matters stand?… You know, Count, there’ll be a battle tomorrow. Out of an army of a hundred thousand we must expect at least twenty thousand wounded, and we haven’t stretchers, or bunks, or dressers, or doctors enough for six thousand. We have ten thousand carts, but we need other things as well- we must manage as best we can!”
The strange thought that of the thousands of men, young and old, who had stared with merry surprise at his hat (perhaps the very men he had noticed), twenty thousand were inevitably doomed to wounds and death amazed Pierre.
“They may die tomorrow; why are they thinking of anything but death?” And by some latent sequence of thought the descent of the Mozhaysk hill, the carts with the wounded, the ringing bells, the slanting rays of the sun, and the songs of the cavalrymen vividly recurred to his mind.
“The cavalry ride to battle and meet the wounded and do not for a moment think of what awaits them, but pass by, winking at the wounded. Yet from among these men twenty thousand are doomed to die, and they wonder at my hat! Strange!” thought Pierre, continuing his way to Tatarinova.
In front of a landowner’s house to the left of the road stood carriages, wagons, and crowds of orderlies and sentinels. The commander in chief was putting up there, but just when Pierre arrived he was not in and hardly any of the staff were there- they had gone to the church service. Pierre drove on toward Gorki.
When he had ascended the hill and reached the little village street, he saw for the first time peasant militiamen in their white shirts and with crosses on their caps, who, talking and laughing loudly, animated and perspiring, were at work on a huge knoll overgrown with grass to the right of the road.
Some of them were digging, others were wheeling barrowloads of earth along planks, while others stood about doing nothing.
Two officers were standing on the knoll, directing the men. On seeing these peasants, who were evidently still amused by the novelty of their position as soldiers, Pierre once more thought of the wounded men at Mozhaysk and understood what the soldier had meant when he said: “They want the whole nation to fall on them.” The sight of these bearded peasants at work on the battlefield, with their queer, clumsy boots and perspiring necks, and their shirts opening from the left toward the middle, unfastened, exposing their sunburned collarbones, impressed Pierre more strongly with the solemnity and importance of the moment than anything he had yet seen or heard.
Pierre stepped out of his carriage and, passing the toiling militiamen, ascended the knoll from which, according to the doctor, the battlefield could be seen.
It was about eleven o’clock. The sun shone somewhat to the left and behind him and brightly lit up the enormous panorama which, rising like an amphitheater, extended before him in the clear rarefied atmosphere.
From above on the left, bisecting that amphitheater, wound the Smolensk highroad, passing through a village with a white church some five hundred paces in front of the knoll and below it. This was Borodino. Below the village the road crossed the river by a bridge and, winding down and up, rose higher and higher to the village of Valuevo visible about four miles away, where Napoleon was then stationed. Beyond Valuevo the road disappeared into a yellowing forest on the horizon. Far in the distance in that birch and fir forest to the right of the road, the cross and belfry of the Kolocha Monastery gleamed in the sun. Here and there over the whole of that blue expanse, to right and left of the forest and the road, smoking campfires could be seen and indefinite masses of troops- ours and the enemy’s. The ground to the right- along the course of the Kolocha and Moskva rivers- was broken and hilly. Between the hollows the villages of Bezubova and Zakharino showed in the distance. On the left the ground was more level; there were fields of grain, and the smoking ruins of Semenovsk, which had been burned down, could be seen.
All that Pierre saw was so indefinite that neither the left nor the right side of the field fully satisfied his expectations. Nowhere could he see the battlefield he had expected to find, but only fields, meadows, troops, woods, the smoke of campfires, villages, mounds, and streams; and try as he would he could descry no military “position” in this place which teemed with life, nor could he even distinguish our troops from the enemy’s.
“I must ask someone who knows,” he thought, and addressed an officer who was looking with curiosity at his huge unmilitary figure.
“May I ask you,” said Pierre, “what village that is in front?”
“Burdino, isn’t it?” said the officer, turning to his companion.
“Borodino,” the other corrected him.
