Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stare Vinhorady

Stare Vinhorady (Old Vines) is one of the more difficult locations to find on the Austerlitz battlefield. I knew where it was on the map, and found the general area without difficulty, but could not find anything like a hill. It is part of the Pratzen ridge, so it provides excellent views towards the French position. But nothing to identify it as Stare Vinhorady as opposed to just part of Pratzen ridge.

This map shows the area covered during our various walks around the battlefield. All start at the Pratzenberg monument, called Pracky kopec on the map. Our exploration of Stare Vinhorady followed the green line north of the monument. Start Vinhorady is shown as just north of the crossroads. We found the path from Pratzenberg and followed it to the cross roads. But we could not see any hill as indicated by the contour on the map. The spot shown in the photo above is right in the middle of the contour shown on the map, but as you can see from the photo it was pretty flat!

We were lucky to have yet another sunny day, and we settled down amongst the cut hay with our picnic lunch, our maps and our photocopies to study the ground. There are really extensive views from here, and we could easily identify all the major villages. So it was also easy to identify the area where Vandamme and St Hilaire spearheaded the French attack. To our left St Hilaire led his division towards the village of Pratzen. Directly ahead Vandamme headed for Stare Vinhorady.

Vandamme had the toughest nut to crack, as the Russian Guard was on and behind Stare Vinhorady. As the two bodies of infantry struggled for possession of the Pratzen, the Russian Guard cavalry charged the French left flank and broke the 24th regiment who were holding Stare Vinhorady.

Fortunately Napoleon was approaching, as the infantry broke and ran past him. He immediately ordered his only available reserve, his own Guard cavalry, to charge the Russian horsemen. Both sides fed reinforcements into the cavalry melee, but it was the French cavalry who won the day.

We spent all afternoon studying the area, walking the ground and enjoying the warm sun. Another of those very memorable battlefield visits which we remember with affection.

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