Napoleon meets his match – Waterloo 2015


Dawn on June 20, 2015 – aka June 17, 1815

Last night’s battle didn’t go too badly – no clear winner of course – but the French troops managed to push the British line back almost to the edge of the battlefield. Aside from that one Scottish group (looked like Scots – could have been Russians) – we held firm and felt strong.

Today of course is another day.

There’s a change in the atmosphere in the camp – the soliders are being so nice to M. le Docteur Jean Vivant de Clairmont! Do I have a seat, will I sit here – did I get my breakfast yet. Hey – do you think they are begining to see that I am not just a fancy outfit? Whatever – I’m relieved to feel the change – means I’m doing something ok.

Breakfast done – drill done – we are given the rest of the day off. The battle tonight will be epic – and we all realize it. Nerves are on edge – Justifably so I suppose. 200 years ago do you think the soliders were as nervous – they faced life or death, so I suppose they must have been worried. But they were so young – mostly 18 to 21 years old, did they think that what would happen that day would be so studied, so celebrated, so well remembered.
Our Major – Gilles – reminds us to be in battle dress and ready to assemble at 4:30 this afternoon. The battle won’t start till 8:00 pm – but we must march the 4.5 KM, then get into our formations.

Taking on my background role – interpreter – I go visit the Sutlers that have set up tents to sell their goods in the Allied camp, and near the battlefield. There are treasures galore – I score a new fan, and my partner finds a canteen. The weather is hot and humid, having enough water is going to be critical to the success or failure of the troops, and there are 120 men and women marching as Garde Imperial, not to mention the entire drum and fife core. I grab another 12 litres of water from the ‘canteen’ tent – and it’s a good thing too – he’s running low.

We gather at 4:30 – and ‘dinner’ is distributed – packages of dried apricots and bags of peanuts. I can appreciate the apricots – but why peanuts? M. le Docteur Jean Vivant de Clairmont is going to have enough trouble keeping the troops hydrated and on their feet without them eating peanuts! Good thing that La Culiere was in charge for lunch. He started with canned ravoli – but with skillful addition of sauage and chopped onions, made it into something delicous. Not period correct of course – (ravoli for French troops?) although canning was invented by order of our Emperor – so that at least was right!

Not fed – but carrying what is going to have to pass for dinner – the troops are mustered and we march out. There are cheering townspeople everywhere! They yell out their support for us – many choosing to march along beside us for short periods. We spot the calvary – over 150 horses and their riders – ready for battle, and looking truly fine.

There are over 2500 French troops on hand for this fight – we’re one small cog in a huge machine – all focused on gaining another victory for our Emperor. He rides by – gaily waving his Bicorne. We are joined on the field by several of the higher officers – and in the distance I spot the rest of the medical core. They have come prepared for trouble, they have stretchers ready to take soliders off the field.

We are positioned at the far end of the battle field – on a slight hilltop overlooking 3 huge structures – mock-ups of La Haye Sainte (bravely defended by The Kings Legion), Hougoumont (which will be set on fire sometime during this battle), and on the far eastern side of the battle field – Papelotte. La Guarde Imperiale never gets near any of these – we stay well into the open areas of the battle field.

Massed in front of us are what we can see of the Allied armies – primarily British commanded by Wellington. Historically – many of them would have been hidden from view, but today they are very visible, and very scary. They stretch from one end of the huge battlefield to the other – a mass of red coats and artillery.

The start of the battle is signaled by the announcer – who plays O Fortuna from Carmia Barna. Excellent choice – as it tells of the raise and fall of man’s fortune. Perfect for this battle that set the stage for Europe as we know it today.

But we don’t have time to listen – Our Major has gotten orders – and they are communicated to the 4 divisions as a series of commands yelled out by each of our officiers. The artillary barage has begun – and we are stationed near two of the larger guns. The noise level is considerable, compounded by the pyrotecnics. To both our left and right there are now fires burning – officially the result of cannon fire from the Brits – but really the careful positioning of pyrotecnics.