The officer, evidently glad of an opportunity for a talk, moved up to Pierre.
“Are those our men there?” Pierre inquired.
“Yes, and there, further on, are the French,” said the officer. “There they are, there… you can see them.”
“Where? Where?” asked Pierre.
“One can see them with the naked eye… Why, there!”
The officer pointed with his hand to the smoke visible on the left beyond the river, and the same stern and serious expression that Pierre had noticed on many of the faces he had met came into his face.
“Ah, those are the French! And over there?…” Pierre pointed to a knoll on the left, near which some troops could be seen.
“Those are ours.”
“Ah, ours! And there?…” Pierre pointed to another knoll in the distance with a big tree on it, near a village that lay in a hollow where also some campfires were smoking and something black was visible.
“That’s his again,” said the officer. (It was the Shevardino Redoubt.) “It was ours yesterday, but now it is his.”
“Then how about our position?”
“Our position?” replied the officer with a smile of satisfaction. “I can tell you quite clearly, because I constructed nearly all our entrenchments. There, you see? There’s our center, at Borodino, just there,” and he pointed to the village in front of them with the white church. “That’s where one crosses the Kolocha. You see down there where the rows of hay are lying in the hollow, there’s the bridge. That’s our center. Our right flank is over there”- he pointed sharply to the right, far away in the broken ground- “That’s where the Moskva River is, and we have thrown up three redoubts there, very strong ones. The left flank…” here the officer paused. “Well, you see, that’s difficult to explain…. Yesterday our left flank was there at Shevardino, you see, where the oak is, but now we have withdrawn our left wing- now it is over there, do you see that village and the smoke? That’s Semenovsk, yes, there,” he pointed to Raevski’s knoll. “But the battle will hardly be there. His having moved his troops there is only a ruse; he will probably pass round to the right of the Moskva. But wherever it may be, many a man will be missing tomorrow!” he remarked.
An elderly sergeant who had approached the officer while he was giving these explanations had waited in silence for him to finish speaking, but at this point, evidently not liking the officer’s remark, interrupted him.
“Gabions must be sent for,” said he sternly.
The officer appeared abashed, as though he understood that one might think of how many men would be missing tomorrow but ought not to speak to speak of it.
“Well, send number three company again,” the officer replied hurriedly.
“And you, are you one of the doctors?”
“No, I’ve come on my own,” answered Pierre, and he went down the hill again, passing the militiamen.
“Oh, those damned fellows!” muttered the officer who followed him, holding his nose as he ran past the men at work.
“There they are… bringing her, coming… There they are… They’ll be here in a minute…” voices were suddenly heard saying; and officers, soldiers, and militiamen began running forward along the road.
A church procession was coming up the hill from Borodino. First along the dusty road came the infantry in ranks, bareheaded and with arms reversed. From behind them came the sound of church singing.
Soldiers and militiamen ran bareheaded past Pierre toward the procession.
“They are bringing her, our Protectress!… The Iberian Mother of God!” someone cried.
“The Smolensk Mother of God,” another corrected him.
The militiamen, both those who had been in the village and those who had been at work on the battery, threw down their spades and ran to meet the church procession. Following the battalion that marched along the dusty road came priests in their vestments- one little old man in a hood with attendants and singers. Behind them soldiers and officers bore a large, dark-faced icon with an embossed metal cover. This was the icon that had been brought from and had since accompanied the army. Behind, before, and on both sides, crowds of militiamen with bared heads walked, ran, and bowed to the ground.
