The Battle of Dürnstein – My ancestors in the Napoleonic War

On 11. November, a big battle of the Napoleonic Wars took place in Dürnstein and Loiben in the Wachau in Lower Austria. My Great-Great-Great-Great Grandaunt Barbara Artner was living in Dürnstein (then called “Thirrnstein”) at that time. Reason enough to look closer at this chapter of history and the horrific war experience of the inhabitants of Loiben and Dürnstein.

Napoleon’s rise

Napoleon, born on 15.August 1769 on this Island of Corsica,  made a steep career in the course of the French Revolution due to his military talent. After a coup, he became First Consul of the French Republic, until he declared himself Emperor of the French in 1804.

In April 1805, Great Britain, Sweden and Russia formed a Coalition against France. In August 1805, Austria joined this so-called “Third Coalition”. After Emperor Francis I. of Austria (formerly last Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation as Francis II. and founder of the Hereditary Empire of Austria) sent his troops to  Bavaria (an ally of France) on 8. September 1805, Napoleon declared war on Austria.  The Austrian Army lost several combats around Ulm in Germany, after which the French marched towards Vienna. That was when they arrived in Loiben and Dürnstein three weeks later, where an Austrian-Russian Army had retreated before already.

 

The Battle of Dürnstein and Loiben

On 10. November 1805 the French advance party reached Dürnstein and after skirmishes with some smaller Russian units, won the plain between Dürnstein and Rothenhof. The Russians and Austrians had made the close town of Krems their headquarter.

 

In the battle of 11.November, about 10.000 French under the command of Marshall Moitier and and Austrian-Russion Army of 24.000 men (under the command of Johann Heinrich von Schmitt and General Kutusow) were involved. The battle started with the French moving forward, as they thought, the Russians had retreated.

A column led by Schmitt and a men called Andreas Bayer who knew the surroundings well launched a flanking assault on the French which caused great confusion among the enemy. Finally, the allied troops won Dürnstein and the French retreated to Weißenkirchen.

In the course of the battle, each side lost about 4.000 men (although reported figures vary significantly), among them Johann Heinrich von Schmitt, the Austrian Chief of Staff.

Chronicles of the Town of Krems in Lower Austria (cited in the book “Niederösterreich Geschichte und Kultur in Bildern und Dokumenten”, Publisher Otto Müller Verlag, 1982) gives the following account:

“In the Village of Oberligen, 60 dead bodies were found, in Unterloiben 500 dead bodies. Several Thousand were washed away in the Danube River, which seemed to be coloured blue for hours due to the uniforms of the dead French soldiers.”

The allied troops won the battle, but the Russian Army nevertheless retreated towards Moravia. On 14.November 1805, the Napoleonic troops marched into Vienna.

Ober- and Unterloiben as well as big parts of Dürnstein were destroyed, the vineyards were burned.

The inhabitants, among them the family Artner

The experience of these days in November must have been horrible for the inhabitants of Dürnstein and Loiben. At first, they were plundered by the French, then by the Russians.  People were killed, Houses were destroyed, Vineyards were burned, supplies were stolen and churches were desecrated.

As the Chronicles of Krems (in “Niederösterreich Geschichte und Kultur in Bildern und Dokumenten”, publisher: Otto Müller Verlag, 1982) mentions on the  11.November in Loiben schildert:

“The inhabitants had to suffer appalling things on the day of the battle, many hid in a cellar of the vicarage in huge fear. Friends and enemies both raged in the same manner, actually the allied Russians were worse than the French. They intoxicated themselves with the wine, destroyed the wine barrels and spilled all the wine.”

Barbara Grünseis, my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandaunt had married Leopold Artner, a bailiff from Dürnstein, on 9.February 1802 im the Village St. Peter in der Au in Lower Austria. After the wedding, the couple lived in Dürnstein and had four children (one of whom died in young years unfortunately).

At the time of the battle, there was therefore the son Karl already born and zwo and a half years old and daughter Theresia was one and a half years. They were living in Dürnstein 43. How did they cope during the Battle of Dürnstein? I can say for sure that there were no deaths in the family in the course of the battle.