It dawns on me that I don’t know where they have these stacks of fireworks hidden on the field – but one of the officiers takes a moment to explain to me that they are individually controlled and supervised. The big ones won’t go off if anyone is near by. That’s reassuring, I guess.

I’m just hoping that my position in the exact middle of the Guarde will keep me safe.

Our Major commands that we march forward – and soon we are going down hill thru rye that reaches to my waist. Underneath the rye are ridges and hallows caused by plowing the fields – and I’m having trouble keeping my feet underneath me. I stumble along – trying as best as I can to march – but honestly – it’s hard just to walk fast enough to keep up with the troop.

Form Square is suddenly called – and for the first and only time – we blow it! Our square has a front and a back – but there is no real middle. The space where I would normally stand is filled with the flag, officers in gold and gilt who have decided to march along with us, and the entire fife and drum core. I have no choice – I draw my epee – and try not to get trampled. The British calvary makes a valient effort to cut us down – but the bayonets are mounted – and all they can do is clash sword againt bayonet. We are not allowed to shoot at them when they are this close – it’s dangerous for the horses. And they are really really close. I can hear the horses heavy breathing as they gallop past. And the earth literally shakes.

Our calvary rides up – and there is a massive calvary battle – right outside our position.

The Brits and their Allies eventually retreat – we form lines and continue our advance, straight into the guns of the British line. We mount Bayonets – but the gunfire doesn’t cease, and the Major doesn’t tell us to charge. Instead we being an organized march backwards.

The Old Guard never retreats – but apparently marching backwards (you try that) is ok.

We reposition ourselves further to the right side and this time we attack the British line.

It’s so much fun – we pull back and do it again!

But our losses are beginning to mount up – there are literally piles of dead everywhere – and when next I peek out from behind the line – the other doctors have begun to check on the dead. I join them – using my wet white glove to cool down their heads. It’s hot work being dead – even at 9:45 at night. The wounded and dead thank me – and like a good doctor, I don’t steal their shoes. I leave that for the thieves and Camp Followers – I’m all about helping the injured.

One solider lifts his hat – and his hair – to receive my cool touch- and I wipe down his bald head.

Suddenly I hear ‘Charge!’ from behind me! Oh my goodness – the Prussians have entered the battle – and we are being attacked! I’m on the outside of the line – and in serious trouble. I bravely (ok – maybe not so bravely) desert the dead and dying to run towards the square that the remaining members of the Guard have formed to protect the Eagle and the Flag.

Let me IN!!!

I squeeze in – just in time to see La Culiere throw himself into the line of fire in an attempt to protect the flag. He falls – along with most of the line.

The next time the attacking Brits fire – I fall too.

Wellington rides in to claim the field for the English. We have officially lost. The battle is over. Napoleon has met his match.

…..

After the call to end the fight – the dead arise, and two of the old guard help me get back on my feet. Good thing too – I was lying there thinking – hmm, down wasn’t that hard – but I really don’t think I can get up my myself.

My apron is bloodied, most of my water bottles empty – and we still have the long march back to the Bivouac. Again I form a hitch hiking line up – flaging down cars to the amusement of the police acting as traffic control and fill them with soliders too tired and too sore to make the walk back. Eventually – it’s just me left – and when I flag down the last car – the police that are directly traffic give me a round of Appaluse!

Beer, Frits, Bed! No problem getting to sleep to night, I’m seriously sore – but glad I came.

The next morning I get the absolutely best compliment in the world. After Gilles, our Major, finishes his announcements – and thanks the North Americans in general – one of the Old Guard asks for M. le Docteur Jean Vivant de Clairont to be brought in front of the ranks. The line parts, and I’m waved to the front.

He announces – We want to thank Leslie specifically – and the entire company gives me a Hip- Hip – Hurrah.

Tears in my eyes – I remind them to drink water!