At the summit of the hill they stopped with the icon; the men who had been holding it up by the linen bands attached to it were relieved by others, the chanters relit their censers, and service began. The hot rays of the sun beat down vertically and a fresh soft wind played with the hair of the bared heads and with the ribbons decorating the icon. The singing did not sound loud under the open sky. An immense crowd of bareheaded officers, soldiers, and militiamen surrounded the icon. Behind the priest and a chanter stood the notabilities on a spot reserved for them. A bald general with general with a St. George’s Cross on his neck stood just behind the priest’s back, and without crossing himself (he was evidently a German) patiently awaited the end of the service, which he considered it necessary to hear to the end, probably to arouse the patriotism of the Russian people. Another general stood in a martial pose, crossing himself by shaking his hand in front of his chest while looking about him. Standing among the crowd of peasants, Pierre recognized several acquaintances among these notables, but did not look at them- his whole attention was absorbed in watching the serious expression on the faces of the crowd of soldiers and militiamen who were all gazing eagerly at the icon. As soon as the tired chanters, who were singing the service for the twentieth time that day, began lazily and mechanically to sing: “Save from calamity Thy servants, O Mother of God,” and the priest and deacon chimed in: “For to Thee under God we all flee as to an inviolable bulwark and protection,” there again kindled in all those faces the same expression of consciousness of the solemnity of the impending moment that Pierre had seen on the faces at the foot of the hill at Mozhaysk and momentarily on many and many faces he had met that morning; and heads were bowed more frequently and hair tossed back, and sighs and the sound men made as they crossed themselves were heard.
The crowd round the icon suddenly parted and pressed against Pierre. Someone, a very important personage judging by the haste with which way was made for him, was approaching the icon.
It was Kutuzov, who had been riding round the position and on his way back to Tatarinova had stopped where the service was being held. Pierre recognized him at once by his peculiar figure, which distinguished him from everybody else.
With a long overcoat on his his exceedingly stout, round-shouldered body, with uncovered white head and puffy face showing the white ball of the eye he had lost, Kutuzov walked with plunging, swaying gait into the crowd and stopped behind the priest. He crossed himself with an accustomed movement, bent till he touched the ground with his hand, and bowed his white head with a deep sigh. Behind Kutuzov was Bennigsen and the suite. Despite the presence of the commander in chief, who attracted the attention of all the superior officers, the militiamen and soldiers continued their prayers without looking at him.
When the service was over, Kutuzov stepped up to the icon, sank heavily to his knees, bowed to the ground, and for a long time tried vainly to rise, but could not do so on account of his weakness and weight. His white head twitched with the effort. At last he rose, kissed the icon as a child does with naively pouting lips, and again bowed till he touched the ground with his hand. The other generals followed his example, then the officers, and after them with excited faces, pressing on one another, crowding, panting, and pushing, scrambled the soldiers and militiamen.
Staggering amid the crush, Pierre looked about him.
“Count Peter Kirilovich! How did you get here?” said a voice.
Pierre looked round. Boris Drubetskoy, brushing his knees with his hand (he had probably soiled them when he, too, had knelt before the icon), came up to him smiling. Boris was elegantly dressed, with a slightly martial touch appropriate to a campaign. He wore a long coat and like Kutuzov had a whip slung across his shoulder.
Meanwhile Kutuzov had reached the village and seated himself in the shade of the nearest house, on a bench which one Cossack had run to fetch and another had hastily covered with a rug. An immense and brilliant suite surrounded him.
The icon was carried further, accompanied by the throng. Pierre stopped some thirty paces from Kutuzov, talking to Boris.
He explained his wish to be present at the battle and to see the position.
“This is what you must do,” said Boris. “I will do the honors of the camp to you. You will see everything best from where Count Bennigsen will be. I am in attendance on him, you know; I’ll mention it to him. But if you want to ride round the position, come along with us. We are just going to the left flank. Then when we get back, do spend the night with me and we’ll arrange a game of cards. Of course you know Dmitri Sergeevich? Those are his quarters,” and he pointed to the third house in the village of Gorki.
“But I should like to see the right flank. They say it’s very strong,” said Pierre. “I should like to start from the Moskva River and ride round the whole position.”
“Well, you can do that later, but the chief thing is the left flank.”
“Yes, yes. But where is Prince Bolkonski’s regiment? Can you point it out to me?”
“Prince Andrew’s? We shall pass it and I’ll take you to him.”
