Being close to Vienna on vacation, I used the opportunity to visit the battlefield at Wagram. When it comes to creating historical battle maps, it's all about getting an understanding of topographic details. While online ressources might help, as demonstrated for Hougoumont, being there for real allows one to mindmap the area and see details which cannot be present on any overview map.
Check out this video to get an idea of how and where the battle unfolded:
Wagram and Russbach
I started at Deutsch-Wagram. They have a nice Museum there (http://www.wagram1809.at/index.htm
) with really helpful staff who knows about the local area.
They had some really good maps of the battlefield there, which I will not share for copyright reasons. Taking photographs was allowed, but I forgot to ask whether it was ok to share these maps online.
I then took a stroll through Wagram and headed towards the Russbach, which separated the French and Austrian army and served as defensive position. A very interesting feature of that specific area near the town of Wagram is that the hedges are sunken in, quite contrary to what I would usually expect. It's obvious that this feature strengthens the defensive value of the position.
On the way from Wagram towards the Russbach, facing the French advance.
A few further metres ahead, a crossing and following fork opens up two (!) ways parallel to the Russbach, which marks another important defensive feature: a second ditch behind the Russbach on the Austrian side! It appears on historical maps, but I was surprised about how deep it actually is. Water is present in some places, but not everywhere. The walls are full of trees and shrubbery, making the area a serious obstacle to any advance.
About 50 metres ahead from the last picture, looking back towards Wagram (note the sunken hedge on the right side and the churchtower) - [1 on the drawing]
A panorama at the fork revels an additional advantage (or not so much due to picture quality, but I can guarantee you that it's there): Behind the Russbach on the Austrian side, there is a not very high, but partially steep hill all along today's road parallel to the Russbach. It exists on historical maps too, next to the historical road. The Austrians retreated there after the French broke into Wagram and Markgrafneusiedel.
All in all, the Russbach must have been a superb defensive position, especially with the French being located on open fields without any significant ditches or obstacles that might serve as cover for the advance. That's depicted on historical maps and paintings too.
Russbach - note the second ditch on the panorama.
Russbach - view towards Marktgrafneusiedel/French positions
Russbach - view towards french positions between Raasdorf and Aderklaa
With these and more impressions of the area around Wagram and the Russbach, I got back into my car and drove through Parbasdorf to Marktgrafneusiedel. All along the way, the hill along the road was there. Couldn't take pictures while driving, but one can see it on google maps streetview:
At Marktgrafneusiedel, the features of the terrain changed. The hedges there were not sunken in, but plain. In comparison to the Russbach, it's a way better area to attack - which Napoleon did.
Towards the Austrian left flank near Marktgrafneusiedel
Towards the French far right at Marktgrafneusiedel
The hedges there really are not that much trouble in comparison to those near Wagram and the Russbach.
View towards Marktgrafneusiedel from the French right flank.
View towards the Russbach/Wagram (Russbach = where the trees are) from the French right flank.
Near the French center, view towards Russbach.
I then walked to Raasdorf, where Napoleon had his HQ. The view towards Marktgrafneusiedel and Aderklaa is still great.
Looking from Raasdorf (French HQ) towards Aderklaa and Wagram.
All in all, Wagram is a very interesting example of how terrain can dictate a battle.
The Russbach is a very strong position. Strong enough to force attacks against the towns of Aderklaa, Wagram, and Marktgrafneusiedel instead, which meant marching troops all the way over open fields under barrage. Even details such as ditches in hedges can make a serious difference when it comes to sheltering from fire. On the other hands, open fields allowed the great cavalry action that was seen at Wagram. As in many modern battlefields, the plains are very open today due to modern agriculture. However, at Wagram, these plains were open in 1809 as well.
The carnage left more than 70.000 dead, wounded, or captured, and the fields seen above are still being investigated by archaeologists today.
Taleworlds: give us custom servers, we need them!