As the men pack up to leave – each and every one comes over to personally thank me – and in many cases give me a hug.

M. le Docteur Jean Vivant de Clarimont – you done good!

Signing off – The soup Lady.

The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball


200 years ago – with troops massing all thru Europe, and Napoleon fighting for the life of France – the Duchess of Richmond decided to have a ball in Brussels.

According to our informed source – so many people wanted to attend the ball – it was held in a barn!

Fast forward 200 years – and with re-enactors massing all around Brussels – the ‘Duchess’ is holding her ball again – and of course we must attend.

Word has gone out that French uniforms will not be acceptable – and gentlemen and their ladies must dress properly. The Ball will include a lovely sit-down dinner, hosted by the ‘Duchess’ and her consort – and of course ‘Wellington’ and his officers will be in attendance.

We are booked into the ‘Salve’ BnB – with in easy walking distance of the Chateau where the Ball will be held. Our friend – the Saper – is joining us – we shall be attending the ball together.

We dress for the occasion – and I must admit – we look quite fine! My seamtress has done a wonderful job on my gown, and my escorts look dashing in their top hats, canes, and dancing shoes. We look so good that one of our hostess’s neighbors comes over to see what is happening and insists on taking pictures. Our hostess even provides us with a carriage ride for the short distance – and we make our proper entrance to the Ball. The company is fine and beautifully dressed. And the Chateau is magnificant.

Properly dressed waiters in period wigs serve everyone champagne and hors d’oeuvres – and we gossip and chat till Wellington arrives. He invites us to join him on the veranda for a fife and drum concert, performed splendidly by a troop from the loyal Colonies.

They march in, perform to the attention and applause of all, and then we mount the stairs for a splendid dinner.

Our dinner companions are Dance Masters from the Colonies, a wonderful couple from the Prussian Allies, the ‘Saper’, and a Spanish Couple who enterain us all with tales of the problems Spain is having with both Louie Boneparte and their herditary King. To their minds, neither is worth the uniform they wear!

After dinner, it is time for the ball proper to begin. While my dance card is hardly full – I do have the first few dances claimed – and I hope to find partners for them all.

We begin with a traditional Polonaise – which gives us all the opportunity to check out the other dancers, and to admire the gowns of the other ladies. There are some stunning gowns, and to be honest, I suffer a bit from gown envy. Where do they find such lovely materials to work with – I shall definitely have to have a word with my two seamstresses – The Regency version of keeping up with “The Jones’s ”

The dances roughly alternate between Long line dances and Quadrilles. I of course try to dance them all – but it is a challenge to hear the Dance Master over the hubub in the room. Several times – in several languages – he asks for people not interested in dancing to retire to the sitting areas – or to make use of the terrace, but I suspect that watching the dancing is simply too much fun!

Suddenly the dancing is interrupted by a young man in uniform accompanied by two Prussian officers in muddy traveling cloaks. They run into the room – calling for the attention of Wellington! He hands him a message – and Wellington reads the note to himself and then informs us that Napoleon has ‘humbug’d’ him – and is even now approaching the city! Women gasp white the officers in attendance grab their hats and swords and promptly follow Wellington out of the room.

The remaining dancers finish the dance, but clearly the mood is no longer one of gaiety and laughter – war has come too quickly upon us.

We make our way to the cloakroom – and head back to our lodging. Tomorrow we are off to the Bivouac.

Signing off to put on her uniform and prepare for battle – The Soup Lady.

Best History Museum Ever!


Ok – it’s an odd fascination – but I actually enjoy History Museums – particularly if they are well done. They always tell you something about the culture of the country – or at least about what the government thinks is important to know.

Given the outlines of Current German history – Loved Napoleon, Hated Napoleon, Wanted a Democracy, Didn’t want a Democracy, Started World War I, Lost World War I, Had a Democracy that actually elected Hitler, Started World War II, Lost World War II, Got Divided, Got United, and now has a Democracy – well – the history museum in Berlin was bound to be interesting.