What about the left flank?” asked Pierre
“To tell you the truth, between ourselves, God only knows what state our left flank is in,” said Boris confidentially lowering his voice. “It is not at all what Count Bennigsen intended. He meant to fortify that knoll quite differently, but…” Boris shrugged his shoulders, “his Serene Highness would not have it, or someone persuaded him. You see…” but Boris did not finish, for at that moment Kaysarov, Kutuzov’s adjutant, came up to Pierre. “Ah, Kaysarov!” said Boris, addressing him with an unembarrassed smile, “I was just trying to explain our position to the count. It is amazing how his Serene Highness could so the intentions of the French!”
“You mean the left flank?” asked Kaysarov.
“Yes, exactly; the left flank is now extremely strong.”
Though Kutuzov had dismissed all unnecessary men from the staff, Boris had contrived to remain at headquarters after the changes. He had established himself with Count Bennigsen, who, like all on whom Boris had been in attendance, considered young Prince Drubetskoy an invaluable man.
In the higher command there were two sharply defined parties: Kutuzov’s party and that of Bennigsen, the chief of staff. Boris belonged to the latter and no one else, while showing servile respect to Kutuzov, could so create an impression that the old fellow was not much good and that Bennigsen managed everything. Now the decisive moment of battle had come when Kutuzov would be destroyed and the power pass to Bennigsen, or even if Kutuzov won the battle it would be felt that everything was done by Bennigsen. In any case many great rewards would have to be given for tomorrow’s action, and new men would come to the front. So Boris was full of nervous vivacity all day.
After Kaysarov, others whom Pierre knew came up to him, and he had not time to reply to all the questions about Moscow that were showered upon him, or to listen to all that was told him. The faces all expressed animation and apprehension, but it seemed to Pierre that the cause of the excitement shown in some of these faces lay chiefly in questions of personal success; his mind, however, was occupied by the different expression he saw on other faces- an expression that spoke not of personal matters but of the universal questions of life and death. Kutuzov noticed Pierre’s figure and the group gathered round him.
“Call him to me,” said Kutuzov.
An adjutant told Pierre of his Serene Highness’ wish, and Pierre went toward Kutuzov’s bench. But a militiaman got there before him. It was Dolokhov.
“How did that fellow get here?” asked Pierre.
“He’s a creature that wriggles in anywhere!” was the answer. “He has been degraded, you know. Now he wants to bob up again. He’s been proposing some scheme or other and has crawled into the enemy’s picket line at night…. He’s a brave fellow.”
Pierre took off his hat and bowed respectfully to Kutuzov.
“I concluded that if I reported to your Serene Highness you might send me away or say that you knew what I was reporting, but then I shouldn’t lose anything…” Dolokhov was saying.
“But if I were right, I should be rendering a service to my Fatherland for which I am ready to die.”
“And should your Serene Highness require a man who will not spare his skin, please think of me…. Perhaps I may prove useful to your Serene Highness.”
“Yes… Yes…” Kutuzov repeated, his laughing eye narrowing more and more as he looked at Pierre.
Just then Boris, with his courtierlike adroitness, stepped up to Pierre’s side near Kutuzov and in a most natural manner, without raising his voice, said to Pierre, as though continuing an interrupted conversation:
“The militia have put on clean white shirts to be ready to die. What heroism, Count!”
Boris evidently said this to Pierre in order to be overheard by his Serene Highness. He knew Kutuzov’s attention would be caught by those words, and so it was.
“What are you saying about the militia?” he asked Boris.
“Preparing for tomorrow, your Serene Highness- for death- they have put on clean shirts.”
“Ah… a wonderful, a matchless people!” said Kutuzov; and he closed his eyes and swayed his head. “A matchless people!” he repeated with a sigh.
“So you want to smell gunpowder?” he said to Pierre. “Yes, it’s a pleasant smell. I have the honor to be one of your wife’s adorers. Is she well? My quarters are at your service.”
And as often happens with old people, Kutuzov began looking about absent-mindedly as if forgetting all he wanted to say or do.
Then, evidently remembering what he wanted, he beckoned to Andrew Kaysarov, his adjutant’s brother.
