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.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Austerlitz Stara Posta

For our second visit to Austerlitz we stayed at the historic Starra Posta, or Old Post House. It is an important part of the battlefield, both because it was used by both French and allied staff during the battle and as the centre of the annual reenactment battle.

We knew the historic buildings from our earlier visit. There are large stables, where reenactors sleep each year. They are still occupied by horses, as the owner is obviously a keen horse breeder. The restraurant is an original barn, decorated in a style which makes it look like it must have done in 1804. And the main building is now a very interesting museum.

We expected very basic accommodation, and were not prepared for the very modern, and very comfortable, chalet style buildings. They are decorated to the highest standard, and were spotless when we arrived. There is even an underground car park to keep visitors cars out of sight. Though only a few yards from the historic buildings, they are so well concealed that we had not noticied them during our earlier visit.

I would very much recommend a visit, and overnight stay, for anyone visiting the battlefield.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Markgrafneusiedlung is a small village, which was the extreme left wing of the Austrain army during the battle of Wagram. It was attacked by Marshal Davout, and the scene of desperate hand to hand fighting.

The battlefield is large and very flat, quite similar to Salisbury Plain in UK. So the tower overlooking the village could be seen from most parts of the battlefields, and it served as a marker during the battle.

We spent a day exploring the whole area, and hired bike's for our transport. It had been many years since I last rode a bike, and though I had not forgotten how to ride, I had forgotten how saddle sore you could get. By the time we got to Deutsch Wagram I was riding standing up, because it was too painful to sit on the saddle. And when we walked around the town I did a very reasonable impression of a "John Wayne" walk.

You can read about our visit to Wagram at


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Marchland

The battle of Wagram was fought over a large area of flat farm land, not unlike Salisbury Plain in the UK. There are few proper roads in the area, and those that are don't go where we wanted to go. All of the villages are connected by farm tracks.

Therefore it was not suitable to explore by car. It was too large to explore by foot. It appeared to be ideal to explore by bike. And indeed it was, the problem was that I had not ridden a bike for about 20 years.

The day was warm and sunny, and at the start it was a delight to ride off into the flat expanse of The Marchland. We could go where we wanted, and stop when we wanted. We seemed to have the whole area to ourselves, except for the singing birds.

But it was not long before I was overheating, and getting very saddle sore. Jan was ok, she used a bike to go to work everyday and was leading the way without any idea of just how difficult I was finding it.

We followed the map, and found the main battle areas with ease. The villages were a little disappointing, as they had changed so much since 1809. But we could approach them through the fields, as the infantry had in 1809, and it was easy to imagine what it must have been like then.

By mid afternoon we had drunk all of our water, and were feeling very hot and thirsty. Each village we approached was empty, and all of the shops closed. It was only as we neared Aspern at the end of the afternoon that we finally found a large, and typical German style, pub. We had two huge glasses (steins?) of ice cold beer which we drank in seconds. As we had our second beer we could feel the first one pouring out in sweat!

An excellent day out, and by far the best way to explore this facinating battlefield.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Aspern and Essling

It was fortunate that we started our holiday on a Saturday. As soon as we booked in to our hotel we set off to explore the town. Just around the corner was the famous church, with its impressive monument of a wounded lion. Walking around the grounds we came accross a small building with a notice on the door confirming it was a museum and open Sunday morning.

We were waiting for the doors to open at 10am. There were not many visitors, and the lady on the desk was pleased to be able to practice her English. We had planned to visit the Essling Granary after the musuem, and asked her for directions. We were delighted when she told us that there was a small exhibition at the Granary, but it was only open Sunday mornings.

It was almost noon when we arrived at the Granary. We were sad to find it looking very run down and badly in need of renovating. We were the only visitors, and the old boy on the desk seemed less than happy to have two visitors turning up just as he was about to lock up. Despite this he let us in, and allow us to view the large diorama. This was the only exhibit, and we were only allowed in the one large barn like room. Despite his obvious desire for us to leave, we ignored him and took our time viewing the diorama.

Description of our visit at


Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Lobau Island

We were delighted to discover that our hotel in Aspern was within 100 yards of the famous church, and only about a mile to Lobau Island.

Our bikes were not ready when we arrived at the hotel, so we set off to explore Lobau Island on foot. It was a very hot afternoon, and we were quite warm and glowing by the time we arrived.

We were also very pleased to find that there is a path around the island with these stone plinths to mark important aspects of the 1809 battle. Unfortunately we were not aware of this before our visit, and had not obtained a printed guide - though I am sure that one must exist.

After a couple of hours we reached the river Danube. By now were hot and very tired, and a riverside bar looked very inviting. As we approached we noticed that all of the customers seemed to be very sun bronzed and weathered. We were sitting at the bar before the truth sunk in - we were in a nudist colony!!

Poor Jan did not know where to look. We drank our beer and left in haste.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Walking Aspern and Austerlitz

The last of our battlefield walking holidays, at least to date, was in 2002 when we visited Aspern, Essling, Wagram and Austerlitz.

Our first visit to Austerlitz, in 1998, had been spoiled by bad weather. Heavy rain and muddy fields meant that though we walked the area it was not an enjoyable experience. It made us realise that a return visit would be well worth while. But we did not really feel that there was enough to do to keep us busy for a full week.

Aspern-Essling and Wagram are both near Vienna, which in turn is only a few hours drive from Austerlitz. We had never visited these battlefields, and always wanted to. So we decided to do a fly-drive to Vienna. Spend three days exploring Aspern-Essling and Wagram. Drive to Austerlitz and spend another three days exploring there.

After our first visit to Austerlitz I had all the maps I needed. On our return I had read every book I could find, and felt confident that we could explore the battlefield without any further preparation.