Particularly in comparison to say – Canada.

So we coughed up the big bucks – thank goodness for my Student Card – I was 1/2 price – and immediately started with the special exhibit on Leipzig 1813. Given that we’d just been there re-enacting the battle – seeing what the curators at the Deutsches Historisches Museum had to say was bound to be interesting. And it was. The exhibit – clearly taking the German point of view, started with a very famous painting showing the victors of the battle – the King of Prussia (Germany), Emperor of Austria and the Emperor of Russia – getting news of the victory. From there – the curators decided what to show – and what not to show.

The exhibit started with guns, wagon wheels and cannons – the tools of war. It also featured the skelton of a horse – found in a mass grave at the battle field site. From there it went into a brief history of Napoleon, from the point of view of his opponents. His errors are pointed out – and while mention of the Code Civil is made, the point is also made that the application of the Code was hardly even. Yes, feudal estates were broken up – but often they were just handed over to his relatives. And while his emphasis on promotion thru ability rather than family position was mentioned, it was also pointed out that his opponents learned the same lesson, and applied much of the same strategy by the end of the war. A lot of attention was focused on the forced draft in France – and the ‘volunteer’ armies of his opponents. Certainly the history they showed, and the history we thought we knew were quite different.

And as I’ve mentioned before – that’s what makes going to history museums in other countries so fascinating – there is always more than one point of view.

The exhibit ended with a short video about the re-enactment of the battle of Leipzig in 2012 – and in many ways – this was the most striking section. Instead of 6000 re-enactors – there were about 600 – and instead of using a portion of the actual battle field – they used the small field that we’d used to assemble just the french troops. Oh what a difference a year makes.

I left the exhibt amazed at the organization required to put on the re-enactment I had just participated in. It was incredible.

From that special exhibit, we worked our way over to the general section of the history museum, admiring the architecture as we went. The museum is huge – and we opted to skip most of it, and focus just on the sections that interested us most – 1778 onwards. The section for 1778 to 1816 – which covered the battles against Napoleon featured some wonderful pieces of art – including a painting of Napoleon in his corination robes – and most impressively – his hat, sword, and stirrups – left in his carriage at Waterloo in 1815 when he excaped after the disaster to Paris. Cool.

From there we read with great interest – and some surprise – the German perspective on the lead-up to World War I, the elation followed by the depression of the results of that war, and then the negative feelings about the treaty of Versaile. In the German history – it is that treaty more than anything else that brought about the conditions that allowed Hitler and his minons to appeal to such a wide audience. The museum contains a significant section effectively appologizing for the treatment of the Jews, the Roma, and the handicapped. There is no attempt to sugar coat that truth. The run-up to World War II is covered in great detail, as is what was happening in Germany during the war. After the war, the division is described, and the museum ends history in 2000 – 10 years after the fall of the Wall and the re-unification of Germany.

This is an outstanding muesum. Not one that you want to zip thru – but one that you want to slowly see – hear – experience. There are English signs in most sections, but getting the audio guide is well worth the small expense. The descriptions are absolutely reviting. We effectively got ‘kicked’ out by the closing bells.

Great Museum. Definitely a must go!

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Report from the Battle of Nations 1813 (October 20, 2013)


A day in the life of a re-enactor – Fighting the Battle of Leipzig – 1813

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I’m the Chirurgien aide-major on the left. On my right is a Grenadier a Pied of the Imperial Guard – Pavel. There’s been some discussion that perhaps I need a new nickname – instead of san-fatigue (tireless) – maybe La petite (The small) would be better.

But back to my day – which really started the day before – when our officers decided that we should get a look at the battle field – rather inconveniently located about 5 km from our bivouac site. So full dress on – and off we march.