“Those verses… those verses of Marin’s… how do they go, eh? Those he wrote about Gerakov: ‘Lectures for the corps inditing’… Recite them, recite them!” said he, evidently preparing to laugh.
Kaysarov recited…. Kutuzov smilingly nodded his head to the rhythm of the verses.
When Pierre had left Kutuzov, Dolokhov came up to him and took his hand.
“I am very glad to meet you here, Count,” he said aloud, regardless of the presence of strangers and in a particularly resolute and solemn tone. “On the eve of a day when God alone knows who of us is fated to survive, I am glad of this opportunity to tell you that I regret the misunderstandings that occurred between us and should wish you not to have any ill feeling for me. I beg you to forgive me.”
Pierre looked at Dolokhov with a smile, not knowing what to say to him. With tears in his eyes Dolokhov embraced Pierre and kissed him.
Boris said a few words to his general, and Count Bennigsen turned to Pierre and proposed that he should ride with him along the line.
“It will interest you,” said he.
“Yes, very much,” replied Pierre.
Half an hour later Kutuzov left for Tatarinova, and Bennigsen and his suite, with Pierre among them, set out on their ride along the line.
From Gorki, Bennigsen descended the highroad to the bridge which, when they had looked it from the hill, the officer had pointed out as being the center of our position and where rows of fragrant new-mown hay lay by the riverside. They rode across that bridge into the village of Borodino and thence turned to the left, passing an enormous number of troops and guns, and came to a high knoll where militiamen were digging. This was the redoubt, as yet unnamed, which afterwards became known as the Raevski Redoubt, or the Knoll Battery, but Pierre paid no special attention to it. He did not know that it would become more memorable to him than any other spot on the plain of Borodino.
They then crossed the hollow to Semenovsk, where the soldiers were dragging away the last logs from the huts and barns. Then they rode downhill and uphill, across a ryefield trodden and beaten down as if by hail, following a track freshly made by the artillery over the furrows of the plowed land, and reached some fleches* which were still being dug.
*A kind of entrenchment.
At the fleches Bennigsen stopped and began looking at the Shevardino Redoubt opposite, which had been ours the day before and where several horsemen could be descried. The officers said that either Napoleon or Murat was there, and they all gazed eagerly at this little group of horsemen. Pierre also looked at them, trying to guess which of the scarcely discernible figures was Napoleon. At last those mounted men rode away from the mound and disappeared.
Bennigsen spoke to a general who approached him, and began explaining the whole position of our troops. Pierre listened to him, straining each faculty to understand the essential points of the impending battle, but was mortified to feel that his mental capacity was inadequate for the task. He could make nothing of it. Bennigsen stopped speaking and, noticing that Pierre was listening, suddenly said to him:
“I don’t think this interests you?”
“On the contrary it’s very interesting!” replied Pierre not quite truthfully.
From the fleches they rode still farther to the left, along a road winding through a thick, low-growing birch wood. In the middle of the wood a brown hare with white feet sprang out and, scared by the tramp of the many horses, grew so confused that it leaped along the road in front of them for some time, arousing general attention and laughter, and only when several voices shouted at it did it dart to one side and disappear in the thicket. After going through the wood for about a mile and a half they came out on a glade where troops of Tuchkov’s corps were stationed to defend the left flank.
Here, at the extreme left flank, Bennigsen talked a great deal and with much heat, and, as it seemed to Pierre, gave orders of great military importance. In front of Tuchkov’s troops was some high ground not occupied by troops. Bennigsen loudly criticized this mistake, saying that it was madness to leave a height which commanded the country around unoccupied and to place troops below it. Some of the generals expressed the same opinion. One in particular declared with martial heat that they were put there to be slaughtered. Bennigsen on his own authority ordered the troops to occupy the high ground. This disposition on the left flank increased Pierre’s doubt of his own capacity to understand military matters. Listening to Bennigsen and the generals criticizing the position of the troops behind the hill, he quite understood them and shared their opinion, but for that very reason he could not understand how the man who put them there behind the hill could have made so gross and palpable a blunder.
