NAPOLEONICS: FRANCE VERSUS AUSTRIA, 1809
A BATTLE NEVER FOUGHT
When one combines the Napoleonic Wars with the year 1809, the natural outcome should be Aspern-Essling or Wagram, so why the title “A Battle Never Fought?” I have decided to approach this gallery in this fashion to avoid frustrating those of my gallery viewers, although very few, who are prone to see a gallery as a history lesson rather than a figure display set in the context of a historical event. I enjoyed putting together Pickett’s Charge and Little Big Horn but never thought of the galleries as real attempts to recreate authentic history. I’m just having fun and sharing what I hope you will find to be an interesting 15mm display. So this time, I will not call upon the names Aspern-Essling or Wagram, but it is 1809, and these figures do represent the forces of Napoleon and Austria.
Now on to the figures. At 4,300 figures, this is my second largest figure collection, the Civil War being the largest at 6,000. The vast majority of my Napoleonic figures are Old Glory, but Essex, Minifig, and AB (Battle Honours) are also included. In fact, my Napoleon is by Naismith Design. My collection includes three Napoleons: one sitting with his feet resting on a drum by Old Glory, one mounted by AB (Battle Honours), and one standing by Naismith Design. I found it very difficult to find a standing Napoleon so I was very happy to discover the Naismith figure. Unfortunately, he was Hobbit size, so I cut him in half, added about an 1/8 inch of Milliput to his middle and shaped it as needed. I’m very pleased with the way he came out. In fact, I originally purchased two of that figure because I wasn’t sure how the first would come out. I still have the untouched second copy to remind me how small that figure really was when I bought the two of them. Napoleon’s coach is a Preiser HO scale coach painted to give, what I hope provides, a convincing look. As far as I know, no one makes a 15mm coach for Napoleon though I did see one in 25mm many years ago in “Waragames Illustrated.” In fact, that may also have simply been a 25mm coach done-up to serve as Napoleon’s. Whatever the case, I am grateful for having seen it because it planted the seed that led to the one displayed in this gallery. For this gallery, I decided to go with the coach rather than the Napoleon on horseback because I have read so many accounts that this greatest of military minds was not comfortable on horseback and his guards lived in fear of him falling off whenever he elected to ride. I have surrounded Napoleon with staff and the Chasseurs a Cheval of the Guard who accompanied him on his travels. There are three other French command groups in this gallery, two mounted and one with a Berthier-like aspect in the courtyard of a farm sending ADCs to the different sectors of the battlefield.
I believe I used about 800 figures (of the 4,300) in this gallery; a few more French than Austrians, but that was largely due to the fact that I set the French on the field first and the Austrians had to make due with the space I had left; not a very historical approach, but having done nine of these galleries now, I have learned that while planning a layout is important, it is an imperfect science. I have arranged both the French and the Austrians in the formations common to the day, the line and column. As my friend Rocky pointed out to me several time as I worked through this project, by 1809 Napoleon’s enemies had figured out many of his organizational and formation devices. I have used a variety of cannon and cavalry placements ranging from front to flanks, to rear. My French cavalry include two regiments of Cuirassiers, two of Dragoons, the Grenadiers a Cheval, and the Empress Dragoons. The Old Grenadiers are also near at hand.
My Austrian infantry are composed of both German and Hungarian fusilier units. I’ll let you in on an unintended consequence of an outdoor photo shoot. On the day we took these pictures, the clouds rolled in unexpectedly, and it looked like rain so I was hustling to get it photographed and in the rush I forgot to include some Austrian grenadier units I had planned on using. Oh well, the “fog” of war has undermined many a well-made plan. There are four Austrian cavalry units, all Dragoons. A board that is 5 feet by 7 feet looks really big when there is nothing on it, but believe me it can fill up fast. Consequently, I did not include light cavalry on either side; just didn’t have the space. There are two mounted Austrian command groups. I think the most interesting feature of my Austrians is their flags. I completed these Napoleonic figures about 10 years ago. Until that time, I hand painted all my flags on metal blanks (mostly from Stone Mountain). But the Austrian flags were going to present a problem. The central emblems on those flags are extremely detailed and complex, and while I thought I could do a few, I was sure I’d have a breakdown before I finished painting about 70 Austrian flags (which would actually be about 140 emblems since they are on both sides of the flag). So I turned to my daughter, who used her computer skills to make decals of those central emblems for the flags. I painted the backgrounds of the flags and the border of flames, but the central emblems are decals. These figures were my first use of homemade decals, and I’m really very happy with the way they look.
Because I did such a detailed presentation of the French village in “The Bocage ‘44” Gallery, I decided to keep the village in this gallery in the background, but keeping in mind that this is 1809, France versus Austria, there had to be a town close by even though I’m not claiming this as any specific battle. The village buildings used in this gallery are by Landmark and Peter Pig. The walled farm complex is by Landmark.
The trees, ground cover, and background mural are the same I have used in my other galleries so nothing new to share there. My daughter is the mural artist and photographer. Since the first of these galleries was posted around October of 2008, many of you have commented on how great the photos look. I agree completely; she does a wonderful job making the 15s come to life. As I said earlier, I’ve had these figures painted and waiting for action for about 10 years. This is the first time I have seen them arrayed for battle. While I was setting up this, a neighbor came by to have a look. He’d never seen them before. I loved his comment. He said, “It’s not that the scene looks real; it’s that it doesn’t look fake.”
It took three years to paint the figures and five and a half hours to set this one up and take it down. I hope you enjoy it. It is always fun to see a gallery come to “life.”