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 larges 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 foilage 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.
Our last stop was Schloss Sachsengang, a small little castle that served as the last point of defense for a couple of companies of Austrian Jäger. I always wanted to make a small ladder campaign out of the whole action, but of course I would need the castle to play the final scenario. During the last weeks, I finally built the model!
Castle Sachsengang was built at the beginning of the 12th century. It was placed on a motte surrounded by a moat. The basic layout is polygonal with three towers, of which one is still standing. As was the case with all such structures, it was heavily modified over time. I could not find any images depicting the situation around 1800, so I used written descriptions from participants in the battle as well as photographs of today’s appearance.
The castle proper has large outbuildings to its northern side (which can be seen in the Vischer engraving on the right), which I didn’t include in the model so as to make it more versatile. I will use buildings I already have to depict those.
The castle itself is very small – the courtyard is only about 10m across and the whole structure is no wider than 30m. I still decided to scale it down from the figures scale, that is, not use a scale of 1:100 but one of 1:160 for the layout. In my games, I usually assume that one figure actually represents a couple of guys and reducing the footprint allows me to bring more of the surroundings on the table, making the scenario more interesting.
I luckily found a layout plan in a book, so I printed it out in the desired scale and glued it on a sheet of foamboard, which would form the motte. I built the structure out of the sturdy cardboard I have come to love, which is called “Finnpappe” (“finnish cardboard”) in Austria. For the walls, I use 3mm thick sheets, which are astonishingly easy to cut but very sturdy and not prone to warping. It fulfills the same function as foamcore at a tenth of the price. The windows are 3D-printed, the doors are scratch built. The patches of stonework are cut out of a foil I had lying around – they will look like the are behind the plaster when the surface structure is applied.
The first challenge was how to paint the castle. Normally, I finish the whole structure and then just paint it. However, with this, I knew I would not be able to paint the walls and windows of the walls facing the courtyard as the space was too cramped. So I decided to built it in three pieces, paint them separately and then glue them together. Before painting, I coated them with filler to give them a plaster-like structure.
I then assembled the painted pieces and touched up any gaps with filler.
The next challenge was the roof. The polygonal layout makes it rather difficult to calculate the shape of the roof segments, which I usually do. So I just played it by ear and fitted them with a process of measuring and trial and error. I used 1mm thick sheets of the cardboard for this. This was easier than I thought and in the end I think it looks quite ok.
The final challenge was tiling the roof. As I do most of the time, I used tiny rectangles of cardboard and applied them piece for piece. I like the effect it gives more than that of the readily-available roofing material, which is also incredibly expensive. However, roof tiling in this way is a lengthy and mind-numbing process that can’t be done in one go, so it took me a week or so to finish it.
The last and more enjoyable step was modelling the base with the moat. I used 3mm thick plywood for the base, which incidentally led to a couple of funny (in hindsight) moments when I put the whole thing (base with castle glued on) on my commode and realised that the base had warped badly! Panicking, I asked my mates Sigur and Virago what to do and we discussed all kinds of tricks to straighten the plywood. However, when I had organised some screw clamps and proceeded to clamp the structure to my gaming table, I realised that magically, the warping had gone. Turns out the the surface of my commode is uneven…!
Anyway, I built up the outer banks of the moat with foamboard and filler and proceeded to painting the base. Originally, I wanted to use water effect for the moat, but then I thought that it would add height and make it look too flat in relation to the banks, so I just applied several layers of gloss varnish. (Also, I’m a bit afraid of water effects since I had some large cracks in a swamp I made, ruining the whole effect).
So, this is it: Schloss Sachsengang ready for gaming! Apart from the Hanslgrund scenario, I also want to use in for a fictional campaign I’m preparing at the moment. But more on this some other time.
For the last three months, I’ve been experimenting with my 6mm napoleonic project. I’ve played a number of games, first with DBN, then with an increasing number of modifications. More on that some other time.
When preparing the terrain, I realised that there were no 6mm buildings that would fit my requirements. As I did a bit of research on rural structures, I wanted my models to conform to the historical types. A couple of years ago, even before I got a 3D printer, I taught myself a bit of CAD, so I decided to try my hand at desigining 3D models. It turned out that it is not too complicated, as 6mm buildings don’t need that many details, and that I even enjoy it.
As others might be interested in those buildings, I’ve decided to put them up for sale on wargaming3d.com. So, for the princely sum of $4.50, you can purchase a set of stl files for 11 buildings: a large church, modeled after the Aspern church, a small church or chapel, a granary, modeled after the Essling granary, six rural houses, a traditional barn and a windmill. The windmill has no sails, as this would be too fiddly to print at this scale – I recommend using strips of thin cardboard.
The buildings are intended for 2mm to 6mm scales. For my 6mm games, I reduce them to 80% size, as I prefer them to have a smaller footprint. All my test prints have been with a resin printer (Anycubic Photon), I can’t say how they would turn out with a FDM printer, but I guess details will be lost.