Pierre did not know that these troops were not, as Bennigsen supposed, put there to defend the position, but were in a concealed position as an ambush, that they should not be seen and might be able to strike an approaching enemy unexpectedly. Bennigsen did not know this and moved the troops forward according to his own ideas without mentioning the matter to the commander in chief.
On that bright evening of August 25, Prince Andrew lay leaning on his elbow in a broken-down shed in the village of Knyazkovo at the further end of his regiment’s encampment. Through a gap in the broken wall he could see, beside the wooden fence, a row of thirty year-old birches with their lower branches lopped off, a field on which shocks of oats were standing, and some bushes near which rose the smoke of campfires- the soldiers’ kitchens.
Narrow and burdensome and useless to anyone as his life now seemed to him, Prince Andrew on the eve of battle felt agitated and irritable as he had done seven years before at Austerlitz.
He had received and given the orders for next day’s battle and had nothing more to do. But his thoughts- the simplest, clearest, and therefore most terrible thoughts- would give him no peace. He knew that tomorrow’s battle would be the most terrible of all he had taken part in, and for the first time in his life the possibility of death presented itself to him- not in relation to any worldly matter or with reference to its effect on others, but simply in relation to himself, to his own soul- vividly, plainly, terribly, and almost as a certainty. And from the height of this perception all that had previously tormented and preoccupied him suddenly became illumined by a cold white light without shadows, without perspective, without distinction of outline. All life appeared to him like magic-lantern pictures at which he had long been gazing by artificial light through a glass. Now he suddenly saw those badly daubed pictures in clear daylight and without a glass. “Yes, yes! There they are, those false images that agitated, enraptured, and tormented me,” said he to himself, passing in review the principal pictures of the magic lantern of life and regarding them now in the cold white daylight of his clear perception of death. “There they are, those rudely painted figures that once seemed splendid and mysterious. Glory, the good of society, love of a woman, the Fatherland itself- how important these pictures appeared to me, with what profound meaning they seemed to be filled! And it is all so simple, pale, and crude in the cold white light of this morning which I feel is dawning for me.” The three great sorrows of his life held his attention in particular: his love for a woman, his father’s death, and the French invasion which had overrun half Russia. “Love… that little girl who seemed to me brimming over with mystic forces! Yes, indeed, I loved her. I made romantic plans of love and happiness with her! Oh, what a boy I was!” he said aloud bitterly. “Ah me! I believed in some ideal love which was to keep her faithful to me for the whole year of my absence! Like the gentle dove in the fable she was to pine apart from me…. But it was much simpler really…. It was all very simple and horrible.”
“When my father built Bald Hills he thought the place was his: his land, his air, his peasants. But Napoleon came and swept him aside, unconscious of his existence, as he might brush a chip from his path, and his Bald Hills and his whole life fell to pieces. Princess Mary says it is a trial sent from above. What is the trial for, when he is not here and will never return? He is not here! For whom then is the trial intended? The Fatherland, the destruction of Moscow! And tomorrow I shall be killed, perhaps not even by a Frenchman but by one of our own men, by a soldier discharging a musket close to my ear as one of them did yesterday, and the French will come and take me by head and heels and fling me into a hole that I may not stink under their noses, and new conditions of life will arise, which will seem quite ordinary to others and about which I shall know nothing. I shall not exist…”
He looked at the row of birches shining in the sunshine, with their motionless green and yellow foliage and white bark. “To die… to be killed tomorrow… That I should not exist… That all this should still be, but no me….”
And the birches with their light and shade, the curly clouds, the smoke of the campfires, and all that was around him changed and seemed terrible and menacing. A cold shiver ran down his spine. He rose quickly, went out of the shed, and began to walk about.
After he had returned, voices were heard outside the shed. “Who’s that?” he cried.
The red-nosed Captain Timokhin, formerly Dolokhov’s squadron commander, but now from lack of officers a battalion commander, shyly entered the shed followed by an adjutant and the regimental paymaster.