(Unfortunately, Leopold Artner died at the age of only 45 due to tuberculosis. His wife seems to have left Dürnstein after his death. So far, I could not establish, where the family went.)

Other inhabitants were not spared by the atrocities of the armies, as one can see in the death records of Loiben and Rothenhof:

On 12.November died Elisabeth Karl, widow of Christoph Karl, winemaker, domiciled in Unterloiben no.16 at the age of 64 years. As cause of death, the following is written: “Shot by plundering Russians”. There is also the note: “Was buried at the Cemetery of Loiben by those burying the bodies of the soldiers who died in the battle”.

In the Village of Rothenhof, Paul Mayr died on 16.December 1805, a “widow, winemaker and juryman“, at the age of 87. According to the death register, he died of “old age and shock of war, as he was plundered lying in bed with illness“.

There are several similar entries in the register of Unterloiben and Rothenhof. Particularly elderly people suffered a great shock from the battle.

Today, commemorative plaques and the “French Monument”, the “Franzosendenkmal” (which was build according to the design of Friedrich Schachner) close to Loiben, remind of the days of the Battle of Dürnstein.

Sources

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Paul Wiesinger, Musician and Dog Breeder in Linz, Upper Austria

Linzer Becken

“Das Becken von Linz mit der Landeshauptstadt” by Eduard Zetsche (1844-1927) from the book “Die österreichisch-ungarische Monarchie in Wort und Bild”, Band Oberösterreich und Salzburg, Wien 1886, Page 17

My Great-great-great-Greatuncle Paul Wiesinger was born on 28. June 1832 in the capital of Upper Austria, Linz, in the parish of St. Mathias. He was the son of the unmarried Josepha Wiesinger, “daughter of a house owner“.

In the baptismal book, no father is indicated, but the godfather, Philipp Klimitsch, a “master brewer in Auhof 1” is interesting, as I could not find any other connection to him. This might be a clue for Paul’s father.
By the way, Auhof is a manor in Linz which was owned by the family Starhemberg. The brewery was under lease in 1832 and was demolished in 1900 (Source: Wikipedia, Entry for Schloß Aufhof (Linz))

Paul’s mother Josepha married Ferdinand Mathias Frey in 1837. Due to this marriage, Paul was referred to as Paul Frey in later documents. The couple had no other children and in March 1863, Josepha Frey died aged 59.

Several months later, on 15.November 1863, Paul (then aged 31) married 39-year-old Juliana Bruckmüller, a maid and the daughter of the master miller Johann Bruckmüller from the “Grubmühle” in Thal. This can be seen in the Marriage Consent Book of the City of Linz as well as from the Marriage Book of the parish of St.Mathias.


„Austria, Upper Austria, Linz, Selected Documents of the Federal State Archive  1485-1894,” images, FamilySearch (accessed 22 May 2014), Ehekonsens-Protokoll 1850-1868 > image 416 of 517;  (Upper Austiran State Archives, Linz).

(Translation: “Name of the groom”-“Paul Wiesinger also known as Frey”, “Born on”-“Linz, 28.1.1832”, “Profession”-“authorized Musician”, “Marriage Status”-“single” and “Domicile”-“Linz 1057”
“Name of the Bride”-“Juliana Bruckmüller”, “Born on”-“Sigharding, 18.6.1824”, “Domicile”-“Linz 1055”, “Note” contains file number)

The profession of Paul Wiesinger is authorized musician which is interesting. The couple seems to have been neighbors, as their addresses are Linz 1055 and 1057.

The entry in the marriage book basically gives the same information as stated above. The witnesses to the marriage are interesting:

  • Johann Hofmeister, piano maeker in Bethlehemgasse 44
  • Simon Danzmayr, musician

I do not have any clue which instrument Paul Wiesinger played, but it could have been the piano!

Klavier

On 16.September 1865 the only child of the couple was born, a daughter named Franziska. At the time of birth, the family was obviously renting rooms/a flat in the house of the carpenters Großpointner in Schulerberggasse 945 in Linz. Franziska Großpointner was the godmother of the child.
Sadly, the baby died 18 days later as she was “too weak to live”.

