Königgrätz-The battlefield

I went to Königgrätz this past weekend for one final trip before I start writing my thesis and to refresh my memory about what the terrain looks and feels like.  I have found that is difficult to really understand a battle and the course it took unless I have been to the actual battlefield or seen a very good terrain model.  Terrain determines much more about the course of a battle than many people realize.  Of course, rivers and mountains make a difference but so do small terrain features.  Anyone who has ever visited Ypres and stood on top of Passchendaele Ridge looking into the salient can instantly see why the British had such trouble breaking out during WWI.  The terrain at Königgrätz is similar in a way because actually walking it while thinking about the course of the battle highlights some things for me that many of the standard accounts mention briefly, if at all.

The first thing I notice is how strong the Austrian position is naturally.  For all his faults as a commander, and they are many, Benedek chose a good position to defend from.  Most of his front is steep hills in ridges running parallel with a river, the Bistritz, to its front.  The Austrians emplaced their artillery along these hilltops and they had sight-lines extending beyond the range of the guns.

View from Saxon positions looking East.

Views such as the ones above were duplicated all along the front.  It was only on the Austrian right flank in the vicinity of Chlum and Maslowed that rolling hills interfered with these long range viewpoints.  It was exactly at Chlum that the Prussian 2nd Army broke through on the afternoon of the battle.  The one place where the Austrians could not see almost to the horizon.  I do not think this was coincidental.

  • http://battlefieldanomalies Graham Morris

    Dear Patrick,
    Well done! Nice to have a fellow battlefield walker who values the importance of terrain.
    I hope to visit Kulm (1813) next year, that battle has been sadly overlooked.
    Best Regards,
    Graham

    • Patrick Shrier

      Graham,

      Thanks for the comment. I love your site and have used it as a source in a couple of my undergrad papers.