On our first visit we had lunch at the Post House in the middle of the battlefield, and I knew that they had excellent accommodation. So we would spend our three days there, in the same building used by the Allied headquarters before the battle and Napoleons headquarters on the night of the battle.

Aspern-Essling and Wagram were a different matter. I had never visited the area, so we would have to research from scratch. The battlefield covered a large area, and would require careful planning to find all the locations. Exploring by car would be difficult, so we decided to hire cycles.

The first blog about our visit deals with the planning, and in particular the books I used to prepare for the visit. It can be found at


Tuesday, 8 February 2011


The siege of Mantua lasted nine months and resulted in the battles of Castiglione, Caldiero, Arcola and Rivoli. The garrison finally surrendered when they received news of the battle of Rivoli.

Mantua is a lovely city to visit, but there is very little of interest for anyone exploring the siege. The one exception is the citadel. It is in a very run down part of the city and quite difficult to find. It is here that Andreas Hoffer was executed in 1810, and there is a small plaque near the gate to mark the spot.

This was the last Italian battlefield we visited, and you can read about it here


Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Not one of the biggest or most important of Napoleonic battles, but one of the best known due to Bonaparte's feat of bravery when he grapped a falled flag and led the attack across the bridge. The attack failed, but the incident went down in history.

Arcola is one of the easiest battlefields to visit and explore. The bridge is new, but is in the same location as the one fought over in 1796. It is dominated by a large monument, which can be seen for miles in the flat area surrounding the battlefield.

The dike road used by the French to approach the bridge still runs from Ronco, and can be followed with ease.

I imagine that the area looks much the same, though less marshy than it was then. I suspect that the river is not as wide, because it looked quite fordable when we visited the area. Yet in 1796 the French repeatedly attacked across the bridge for three days. Had it been possible to ford the river surely they would have done so.

More photos of our visit at


Tuesday, 25 January 2011


Bonaparte's victory at Caldiero on 12 November 1796 prevented the Austrians taking Verona and led directly to the battle of Arcola three days later. We spent less time exploring the battlefield than I had expected, as there is not a lot to see now. We did drive around the area, and found the main locations, but could find little that had a feel of the period or battle about it.

It may be that we were not as well prepared as we usually are. We had read about the battle in preparation for our visit, and we had a couple of good battle maps of the area. But we were unable to actually find anything of relevance to the battle, other than this church in the small village of Belfiore. This village changed hands many times during the three day battle of Arcola. Massena repeatedly took this town from the Austrians to secure the left flank of Bonaparte’s attack on Arcola.

The record of our visit can be found at


Wednesday, 19 January 2011


We were fortunate to have lovely weather for our visit to Italy. It was the first two weeks in September 2000, and the weather was warm but not too hot. Ideal for walking and exploring battlefields.

So a we have many happy memories of the various battlefields, but one of our favourite was Rivoli. The area is lovely, and the battlefield easy to explore - mostly. However we did have problems finding two locations, and were helped by friendly locals in both cases.

The first was the Trombalore Heights, just outside Rivoli. We could see them as we left Rivoli, but could not find a road or track which would take us directly to them. We returned to the musuem in Rivoli to ask for directions, and the curator immediately locked up and took us there himself.

The second was a monument to the battle which we knew was in a field near the village of Ceradino. We had a photograph from an old copy of First Empire, but no directions to the field. We parked in the middle of the village, and looked for friendly looking locals to whom we showed our photograph. We spoke not a word of Italian, and none of the locals we asked spoke a word of English. But one young chap indicated that we should follow him on his motorcycle. He took us on a confusing route on even smaller tracks through cultivated fields past "Private" signs. Eventually we came to the impressive monument which was in need of some care and attention and surrounded by a tangle of overgrown weeds. But we were delighted to find it, and so grateful to the local lad who took the trouble to take a couple of strangers there.

Its always the little things that you remember about any holiday, and one spent walking battlefields is no different.

You can read about our visit here


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Monte Baldo

The town of Rivoli is situated at the southern end of Monte Baldo, just to the west of Lake Garda. In January 1797 general Alvinczy marched his army south through Monte Baldo to attack Bonaparte.

Just north of Rivoli is the small village of La Corona (picture above). It was here that the French attempted to halt the Austrian advance. Their failure led to the close fought battle of Rivoli.

We spend a day exploring Monte Baldo, and in particular La Corona. You can read about it here


Tuesday, 4 January 2011


This weeks blog entry is one of the longest of all the battlefield blogs. There are 17 photographs to cover our visit to Castiglione. In fact I could have used more, but I felt that the blog is long enough as it is. I personally find it difficult to concentrate on long blogs, and am sure many of you will feel the same.

Most visitors to this famous battlefield will go straight to Solfernio and climb the La Rocca tower to view the battlefield. The village is famous as the place where the International Red Cross was formed, and consequently it is easy to find. On 5 August 1796 it also formed the right flank of the Austrian army. And the top of La Rocca provides an excellent platform to view the battlefield from the Austrian side.

It is much less easy to find a suitable spot to view the battlefield from the French side. This is where "Castiglione 1796" by Bernhard Voykowitsch came in so useful. This was my guide to the battlefield. It contains a mass of information about all operations in the area throughout 1796, with many photographs and excellent battle maps.

The book advises against visiting Castiglione itself, which is now so overdeveloped that it is not suitable to explore the battle. Instead it recommends a hill overlooking the small village of Girole. The village, which formed the left of the French position, was difficult enough to find. I would never have found the road leading to the hill without the book. But it was well worth the effort, because this hill provides the same sort of excellent views of the Austrian positions as La Rocca does of the French.

The blog can be found at