Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Walking Napoleonic Battlefields

It was April 2009 when I started the first blog in the series Walking Napoleonic Battlefields. Since then I have done a blog entry each week covering our visits to battlefields in Belgium, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Italy. I have just started the last blog in the series, which will cover our one week holiday in 2002 to Aspern-Essling, Wagram and Austerlitz.

Its been great fun reading through the diaries and scrap books I kept of each visit to prepare the blogs. In fact its been a little like revisiting the battlefields. I shall miss the weekly research when I finish this last holiday.

The first entry in this last series is about the planning which went into preparing for the weeks holiday. It took the best part of a year to decide how to tackle the visit, to read up on the battlefields to be visited. To photocopy descriptions of the battles to take with us to read on the spot. To get suitable modern maps which would allow us to find our way around the fields and villages where the battles were fought. To book accommodation as close as possible to the battlefields.

In preparing the blog I listed the books used, most importantly David Chandler's "Campaigns of Napoleon". I have used this excellent book to prepare for almost every battlefield we had visited. It was one of the first books I bought, and has been read and re read many, many times. Before each holiday I would read through the appropriate chapter. I would then consult the West Point "Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars" for maps of the area. These two books are now falling apart from frequent use, but are still used on a regular basis.

Chandler's book is the best introduction you could hope to find for the whole of Napoleon's military life. It is easy to read and covers all aspects of each campaign. It is short on personal histories, but that is to be expected with a one volume book.

The West Point Atlas is very difficult to read, or at least I found it to be so. I remember that it took me weeks, if not months, to read from cover to cover. Each page explains the map opposite, and I remember spending hours going from description to map and back again trying to make sense of it all. I still find the text hard going. But the maps are the best I have seen. I recently used them to make the maps for my 1813 wargame campaign.

The blog covering the planning and preparation for Aspern to Austerlitz can be found at

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