On 12.February 1867 Paul’s stepfather Ferdinand Frey died of Tuberculosis at the age of 64 years.

Paul Wiesinger is mentioned twice in the newspapers (“Linzer Tagespost”). However, this is not in context with his profession, but relates to dogs:

Auszug aus der Linzer Tagespost vom 25.6.1865, Seite 5, Quelle: Anno der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek

 

At the occasion of a fair in Linz in 1865, Paul Wiesinger/Frey won second place in the category “Hounds and Bloodhounds” („Jagd-, Schweiß und Brackirhunde“) with a Dachshund. (The Count of  Graf Starhemberg won the first place).

Dackel

From the book “Meyers Kleines Konversations-Lexikon”, Seventh Edition, Leipzig and Vienna, 1909; Entry “Hunde”

Possibly Paul Wiesinger was a dog breeder or a huntsman which could also be related to the breeding of hounds. However, I could not find any indication in that context.

In 1882, the following was published:

Thus, Paul Wiesinger also won a price for his dogs in 1881. His address at that time was Donatusgasse in Linz.

Only some moths after the advertisement above was published, Paul Wiesinger died on 25.July1883 due to Tuberculosis at the age of 51. His wife Juliana died four years later on 7.March 1887 aged 61 from senility (“old age”).

By the way, as I realized when writing this post, there is clear message here: Additional information such as witnesses of births or marriages can contain valuable clues for family history research.

New Design of Matricula online

Matricula online  is the platform for research in church books of Austria. There are also several documents for  Germany (Bisphoprics Hildesheim, Magdeburg, Münster and Passau) and Poland (State Archive of Breslau/Wroclaw) available.

Some weeks ago,  Matricula online introduced a new design. (The “old design” can be used until the end of 2017).

I did work with the new design in the mean time. There are great new functionalities and working with the new design is very efficient.

Now, there are three ways to get to a specific church book:

Matricula Menu Bar

Matricula Online, Menu Bar

  • Fonds: you can search the whole database of available documents
  • Map: This completely new functionality is great. By searching a village/city on the map, you can see all parishes close by and enter directly into the list of available church books for this parish. This functionality is particularly helpful, if you came to a brick wall in a parish, as you can quickly see what other parishes are near ans continue searching there.
    (Blue marks on the map show the  place you were looking for, red marks show parishes. By clicking on their name, you immediately get to the list of available church books of this parish.)
  • Search for Places: The functionality to search for places was significantly improved:
    There is now the possibility to restrict the search to specific dioceses or specific dates. If a place is entered, the list of results will include all possible results with notes of the parish.

The overview page of a parish also looks differently now. A photo of the parish church was added and there is also an up-to-date as well as a historic map (from mapire, a page with historic maps). With this additions, you can easily get an impression of the local area.

There is a possibility to show only specific types of books and to restrict the date of books.

When you found the curch book you were looking for, there are two possibilities:

  • Using the book symbol, you will be shown details on the book.
  • Using the camera symbol, you will directly get to the church book.

There are also some new functions for the navigation with church books.

Most functionalities are self-explanatory, but here are some additional notes:

  • The symbol of the house resets all changes.
  • Using the symbol with the square and arrow, you will receive the direct link to the page which can be copied using the right mouse button.
  • Using the book symbol, you can remove the side bar with the page numbers.
  • This info symbol gives detailed information on the currently opened book. This information was permanently given in the upper right corner in the earlier version of Matricula, which was actually better.
    UPDATE 8.6.2017: As I just saw, the information in the upper right corner was reinstated and gives now the parrish, the type of book with its reference number as well as the years which are covered in the book.

There is a navigation bar in all overview and church book pages which enables a quick navigation through the pages.

Matricula Navigationsleiste

Matricula online Navigation Bar

Matricula online is available in German and English. Language can be set in the upper right corner.

What is still missing is the possibility to download single pages, as it is offered at family search for example. You have to continue working with screenshots.

Overall, I have to say that I really like the new functionalities of Matricula which make it a great basis for research in church books.

Additional tipps for working with Matricula online and Church books, can be found in my earlier posts: