On The Field Of Battle 
As all fans of the Napoleonic Wars are aware, today marks the 200th anniversary of a battle at Liegnitz, Prussia (Legnica, Poland today). The Battle of Katzbach, a lesser-known conflict in the War of the Sixth Coalition might have been avoided if not for Jaqcue MacDonald's French troops and Gebhard von Blucher's Russo-Prussian forces accidentally running into each other.

"Apparently, this sort of thing happened from time to time," noted Jean-Sean MacDonald, decendant of the Scots-French military leader.

"Really, it's amazing that it didn't happen more often, with hundres of thousands of troops wandering all over the place," added Hans Blucher, whose ancestor once lead the Sixth Coalition's eastern forces, as he sits next to MacDonald, carrying on the tradition estlished by their forebearers almost two centuries prior.

"After the war had ended," explained MacDonald, "our granddads -- well, great-great-great- ... you understand -- met here to ... well, to ..."

"To apologize to each other for the whole thing," interupted Blucher.

"Oui. Aye. That."

"The whole thing should have never happened," continued Blucher. "Both forces were on their ways to other places and ran into each other quite by accident. Have you looked around this place? There's nothing here -- no reason anyone would try to fight for this location. It's not strategicly important. But they ran to each other and couldn't just pretend they didn't see each other. I mean there were over 100,000 pairs of eyes on each side -- word was bound to get around.

"Next thing you know, they're charging and flanking and out-flanking and running all over the place."

"It was a royal mess," MacDonand pointed out.

"When it was done, there were almost 20,000 casualties", Blucher added. "Jacques and Gebhard, our grandfathers, were apalled. Neither, we are told, spoke about it for months. After the war, Jacques suggested they meet here to talk things over; they camped out, cooked over an open fire, and drank toasts to their slain soldiers."

"Obviously, when so many fallen soldiers, there was a lot of drinking to be done," pointed out MacDonand. "They were at it for the better part of two weeks and still felt they had not done enough to remember their comrades."

"No, indeed. They decided to come back the next year," said Blucher. "And the year after that. Before long, they had a tradition going. When they were too old to make they journey alone, their sons would travel with them. In time, it was the sons who came here every year. And so on, since then."

"Of course, some years had to be missed," admitted MacDonald. "During the Crimean conflict, of course. My grandfather, Pierre-Paul, insists that he and Klaus Blucher met once during the First World War. It was a crazy and dangerous thing to do, but he said they had been doing it before the war and were not about to let hostilities interfere with tradition. Still, he said they only managed it once."

"Likewise," offered Blucher, "our fathers managed to continue the tradition through most of the Second World War. It was, as it had been for their fathers, dangerous and probably stupid, but they were young and full of family pride. It was the Cold War that really messed things up."

"Och, mon Dieu!" exclaimed MacDonand, "what a mess! Our fathers didn't meet for almost 35 years -- it just wasn't possible under the circumstances. Then the wall came down. They wrote to each other that very week and agreed to bring Hans and me to the first Katzbach memorial observation since ... what? ... 1962? 63? Something like that. Both our dads passed away a few years afterwards, but Hans and me, we are still getting together, year after year."

"He brings whiskey," Blucher chuckled, "and I bring beer. We both bring wine. We even buy some of the local vodka and do a few toasts with that. It's made from cabbages, I think, and smells of old socks, but we like to do something for the local economy. Look at this place! If there wasn't several generations of family history, do you think we'd be here?"

One toasts, then the other. Then they repeat the process. They stop briefly to cook a hasty meal of sausages and toasted bread, then continue the drinking into the late hours. Both insist you can hear the fallen warriors whispering in the night. Without sufficient toasting, they insist, they'd never be able to fall asleep.

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