The French army – at least the infantry portion – gathers in a large field about 1/3 of the way to the battle field itself to regroup. There are a lot of us – at least 2000 – representing several different nations – all fighting under the leadership of Napoleon. And boy – do we look good. Great uniforms, tight formations – we’re well-trained, well armed, and ready for battle.

We march to the battle field, drill in sections and then together, and finally march off again – clearing the way for others to get their chance at a look at the field.

On the march back, we finally get to see some of the enemy – it’s a group of Austrians on their way to the battle field – but that doesn’t stop us from mounting bayonets and charging. They mount bayonets and charge back! Such fun.

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We disengage – and march on – back to our bivouac to be told – be ready to fight at 10:00 am tomorrow – but tonight you are free to drink and be merry. Right. For some it’s on to hours in the Rathskeller – for me it’s an early night. My stomach is seriously in knots.

10:00 AM (day of the battle) – We gather again at the bivouac site – we’ve eaten a good breakfast, and our support teams of vivandieres have prepared some slices of sausage for us to take with. As the Chirurgien Aide-Major (that’s Surgeon 2nd Class to you) – I prepare bandages in case the battle goes against us, and make sure I have plenty of water. Keeping the soldiers hydrated is one of my most important duties. And I practice amputations – besides putting on a bandage – as battle field doctors we’re more likely to have to cut off an arm or a leg then just about anything else.

10:45 AM – We march back to the ‘re-grouping’ area – and all the members of the troops fighting on the French side are assembled. Again – over 2000 strong – we’re looking good. No sign of any opponents yet – and that’s probably a good thing. I’m beginning to get nervous – and I’ve run out of water already. A fast trip to refill my bottles – then we’re off on our slow march to the battle field. Cheering crowds surround us en-route – and we feel like heroes. We’ve yet to lose a battle – are we perhaps feeling a bit too confident?

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11:30 AM – We’re reached the battle field – and it is huge. There are people everywhere – all trying to get into position to watch the battle. I can’t imagine where you would have to sit to see everything – but then I spot a powered Paraglider – and I realize – that’s probably going to be the best view. Yup – he’s got a camera.

12:15 PM – We’re told to eat our lunch – and again – I’m out of water. 45 guys on a hot day – there’s a lot of water required. Another trip to re-fill my bottles – I end up at a local sports facility that’s been turned into a triage/hospital center by the local EMT guys. They have 6 beds ready, along with various other equipment. Issues may not be with the soldiers after all – there are 75,000 spectators expected – plus 6000 re-enactors – that’s a lot of potential for things to go wrong. And one of the beds is already occupied by a bystander – I’m hoping it’s just heat related.

12:35 PM – I’m back where my division of Marine de la Garde had been sitting – and they are gone. Along with my satchel filled with water bottles and bandages. And all the other 2000 members of the French Army. Now what? All that’s left where before there were dozens and dozens of troops is an empty field.

12:40 PM – I spot a troop heading for a break in the huge fences set up around the battle field proper. My troop has gone into position on the field. It’s like chess – everyone has a place to start – and I’m late! I run as best I can – the field is very rutted – and slip thru the opening onto the main battle field.

12:45 PM – How different it looks today – Everyone looks so similar and yet there are significant differences. Calvary rides here and there – I see Polish Lancers in formation to my left. But I need to find the Marine. Where did they go? There are at least a dozen cannons that I can see – and I’m just at the top quarter – the field seems to go on forever. On the far side there are smudges of silhouettes – is that enemy? If it is – there sure are a lot of them!

12:46 PM – I spot what looks like a familiar uniform and head in that direction – when I get close – I realize it’s a completely different unit. But then I hear I high-pitched whistle. Following the sound – its my chief – the Chirurgien Major! He’s seen me and waves madly. I move quickly into position – no time to waste. The battle is set to begin at 1:00 PM – and this is Germany – it might even start on time.

