Katzbach in Silesia

Knopp, Hartmut. "Katzbach in Selesia." Mitteilungsblatt, September 2011, 22.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, and editorial assistance by Dr. Nancy A. Herzog, Boulder, CO

It is well known that the names of many villages in Bessarabia were derived from battle sites of the wars of freedom against Napoleon. Examples are: Arzis, Beresina, Borodino, Brienne, Leipzig, Teplitz, etc.

During our vacation in Silesia around Pentecost time of this year I had the opportunity to visit the battle site on the Katzbach [Creek], from which Katzbach in Bessarabia, the birthplace of my father, Siegfried Knopp, received its name.

After his failed Russian campaign of 1812, Napoleon succeeded once again in putting together another army, and in the spring of 1813 he engaged Austrian troops and inflicted heavy losses on them. During August, the French were putting together their new army in the Dresden area, and on August 28, 1813 they defeated the allied troops and forced them to retreat toward the Northeast. That same day a French army of 100,000 men under General MacDonald encountered an equally large Prussian-Russian army commanded by Generals Yorck and Langeron and under the overall command of General von Blücher.

Before this battle it had rained uninterruptedly for five days. This had caused all streams to swell and to soften the ground enough to make it very difficult for the troops to advance. During the decisive day of fighting the French units were first to go on the attack. They pushed the enemy back on both flanks. The fierce battle on the higher elevations of Jauer east of the Katzbach Creek and the raging Neisse River was finally decided when the Prussian cavalry under Blücher’s direct command attacked at the center and broke right through the surprised French. With the raging creeks at their back, retreat was impossible, and many soldiers drowned or were taken prisoner. General MacDonald, by now with only 12,000 men, was able to escape to the West via Görlitz.

As a consequence of this victory, the French troops were forced to retreat from Silesia, only to face a decisive battle in the Leipzig area in October 1813.               

Blücher named the battle just described for the small Katzbach River and in 1814 was awarded the title of Prince Blücher of Wahlstatt, after the nearby village of Wahlstatt near Liegnitz. The saying that today is not very well known but was popular in earlier times, “Der geht ran wie Blücher [He goes on the attack just like Blücher” had its origins in that particular Blücher victory.

A memorial that had been erected at the western edge of the Katzbach in1908 was heavily damaged during World War II. The community of Krotoszyce (its earlier German name having been Kroitsch) renovated the monument in 1996 and attached tablets with the following inscription in Polish, French and German:

Dedicated to those who died in the Battle on the Katzbach on August 26, 1813.
Renovated by the Krotoszyce Community in 1996.

[During the times of early Bessarabian settlement,] the Russian Settlers’ Authority, also called the Welfare Committee, handed out numerous names memorializing victorious battles of the so-called  Patriotic War against Napoleon—e.g., Katzbach, and until around 1850 it also designated its own, mostly religious names, such as Gnadental [Valley of Grace] or Hoffnungstal [Valley of Hope].
For me at least this was an impressive encounter with a site that constitutes a direct link with the Bessarabian Katzbach, the birthplace of my deceased father.


The Memorial after its 1996 Renovation.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller