

We spend a couple of hours sitting in the sun on the hill looking down towards Sokolnitz and the Pratzen beyond. We had a bottle of wine and some fruit and we studied our maps and read reports of the fighting. The sun was warm and it was very pleasant. One of those very memorable battlefield visits.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Pratzenberg

Its hard not to compare The Pratzenberg at Austerlitz with The Lion at Waterloo.

Both are large monuments. Both dominate the battlefield. Both are favourite view points for visitors to the battlefield. But whereas The Lion is an artificial mound which destroyed part of the battlefield when it was built, The Pratzenberg seems to be a natural part of the battlefield.

The area around The Pratzenberg has been developed to provide ample parking and a nice park like area for visitors to have a picnic or stretch their legs. There is a small musuem and chapel with a curious echo. The base of the monument contains a crypt containing the scattered human remains which are still found on the battlefield today.

Unlike Waterloo, the are is quiet and respectful. There are none of the garish shops or noisy cafe's. Nor are there noisy coach loads of tourists. Indeed we never saw a single coach in the whole time we were there.

The Pratzenberg was our base for each days visit to the battlefield. We would park our car, gather our haversacks and visit folder and plan our days exploration. From here it is an easy walk to Telnitz, Sokolnitz, Pratzen, Sare Vinoradhy and Augezd. Each well worth at least half a day to explore in full.

More about our visit at


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Santon

Its just a short walk from The Post House to The Santon, for one of the best views of the battlefield.

This small conical hill dominates the whole battlefield. Not because it is particularly high, but rather the battlefield is very flat.

Most visitors make for Zuran Hill, which is signposted from the main road as Napoleons HQ. So we had The Santon to ourselves for the hour or so we spent there. We were fortunate to have a warm afternoon, so it was quite comfortable to sit and read up on the battle. Identifying the main parts of the battlefield form our excellent observation platform.