12:50 PM – The emperor is on the field! We hasten into position – he walks by – twice – greeting those of us he recognizes, and generally being encouraging. His entourage is huge – more generals and aides then I imaged. And he’s afoot – I wonder if he’ll mount up later – or run the battle from the background. We shall see. But meanwhile – we give him 3 cheers – and I have to say – seeing him did make me feel better.

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12:55 PM – Our troop is looking good. We’re right near the line of spectators – kept off the field by heavy fences set up all around. I spot non-combatants – those are the women and older soldiers who support the troops lined up on our side of the fence. We’re positioned right next to an artillery set-up – hope they don’t fire the cannon while we’re this close. It’s going to be seriously noisy.

1:00 PM – German timing – the Royal Horse artillery posed on the far side of the battle field – looking so small as to be more of a smudge than men – start firing off their rockets. Historically these didn’t work so well – mostly noise, little damage. And they haven’t improved the design. A lot of noise – but not much else.

1:15 PM – finally we’re called into battle. Our first and most important task – get about half way across the battle field and build a bridge over the ‘river’. It’s really more of a stream – but still – we need to get the bridge built so that our army can cross to capture the town on the opposite side. It’s about a km run – over rutted terrain – into the face of the enemy.

1:25 PM – we’re in position – 1/2 of the Marines guard the position from attack – we can see that there are significant troops lined up on the far side of the battle field – and 1/2 start to build the bridge. They get the logs into position, and then realize that during the night someone made off with the nails and hammers and more importantly – the planks – that had been placed near the location of the bridge. What to do – without the bridge – our troops can’t get across!

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1:30 PM – Bridge building continues – and the search is on from nails, hammers, and planks. Meanwhile – one of our men has been hit by a stray bullet – probably from the snipers on the far side of the field – and we are called on to amputate his leg.

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1:33 PM – we’re fast – Aprons on (don’t want to get our uniforms dirty), equipment ready – we bring the patient nearer to the spectators so that they can get a good view. 3 guys hold him down while he bites on a piece of wood (more to shut him up then to relieve the pain – if he gets much noisier the team holding him down have been told to hit him hard in the head. The noise is annoying the doctors). Personally I think the thrashing is most annoying. I guess a musket ball in the leg must really hurt.

1:35 PM – We’ve made the first cut – after putting on the tourniquets (couldn’t get it quite tight enough – but hey – it’s only the first patient – we’ll do better next time), the Chirurgien Major takes his scalpel and cuts away the flesh – leaving the bone exposed.

1:36 PM – I hand him the saw – and hold the leg steady against the thrashing of the patient. He saws thru the leg – then hands me the part of the leg with the foot attached to show the spectators! I hold it above my head – then toss it to the ground to help cap the wound.

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1:37 PM – Perfect. Such a good job that the patient can get up and hobble away.

1:40 PM – Bridge is finally done – and we’re ordered into the village to protect the villagers. So we re-group – check on the patient (he’s fine – and back on the line) – and then march into the village. In the village are some members of a Russian Calvary unit whose horses were refused entry to the re-enactment – no papers. So they are afoot – and not that happy about it. But that’s not our problem – our problem is to protect the village. We form up along the village cemetery – to our left is another battalion of French troops – but ahead of us appears the enemy. And they are endless.

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2:00 PM – After firing in volleys into the on-coming troops – our Calvary appears to help us. The troops of the enemy retreat – the Calvary rides away – and the troops re-appear. Fighting is hot and heavy! Suddenly their Calvary appears. The infantry men to our left form squares – which protects them. We’re standing in the cemetery – not good ground for Calvary – so they don’t bother us.

2:10 PM – Our Calvary comes back – a Calvary fight ensues – with quite a lot of close combat – and on the part of the Polish Lancers – some stabbing. No one falls off a horse though – they are all excellent riders. There are moments of quiet – followed by periods of so much noise it’s hard to think – let alone hear the commands of our leader.

