Bourtange, Battle AD 1814

Battle for Bourtange, Anno 1814
Slag om Bourtange, Anno 1814
02,03.06.2018 (biennial event, held in the even-numbered years)
Bourtange Fortress, Vlagtwedde (Westerwolde, Groningen province)


a time travel back to the Napoleonic Age, in year 1814 to relive the glory and charm of an Age and a man, Napoleon, that shaped Europe forever. A real tangible history in a moat-surrounded charming village where visitors can literally walk atop a star…


Geographical, cultural and historical context

Bourtange lies on a sand ridge in the beautiful Westerwolde region, in the Dutch province of Groningen, about 32 km from Emmen, right on the border with Germany. The place has got a great strategic importance since the ancient times for being the only passage between the nearby town of Groningen and Germany through the Bourtange Marsh (Bourtanger Moor), once a vast bog along the Dutch-German border, and now a nature reserve, the Internationaler Naturpark Bourtanger Moor-Bargerveen. The swamp arose around 5000 BC, but the area was already inhabited some earlier by Mesolithic nomadic people as confirmed by several archaeological finds. The swamp played a key strategic role in several wars as a natural protective barrier consisting mainly of impassable marshes. From the 16th to the 19th century the area got further reinforced in places with important passages with the building of strongholds, such as Bourtange, Oudeschans, Nieuweschans, Valtherschans and Emmerschans.

The village arose as a star shaped bastioned fortress with a network of canals and lakes used as moats on the Bourtange passage to control the only road leading to Germany through marshes. The building was commissioned in 1580 by William I Prince of Orange (1533-1584 AD), a wealthy nobleman and the main leader of the Dutch War of Independence (the Eighty Years' War, 1568-1648 AD), a revolt against the political and religious hegemony of Philip II (1527-1598 AD), King of Spain and hereditary ruler of the Habsburg Netherlands. Over centuries Bourtange was a key element of the defensive line on the Dutch-German border, being repeatedly under fire due to its strategic location, but withstood all attacks, thus it is also referred to as the fortress that was never conquered.

Bourtange, dismantled as military fortress in 1851, flourished then as an agricultural village until the 1950s and 1960s when it started being fully restored to its mid-18th-centruy glory and ambience. Today, thanks to its stunning architecture and beautifully renovated state, Bourtange is one of the best surviving examples of a star fort in Europe, one of the Netherland’s most fascinating and unique historical areas, as well as an amazing open-air museum providing guided tours, spectacular initiatives and reenactments all year long. Since 1995 the annual historical reenactment focuses in the odd years on the Eighty Years' War (Battle for Bourtange Anno 1640), while in the even years on the Napoleonic Age in the Netherlands (Battle for Bourtange Anno 1814). 

Event description and programme

In the even-numbered years the fortified town goes back to the Napoleonic Age and year 1814, with the allied Dutch, Belgian, German and English troops trying to regain the stronghold from the French army. Hundreds of reenactors from all over Europe in the encampments and fortifications make to relive the atmosphere and the armies of the epic Napoleonic Age through faithfully reconstructed artillery, infantry and cavalry units. The event focuses as well on the civilian daily life featuring many characters of the period, such the many camp followers.

The visitors have a unique chance to travel back in time for a deep insight into the military and civil daily life by experiencing clothing, weapons, kitchen utensils, tents, camp life and food habits: everything is a throwback to the past and accurately reconstructed from of the time around 1814. The roar of the guns, the pops of the muskets, the war melodies on drums and flutes and the sight of heroic soldiers fighting for their country will remain with the visitor for a long time. The rich programme includes as well military manoeuvres and drills, guided tours, music and dance shows, the historical market, and a variety of live-in activities held in the fortress and the bivouacs. The event culminates in the great battle reenactments and ends with an imposing final parade.

Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.

Info & Contact

Fortress Bourtange / Vesting Bourtange
Address: W. Lodewijkstraat 33, 9545 PA Bourtange, Westerwolde, The Netherlands
Tel.: +31 (0)599 354600 - 599 354554

Napoleonic Association of the Netherlands (NAN)
Napoleontische Associatie der Nederlanden (NAN)

Westerwolde Town Council / Gemeente Westerwolde
Address: Dorpsstraat 1, 9550 AA Sellingen, The Netherlands
Tel.: +31 (0)599 320 220

Visit Groningen Tourist information centre
Address: Grote Markt 29, Groningen, The Netherlands
Tel.: +31 50 3139741

Visit Holland

Image: images by Fortress Bourtange, collage by Historia Vivens Web
Text sources: Fortress Bourtange, Wikipedia, Visit Groningen, Wikivoyage


Bourtange and its fortress on Google Maps:



Promos and video reportages of the event:







Visiting Bourtange and the fortress:






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