The weather is getting better and my friend Anton Tantner suggested a trip to the Marchfeld. Finally an opportunity to visit parts of the battlefield of Wagram, where on 5 and 6 July 1809, the hitherto largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars was fought!
Together with our wives, we first took the bus to Markgraf-Neusiedl. This was the pivotal point of the second days’s fighting and the location where the battle was decided, as the French 3rd Corps under Marshal Davout outflanked Rosenberg’s Austrians.
Unfortunately, the famous tower, which served as the Austrian HQ and observatory, is private property, and we found it very hard to find a good vantage point to look at what would have been the position of the French attacks (one of which came from the east, and the other from the south). We did get a look at the tower from outside, though. At the time, it was rectangular, the round tower was built after the battle to house a windmill.
We then took the bikeway along the Russbach in direction of Baumersdorf and Deutsch-Wagram. This walk led us along the Austrian front, which was positioned on the heights just north of the Russbach. Of course we had to climb the heights to get a better view! The banks of the Russbach would have been pretty devoid of vegetation at the time, as the Austrians would have used the foliage to cover their camp huts.
Half-way between Markgraf-Neusiedl and Deutsch-Wagram is the small village of Parbasdorf, at the time mainly known as Baumersdorf. On the evening of July 5, when the French army made its large but uncoordinated probing attack, it was a key position, as it was the location of bridges over the Russbach. While French and Saxon troops broke through the Austrian lines west of Baumersdorf, Austrians under General Hardegg held the village itself, thereby preventing the French to reinforce their breakthrough with artillery and cavalry. For this action, Hardegg, who had probably saved the Austrian army from an early defeat, was awarded the Maria-Theresia-Orden. The basic layout of the village is still the same as in 1809, with the large Anger (village green) in the center.
To the west of the village, we could see the heights which were stormed by the Division Dupas on the evening of July 5.
We continued our walk to Deutsch-Wagram, where Anton had arrange a meeting with historian Michael Wenzel, who gave us a tour through the Napoleonmuseum, which is housed in Erzherzog Carl’s headquarters.
Michael is extremely knowledgeable about the battle of Wagram and the 1809 campaign in general. It was a pleasure to listen to him and explain the battle and the museum’s collection. He also contributed to a recent archaeological survey, which unearthed an Austrian camp as well as soldiers’ graves, artefacts of which are among the museum’s highlights. Better still, he is also a wargamer, so I immediately talked him into giving Sharp Practice and one of my 1809 scenario a try!
We had a great day out and I was happy to finally walk a part of the Wagram battlefield and visit the museum, something I had in mind for quite some time. The museum hosts a reenactment on July 1, which I plan to attend, and Michael and I will meet for a game, so you’ll read more about 1809-related activities in the future.