2:30 PM – Fighting continues hot and heavy. We march out to attempt to take more of the field – and are forced back by heavy artillery fire. But first we take our first real injury. When you fire the musket, you must keep your mouth open to equalize the pressure – one of our soldiers forgets to do that – and is complaining that he can’t hear. We help him equalize the pressure – he eventually returns to the line.

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2:45 PM – We retreat back into the village – and re-group. Our orders have changed – we’re to abandon the village – and move to protect another bridge to our far left. At that moment, the enemy mounts a bayonet charge against the remaining forces protecting the village. There’s nothing we can do – so we march out in orderly fashion, abandoning the village and the villagers. They are forced to flee – waving white flags and heading for the bridges.

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2:50 PM – Looking back I realize that the village buildings are now ablaze. The fresh thatch must have been easy to light. I feel a bit bad for the villagers – but they are no longer our problem.

3:15 PM – we’ve maneuvered out way to our new position – and are defending the bridge at our back. We make a charge – take some causalities – as we pull back – our officer tells myself and the Chef doctor to go see to the wounded. We patch as best we can – and fall back. Another rally – another group of casualties. We’re in trouble.

3:30 PM – Our backs are to the bridge – but we can’t continue to hold that ground. Under orders, we re-group again and cross the bridge – determined to hold that side.

3:31 PM – I realize that we’ve left a soldier behind – and the officer gestures to me to take care of him. I run to his side, figure out where he’s been injured – and put on a bandage – accompanied by significant yelling and screaming by the wounded solider – all to the delight of the onlookers.

3:40 PM – We join up with a large group of Imperial Guard forces, and there’s a change in leadership. Our new leader is the head of the Guard – he’s on horseback – and he’s riding back and forth behind our lines getting us into position to defend the ground we gained earlier in the day. It’s not looking good, though.

3:45 PM – The King’s Foreign Legion is attempting to take our bridge – but we’re ready for them. 1/2 of our company is hidden from their view to our left – when they cross the bridge they are caught in a wicked cross-fire.

3:50 PM – Despite our excellent tactics, the enemy has crossed the bridge – and we’re forced further back. Now the commander of the entire French troop is trying to rally us and get us to stand firm.

3:55 PM – We’re being forced further and further back onto our original part of the field – between the soldiers coming in endless waves and the Calvary forays – we are unable to stand firm.

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4:00 PM – The officers call for a cease-fire. There is still random shots being fired as soldiers discharge their weapons. As doctors, we tend to any wounded, adjusting bandages as needed. We also give all the soldiers a drink. Dehydration is a potentially huge problems as the day has gotten warmer and warmer. I’m officially out of water.

4:05 PM – The wounded requiring professional treatment are identified – there’s one soldier with 4 broken ribs – apparently another soldier got carried away and struck him on the side with the butt end of a musket, and there’s a face wound. A re-enactor with no experience held his musket too close to his face (its supposed to be on your shoulder), and the recoil struck his eye glasses, causing a superficial face wound.

4:25 PM – We get back into line, march up to the rows of spectators and are applauded and cheered. Now we must march all the way back to the bivouac. That’s almost 8 km from our present location – and we are extremely tired.

5:00 PM – We are about 2/3rd of the way home when one of our soldiers drops from dehydration and heat prostration. As the Doctors, we remove his backpack, gibarne (for carrying black-powder cartridges), and take his musket. We find him water from another group of soldiers, and eventually get his body temperature back to normal.

5:30 PM – Back at camp – everyone removes uniform pieces, gets a beer, and in the case of our commanding officer – and his sergeant – takes off their shoes to soak their sore feet. We trade battle stories – and agree that it was probably the best battle ever.

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Man – did we have fun!

Life Styles of the Rich and Famous – the Princess of Thurn and Taxis for example


Regensburg, Germany is a relatively small – but historically important walled city in Germany. The old town dates back to the stone age – and for quite some time – it served as the capital of Bavaria. The ecclesiastical part of Charlemagne’s General Assembly was held here in 792. So this town is no sleeper!

