Austerlitz battle commemoration   2 comments

In camp before the battle

This weekend was the 206th anniversary of the battle of Austerlitz. It was one of Napoleon’s greatest tactical victories. Near the Czech town of Brno, not far from Vienna, Napoleon’s army met the combined forces of Russia and Austria. Through retreating from the high ground, he lured the opponents into exposing their flank, they by letting his army defeat a larger foe.

Well, whatever

We took the train down to Brno, then caught a bus out to a small town where the reenactment takes place. The bus stopped at a kind of truck stop on the highway, featuring a MacDonald’s, Subway, and KFC along with a Czech cafeteria. The commemoration includes a reenactment on the hill where Napoleon made his battle headquarters. As we walked to the battlefield, fog clung to the ground. The day was chilly, damp and temperatures hovering around freezing. Hannah pointed out that this was just like the day of the battle, where a morning fog hid Napoleon’s deployment.

Sometimes the chaos was almost authentic

We were traveling with a large group. We were joined by Martin and his two children, our friend Pat, and a Fulbright faculty couple who are in Prague for the year. We had a couple of hours to wait, so we milled around the reenactor camp. There were a substantial number of cavalry and canon along with the foot soldiers. In the camps, the reenactors huddled around campfires. Many had spent the night in canvas tents. We guessed that there were more than 500, and perhaps closer to 1000, people in costume for the event. The reenactors were both men and women, and apparently they came from all over Europe. It was clearly a party for them. The costumes were quite detailed and looked authentic to my eye. In the US, reenactors often spend quite a lot of time researching and creating their outfits. This seemed to be the case with the Napoleonic reenactors too.


As the moment approached, the troops formed columns and marched toward the battle field. It was quite exciting to hear the drums and see the cavalry ride past. Each side had its own officers. Napoleon looked the part and was met by cheers of Vive l’empereur! He was, however, played by a man from Virginia…go figure.

Napoleon surveys his troops

The battle lasted almost an hour and a half. There was Czech commentary over a loud speaker, apparently telling which bits of the battle were being represented. It was fantastically chaotic. Cavalry charges ran hither and yon, cannons fired with great booms. Volleys of musket fire crackled in clouds of black powder smoke. The reenactors knew something about the drills, and they executed various classic maneuvers.

Some moments felt completely out of time

But the time it was over, I was stiff and chilled to my bones from the damp cold. I could barely move my fingers well enough to work my camera. A glass of svařak (hot mulled wine) really hit the spot.

The French face a light company

I have uploaded a bunch of pictures and even some video to the Flicker site. To see them, click on the “Mark’s Pictures” link under “More Pictures,” on the left side of the screen, above. Enjoy!

The high hill in the background was Napoleon's viewpoint for the real battle


Posted December 5, 2011 by markrisjord in Barbara, Czech Republic, Hannah, Mark

2 responses to “Austerlitz battle commemoration

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  1. I think we saw the same Napoleon at the Waterloo reenactment in 2006. The soldiers there told us he plays Napoleon so frequently, he finally learned to speak French! What a job: professional Napoleon.
    Such a great year you all are having. I’m following all your adventures with great interest!

  2. Well, it seems folks are the same everywhere, eh?? But that reenactment sounds so much more exciting than what I see at Kennesaw Mtn. on occaision. Are the menus the same at the American fast food places there as here? Tell your friends not to get hooked on it or they will become obese like we are here — LOL!

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