They would fit from around 1700 up to 1945 for Austria and Bavaria.
During the 1809 campaign, there was a lot of fighting in urban areas – Ratisbon, Landshut, Ebelsberg, Groß Enzersdorf, to mention just a few. How did town houses in Bavaria and Austria look at the time?
Urban architecture of the time can be divided in several categories: There is religious architecture, which I have already covered elsewhere, there are municipal and administrative buildings and there are the palaces of the nobility. However, the by far largest group is made up by so-called “Bürgerhäuser”, bourgeois or citizen’s houses. This ist not only, even not primarily, an architectural category, but also a legal and social one.
Concerning its legal meaning, for a long time, being the citizen of a town was tied to owning a dwelling space (with local differences on whether this meant owning an actual house, a house floor or being a rightful tenant). Citizenship meant the right to political participation, but also the obligation to pay taxes and to participate in communal duties, such as defending the town in case of war.
Up to the 19th century, the bourgeois house contained, like the farmer’s house, not only living spaces, but also a working spaces and sometimes a shop floor. It was the dwelling place for the house community, which not only meant blood relatives (usually three generations) but included servants and staff.
In German, for most of the time the word “Haus” (house) was used to designate this ensemble, the word “Familie” (family) only being introduced in the second half of the 18th century. The house was seen as a self-sufficient entity: The inhabitants produced goods (or traded them) and they had the right to use communal land to grow foodstuff. As such, the house was the organisational fundament of the economy. It was also the basic cell of society and sovereignty. The paterfamilias or housefather had patriarchal authority over his wife, while the pair of them had parental authority over the children and the servants.
This means that the architecture of the bourgeois houses was determined by its function. Several types can be distinguished. The most basic form is the so-called “Ackerbürgerhaus”, or famer-bourgeois house. This is the dwelling space of landowners who earn their living through farming. Here, the boundaries between rural and urban architecture were blurred. Such types of buildings could also be found in large villages, while small towns were dominated by them. In large towns around 1800, they were mostly confined to the periphery. Their actual shape was determined by the type of agriculture practised. For example, in some regions of Lower Austria, “Weinhauerhäuser” (vintner’s houses) were very common. They often developed out of a “Streckhof“, with working spaces arranged behind the narrow front.
Another very common type was the “Handwerkerhaus” (artisan’s house). Its basic shape goes back to the Middle Ages and was internationally astonishingly consistent. The ground floor was made up by a vault, which contained the workspace and shop floor. The top floor contained the living quarters. Sometimes, other rooms were added in the backyard, which were connected with arcades.
The “Patrizierhaus” (patrician’s house) was owned by a rich merchant or trader. Large, massive, and often furnished with a decorated façade, they were characterised by a spacious hall at ground level and a cellar, where goods were stored. The top floors contained the representational and living spaces.
Lastly, tenement buildings slowly became common, providing space for the many people living in towns. In Vienna, for example, from the 16th century up to the end of the 18th century, the government obliged house-owning citizens to provide living spaces for clerks and servants working at the imperial court (the so-called “Hofquartierpflicht”), which fostered the building of houses for tenants.
All those types have their origin in the Middle Ages. However, as towns are living and changing organisms, buildings were destroyed, newly erected, and modified according to needs and tastes. Therefore, in many towns different types and styles could be found next to each other.
For a long time, houses were built in narrow spaces with the gable end facing towards the street. Façades were irregular and asymmetric, often featuring projecting alcoves.
During the 18th century, however, houses began to be built with the eaves towards the street. They became wider and the façades took on a more regular, symetrical look. In some cases, several old houses were united and fitted with a false façade, often with blind windows, to bring them up to the new style. Baroque façades were decorated with elements made of plaster or stucco, such as cartouches and columns.
In Austria, the 1780s saw the emergence of the so-called “Plattenstil” (panel style), with smooth, regular panels and a bright, single-coloured coat of paint – in Austria, but also in Bavaria often in a yellow ochre called “Schönbrunner Gelb” (or “Barockgelb”).
While churches and palaces have often been depicted, there is an unfortunate dearth of contemporary visual representations of bourgeois houses. However, surviving examples can still be found in many towns today.
Andraschek-Holzer, Ralph et.al. (ed.): Das Bürgerhaus. Wohnen und Arbeiten. St. Pölten: NÖ Landesregierung 2019 (available online)
Kräftner, Johann: Bürgerhäuser. Ensembles, Einzelbauten und Details in Österreich und den angrenzenden Gebieten seiner Nachbarländer. Wien und München: Herold 1984.
Paläste und Bürgerhäuser in Österreich / Noblemen’s and Citizens’ Town-houses in Austria / Hotels Particuliers, Palais et Maisons Bourgeoises en Autriche. Wien: Notring 1970.