Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Bavarian Army Museum - Napoleon and the Bavarians

After this weekend some kind of autumn cold grapped our family and all of us were rather weary we're all getting better now and so I found the time to sort the pictures from my visit at the Bavarian Army Museum in Ingolstadt. Currently they're running a special exhibition about Napoleon and the Bavarians there and so my buddy Rick and I took the trip to Ingolstadt.

The museum itself is wonderfully located in Ingolstadt's old city centre and is occupying the New Castle there. Usually there's is a permanent exhibition about the history of the Bavarian Army running but currently it had to make way for the above mentioned Napoleonic exhibition. It is more politically and socially oriented then I expected in an ARMY museum but nevertheless an excellent trip and a lot of extremely interesting pieces to examine. Unfortunately the lighting was pretty dark. Probably best for the old pieces and rather comfortable for the visitors but honestly doom for taking pictures. Therefore most of my photos turned out blurry or darkish. But anyway some are more or less presentable.

Of course the exhibition started with the Korsikan guy all the trouble was about two centuries ago:
Napoleon in his coronation robes
Napoleon in Egypt
Very interesting were the few uniform pieces they are showing. On the one hand there were uniforms more or less in every room of the exhibition but mostly those of Bavarian generals or other important persons. Average pieces of uniform went too short for my personal taste. Here's a rare example:
Coat of a French engineer during the earlier revolutionary wars
Another nice piece was a roll from a 'Guckkasten' (engl. Zograscope) an optical device to present landscape or larger scenes:
'Guckkasten'-roll showing a scene from the battle of Hohenlinden on 3rd December 1800
Some other exhibits that caught my attention:
Replica of the Eagle of the French Grenadiers of the Old Guard

Prussian 6pdr
Printing plate for a Bavarian map
Finally we found a room dedicated to the comman Bavarian soldier's equipment. On a large display there was the full kit of a soldier displayed but besides that the visitors were able to try out a couple of them: A coat lay there to be palpate, a 'Raupenhelm' stood there to be tried on and a bagpack as well as a musket could be lifted:
Full kit of a commoan Bavarian soldier
Volunteers !
Carbine, cavalry sabre and pistol from 1804
Ballistic test with a musket ball
Bavarian infantry drum. Regiment unknown.
The second floor of the exhibition - being actually the first floor of the castle since the exhibition started on the second floo - was reserved for the later years of Napoleon's alliance with Bavaria. It started with a huge picture of the battle of Wörgl painted by Peter Heß in 1832. A wonderful piece of art with a lot of interesting details:
Battle of Wörgl during the Tyrolean Rebellion of Andreas Hofer
The rooms here were filled with some interesting paraphenalia from the years after 1810. Especially Napoleon's Russian campaign had a strong presence. Largest piece was a very interesting interpretation of the famous 'Minard Map'. They built a light-table through two room that had roughly the shape of Minard's map. On this table they had pictures of important battle and incidents during the campaign. E. g. the battle of Borodino, the fire of Moscow, approaching reinforcements and such like. Additionally that had a couple of trays with small plastic knobs each representing a soldier Napoleon took to France. Blue knobs for Bavarien soldiers, brown ones for the other soldiers in the Grande Armée. It was really impressive to see how 450.000 man in the very beginning waned step by step.
Napoleon in 1812
Napoleon's hat from his Russian campaign, seemingly an original piece
Huge diorama of 25mm flat figures. Unfortunately poorly lighted.
The start of the Minard light-table. In the foreground 450.000 plastic knobs on trays.
After 1812 there wasn't too much remaining from the alliance. Likewise changed the exhibition towards to things related France's defeat in 1814:
Deed of the Treaty of Ried in which Bavaria switched sides in October 1813
 A very interesting piece there was a 'Hungertaler' from 1816 'The year without a summer'. The bad harvest of 1816 caused a severe famine during the winter of 1816/17. During this crisis the first charitable organisation were founded and to fund them special medals were sold. They consisted of several coins connected with threads. The inside of those 'Schraubmedaillen' was ornamented with coloured engravings. It was the very first time I saw or read of such medals but it was an interesting background to discover:
'Hungertaler' from 1816
Finally two interesting uniforms. First the uniform of the Bavarian Garde du Corps. By founding this household troop King Max I. Joseph substantiated his claim for Bavaria as a sovereign state:
Bavarian Garde du Corps
And secondly a celebrational uniform that was created around 1900. It bears several borrowings from Napoleonic uniforms and was used for the centenary of the victory over France in 1914:
In addition to the uniform they had a piece of film their showing some soldiers these uniforms performing drill exercises in 1914. Seemed to run slightly too fast but was very interesting anyway. Unfortunately I didn't discover it on Youtube...

Anyway these were some humble impression from a wonderful trip. Although it was very crowded that Saturday we had the chance to explore some very interesting exhibits and discover some new things. Although I would have appreciated more pieces of equipment and a more miltary focus I can really recommend the exhibition for those who are interested in the Napoleonic age.


  1. What a great day out to see some fantastic relics.
    You need to start offering wargamer themed tours of your area Stefan - I'd sign up :-)

    1. Many thanks, Paul.
      In case that you'll ever visit my area I'll gladly organise a private tour for you. :-)

  2. Sounds like a really neat trip. Thanks for sharing pictures.

    1. Many thanks and you're welcome. :-)
      It was nice to recall the trip once again.

  3. What an amazing looking museum Stefan, the quality of the exhibits looks outstanding.

    1. Indeed there were a couple of very special and very interesting pieces. I'm looking forward to visit its permanent exhibition sooner or later.

  4. Stefan what did you think of the actual cornflower blue Bavarian uniform colour worn during the Napoleonic wars.Was it light/mid/dark in shade based on the uniforms you saw? Thanks Peter

    1. Hi Peter,

      a very difficult question...
      Honestly I was surprised how dark the blue on the coats looked that the presented in Ingolstadt. As you see on the picture with the full gear it's noticeably darker than the colour Knötel showed us on his colour plates. Unfortunately I don't have a direct comparison to 'French blue' which should again be darker.

      As for miniature painting I'd be completely happy with a medium blue as base tone with only decent shading and some lighter blue highlights.

      But important: No greyish touch like prussian blue has it. Although the exact tone of cornflower blue might be arguable it's been really clear that it has greyish component.

      I hope that helps... ;-)


  5. Very interesting post Stefan. I have only passed through Bavaria once and didn't have time to look around. Tha Bavarian Army Museum is now on the list. I like the idea of hands on artifacts like uniform items, they really give you a great insight into what the kit was like to use for the ordinary soldier and the look of it when worn.

  6. Very nice report on what looks like, a jolly smashing trip. Would really enjoy visiting myself someday.