Aspern 1809

by Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue May. 11, 2018 2045 views

Napoleon was military undefeated over a decade, when he was defeated at the battle of Aspern 21st/22nd May 1809. He tried to cross the Danube by pontoon bridges - the bridges were his weak spot - to strike at the Austrians, but was repelled by Archduke Charles. Of course both Big Boys didn’t it personally. 20.000 soldiers on both sides lost their lives - among them a lot of French commanding and high ranking officers. The success was followed several days later at the Battle of Wagram a bitter defeat.

The Grande Armée camped three months in 1809 nearby Vienna. Evidence of organization, infrastructure and buildings are still visible at the former military camp on Lobau island. The military strategy and achievements of Napoleon and his army are impressive and frightening until today.

The battle is described in lot of memoirs, letters and documents and lot of publications tracked down every aspect of this horrible days. When I worked as an archaeologist in Vienna, I had to collect remains of fallen French soldiers – their bones, buttons and other fragments were handed over to me in a trash bag nearby a new built swimming pool. I will always remember this sad moment. During digs colleagues found traces, skeletons of horses (died of cannonballs in their bowels) and mass graves of fallen soldiers. Every remaining pieces is evidence, interesting but shocking. The big stories of great wars are mostly written by nationalistic and fanatic men behind desks, which are intrigued by so called heroism and famous names. Archaeologists and anthropologists are more aware of the brutal reality of sick and infested, poor and malnourished, bad outfitted - especially the Austrians - soldiers, who had to put the names of rich, "noble" men on the map.

Some things will never change.

The fallen Austrian soldiers got a monument in Aspern in front of St. Martin's Church, when the monarchy needed their political support - again. The Löwe von Aspern (Lion of Aspern) is an impressive and a heartwarming sculpture, but not as well known as the memorial of Archduke Charles on Heldenplatz. The lion – a symbol for the dead Austrians - is made from sandstone. It was erected in 1858 and created by Anton Dominik Fernkorn, who also designed the monument of Archduke Charles.

I have to admit, the lion of Aspern is my favorite cat, actually the only cat I really like. It's sad to see a blade thrust through his chest and coming out of his left shoulder and all French army symbols are crushed by him.

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David Swatton 1 year, 6 months ago

What an excellent post and what a very fitting memorial to the fallen of those bloody days. I have always considered Aspern-Essling to mark the "watershed" moment when Napoleon seemed to take the step beyond all compassion, when his concern for the welfare and preservation of his troops finally evaporated and would lead inexorably to the Russian campaign of 1812 and its subsequent horrors.

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to David Swatton 1 year, 6 months ago

Thanks! blush
It must have been a hit in the gut of his ego - although a great victrory followed soon. It didnt matter to him, because he wanted to have a bigger bite of a bigger pie. Sometimes I image a little dog, which rises up to the front paws to mark high above the other markings.
When I looked at the evidence and my friend told me of the remains (she examinated the bits and pieces of  uniforms) it is even more shocking. The Austrian uniforms - Archduke Charles fought his biggest battle agains the own bureaucracy and corruption (nothing changed since) - were not made as well as the French uniforms. The soldiers were just cattle for the slaughter on battle fields - nobody wanted to invest in clothes for lost bodies.I think to be pressed into the Army and not gain anything by it to be proud of or even proud of the officers -  was one of the biggest mistakes every big player, who fought against Napoleon, did in the first place. They underestimated the force of mass and the force of charisma. Napoleon was a master of media (reformed in the "short" time before the battle the Wiener Zeitung) and a puppetier of the upper class. At last the charisma began to fade after Borodino, but never left completely.
I believe, that the tactics against Napoleon began to change during Peninsular war - thanks to the British Army and guerilla war. If it would happened earlier, maybe Waterloo wouldn't have been "necessary".
In the end its sad, that mankind doesn't learn, except for killing more people even faster and call this development "better".

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
David Swatton Replied to Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue 1 year, 6 months ago

As my partner knows I could talk ad nauseam about the Napoleonic period; it's my favourite period of history and I'm guessing from your writing it has a special affinity for you too. Obviously in England we don't have any battlefield sites from that period but what you describe about the work done on archaeological remains from Aspern (and I guess Wagram too... and others) sounds fascinating.

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Dannii L 1 year, 6 months ago

What an amazing sculpture, I think I could look at that for hours.
Thank you for sharing

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Dannii L 1 year, 6 months ago

Sadly it isn't such a nice spot, because it's nearby a main road with lot of commuter traffic.

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Shane Coleman 1 year, 6 months ago

Excellent write up. The photos and the statue are very intriguing also.

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Shane Coleman 1 year, 6 months ago

Thanks! blush

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Jay Boggess 1 year, 6 months ago

Love all the angles in this series. Great camera work & fascinating commentary!!
Suffer the droves of "little men" it takes to make just a few
"arm-chair conquerors"......no???

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Jay Boggess 1 year, 6 months ago

Thanks! blush 
Always the same since beginning of dawn.

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Jay Boggess Replied to Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue 1 year, 6 months ago

Amen & Amen.........sigh....
Only things that change are the uniforms and weapons of war......

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Jay Boggess 1 year, 6 months ago

Exactly!

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Jay Boggess Replied to Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue 1 year, 6 months ago

Oh well........I guess all we can do is try to stay out of the "crossfire"... right?smile

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Camellia Staab 1 year, 6 months ago

The saying goes "we learn from our mistakes" obviously  the "we" has not been found.

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Camellia Staab 1 year, 6 months ago

No, I got a bad grade back in school for saying: "nobody learned from history, because war would have been over since the first palaeolithic fight with a biface". My teacher was an idealistic idiot.

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Andi Saw Replied to Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue 1 year, 6 months ago
Comment was removed by admin
1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Andi Saw 1 year, 6 months ago

*giggle*
THANKS!!!

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Berckmans Peter 1 year, 6 months ago

#1 is very good, like it. There will always sadly be war, human nature

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Berckmans Peter 1 year, 6 months ago

Thanks! blush
I love this poor creature too. It's almost impossibly to take bad picture of it.

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Antonio Gil 1 year, 6 months ago

We never learn, and wars continue- Love the strength of this statue.

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
Sigrid Strohschneider-Laue Replied to Antonio Gil 1 year, 6 months ago

exactly ...
*sigh*

1 year, 6 months ago Edited
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