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.

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