Monday, 30 November 2009

Austerlitz 2009

The battle in full flow
Hello and welcome to the first post of a new blog. Given the name it must be fairly obvious that I am interested in a) Napoleon and all things Napoleonic and b) miniatures and miniature gaming, and I will admit that this blog is as much for me as it is for others; it is an attempt to make me more focussed in my painting as well as an opportunity to share my efforts with others. I don’t intend to limit myself solely to my passion for gaming though and I thought a good way to start off would be to post a report on Austerlitz 2009.

I live “next door” to Austerlitz. It was obviously not a reason for me to move here to Brno (the Czech Republic’s second city) but it is an added bonus – I could walk if I really felt like it as it’s only a few miles. I have spent a fair amount of time wandering up and down the battle field, but to be honest there isn’t all that much there. The Pratzen heights are now covered by the village of Prace, and the fish ponds between Telnice (Telnitz) and Měnín (Menitz) have been drained and replaced by the villages of Újezd u Brna and Žatčany, and a lot of the middle of the battlefield now lies under the D1 motorway. It is possible to walk down the banks of the Řička (Goldbach Brook), but much of the terrain has changed almost out of all recognition since 1805.
On the extreme left flank of the battle, however, it is still possible to climb the Santon hill and look out over a few fields, just to the south of the village of Tvarožná, imagining that one is seeing the advance of Bagration as Lannes did. And it is here every year that the re-enactment of the battle takes place. This time my 7 year old son, Sebastian, was keen to go, so after a hiatus since 2005 we caught the bus last Saturday and rode all of 15 minutes out to the site.

View Larger Map
This year it has been unseasonably warm, with temperatures in the double digits, so no mud or snow was in evidence, and turnout was lower than it has been, both of re-enactors (about 800 this year) and spectators, almost certainly for financial reasons– but this was not necessarily a bad thing, as there was more space to see things. No Mark Schneider as Napoleon this year either, which was a shame. But what was missing in numbers was made up for in passion from all involved. It was loud and smoky and chaotic and above all fun.

The French firing line in action - literally the fog of war.
Unfortunately the photos aren’t great. I had hoped to borrow a friend’s camera instead of using my little thing, but couldn’t get hold of the friend at the last moment. With Seb in tow I couldn’t charge around taking photos all the time either, and then, to my horror, my camera died (or the batteries did to be more precise). I suppose it was just as well, because after initial enthusiasm for the booming guns of the Austrian battery, Seb’s interest was beginning to pall and he declared that he wanted to leave. “After all,” he said, “it’s not like we don’t know who wins in the end!”

We saw these guys in Náměst na Hané the week before...
A view looking North over Tvarožná
The first of the Austrian guns being prolonged into position. The hill sloping up on the left is Santon, Tvarožná is down to the right.A few of the guns from the Austrian battery. Note how sparse the spectators are on the hill behind, not like 2005 at all.The Austrian Grenadiers take the field.As do some slightly anachronistic Russians.
Some more Austrians (well Hungarians) some of whom look remarkably well fed on army rations...

The skirmishing starts...

... as the French position themselves. In reality, the French were at the top of the hill and Bagration approached from below.

The French battery prepares for action.

More photos in the next post...