We visited for 2 main reasons – one to visit the ‘Schloss’ or Palace of the Prince of Thurn and Taxis, and 2nd to see the stone bridge that part of Napoleon’s army (the 3me ligne) fought hard and long to win in 1809.

Seeing the bridge was easy. It’s just there. But seeing the Palace – naturally that required some planning ahead. Regine (one of our German friends who lives in Switzerland) made reservations for us weeks ago – and it was a good thing too – getting English tours is consistently challenging here in Germany.

Why did Regensburg rate having the Prince of Thurn and Taxis build a Palace? It turns out that from 1663 until 1806 – Regensburg was the permanent seat of the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire, which of course made it very important. That wasn’t enough – what got the Palace built was the relocation of the Reichpost to Regensburg in 1748 – and as the head of the Post – the Prince of Thurn and Taxis needed a new home. However – they didn’t take possession of this Palace until 1812, when secularization laws forced the Benedictine Order to give up possession of the Cloisters of St. Emmeram, and the property came into the ownership of the family of Thurn and Taxis.

According to our tour guide – the family of Thurn and Taxis rated the inherited title of Postmaster General because the idea of postal stations was their invention. The pony express concept – horses and riders waiting at stations along the route – so the mail never starts – was invented by this family between 1200 and 1400.

Don’t believe me – check it out at Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thurn_und_Taxis

With all the visitors coming and going – having a nice place to entertain was important. And so the Palace was built using part of the Monastery of St. Emmeram. It’s been maintained because the family still lives on the upper floors and is reported to be one of the wealthiest in Germany!

Their story doesn’t end badly – despite eventually losing all the lucrative postal business to the government starting in 1806 as Germany was increasingly centralized. They recovered part of the business for a while by creating a company (Thurn and Taxis Post) – but eventually the entire thing became a government monopoly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thurn-und-Taxis_Post

Because the Palace and the Monastery are in fact co-joined – a visit to the Palace includes a tour of the remaining portion of the Cloister – primarily the hall and the church. Outside of the Palace compound, but also part of the same complex is the Church of St. Emmeran – also worth visiting. It’s wooden painted ceiling is hundreds of years old. When we were there – they were setting up for a wedding – a combination of old and new – with music ranging from ‘You light up my Life’ to ‘Somewhere beyond the Sea’. Blue and White balloons contributed to the festive air!

If the Palace were just a museum – it would be interesting. But what make the Palace special, as I mentioned before, is that current Princess of Thurn and Taxis (Gloria) still lives in the Palace, along with her son and 2 daughters. She has her own line of jams, jellies, and wines – and has written (with maybe some help) several books on what it is like to be a member of royalty. She was quite young when she married the former prince – so it’s not a huge surprise that today she’s the regent for her son. If you check out her history – she had quite a wild youth (from a being a waitress in St. Moritz to becoming the wife of a hugely wealthy, much much older man has to have been a challenge), but when hit with inheritance taxes (by some reports – over $2 billion), she quickly settled down into a remarkable business woman. Check her out in detail at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria,_Princess_of_Thurn_and_Taxis

Until 1998 the family owned a brewery, and despite selling the ‘firm’ to the Paulaner Group, they still have their own brand – Thurn and Taxis of course.

They even have their own board game.

On the walls were several outstanding pieces of modern art – nestled along side century old tapestries, glorious inlaid tables, and magnificent ceiling paintings. My favorite painting is of one of Therese, wife of Karl Alexander, 5th Prince of Thurn and Taxis – painted in 1811 – and showing her sporting the new style of ‘undress’ or Regency Style clothing made famous by Josephine, wife of Napoleon!

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duchess_Therese_of_Mecklenburg-Strelitz

My favorite part of the house? The ballroom of course. Decorated extensively in high fashion Rocco gold and gilt – and fitted with electric lights (the family still lives here – remember) – you can easily envision elegantly clad men and women dancing the evening away.

Sigh