Prince Andrew rose hastily, listened to the business they had come about, gave them some further instructions, and was about to dismiss them when he heard a familiar, lisping, voice behind the shed.
“Devil take it!” said the voice of a man stumbling over something.
Prince Andrew looked out of the shed and saw Pierre, who had tripped over a pole on the ground and had nearly fallen, coming his way. It was unpleasant to Prince Andrew to meet people of his own set in general, and Pierre especially, for he reminded him of all the painful moments of his last visit to Moscow.
“You? What a surprise!” said he. “What brings you here? This is unexpected!”
As he said this his eyes and face expressed more than coldness- they expressed hostility, which Pierre noticed at once. He had approached the shed full of animation, but on seeing Prince Andrew’s face he felt constrained and ill at ease.
“I have come… simply… you know… come… it interests me,” said Pierre, who had so often that day senselessly repeated that word “interesting.” “I wish to see the battle.”
“Oh yes, and what do the Masonic brothers say about war? How would they stop it?” said Prince Andrew sarcastically. “Well, and how’s Moscow? And my people? Have they reached Moscow at last?” he asked seriously.
“Yes, they have. Julie Drubetskaya told me so. I went to see them, but missed them. They have gone to your estate near Moscow.”
The officers were about to take leave, but Prince Andrew, apparently reluctant to be left alone with his friend, asked them to stay and have tea. Seats were brought in and so was the tea. The officers gazed with surprise at Pierre’s huge stout figure and listened to his talk of Moscow and the position of our army, round which he had ridden. Prince Andrew remained silent, and his expression was so forbidding that Pierre addressed his remarks chiefly to the good-natured battalion commander.
“So you understand the whole position of our troops?” Prince Andrew interrupted him.
“Yes- that is, how do you mean?” said Pierre. “Not being a military man I can’t say I have understood it fully, but I understand the general position.”
“Well, then, you know more than anyone else, be it who it may,” said Prince Andrew.
“Oh!” said Pierre, looking over his spectacles in perplexity at Prince Andrew. “Well, and what do think of Kutuzov’s appointment?” he asked.
“I was very glad of his appointment, that’s all I know,” replied Prince Andrew.
“And tell me your opinion of Barclay de Tolly. In Moscow they are saying heaven knows what about him…. What do you think of him?”
“Ask them,” replied Prince Andrew, indicating the officers.
Pierre looked at Timokhin with the condescendingly interrogative smile with which everybody involuntarily addressed that officer.
“We see light again, since his Serenity has been appointed, your excellency,” said Timokhin timidly, and continually turning to glance at his colonel.
“Why so?” asked Pierre.
“Well, to mention only firewood and fodder, let me inform you. Why, when we were retreating from Sventsyani we dare not touch a stick or a wisp of hay or anything. You see, we were going away, so he would get it all; wasn’t it so, your excellency?” and again Timokhin turned to the prince. “But we daren’t. In our regiment two officers were court-martialed for that kind of thing. But when his Serenity took command everything became straight forward. Now we see light…”
“Then why was it forbidden?”
Timokhin looked about in confusion, not knowing what or how to answer such a question. Pierre put the same question to Prince Andrew.
“Why, so as not to lay waste the country we were abandoning to the enemy,” said Prince Andrew with venomous irony. “It is very sound: one can’t permit the land to be pillaged and accustom the troops to marauding. At Smolensk too he judged correctly that the French might outflank us, as they had larger forces. But he could not understand this,” cried Prince Andrew in a shrill voice that seemed to escape him involuntarily: “he could not understand that there, for the first time, we were fighting for Russian soil, and that there was a spirit in the men such as I had never seen before, that we had held the French for two days, and that that success had increased our strength tenfold. He ordered us to retreat, and all our efforts and losses went for nothing. He had no thought of betraying us, he tried to do the best he could, he thought out everything, and that is why he is unsuitable. He is unsuitable now, just because he plans out everything very thoroughly and accurately as every German has to. How can I explain?… Well, say your father has a German valet, and he is a splendid valet and satisfies your father’s requirements better than you could, then it’s all right to let him serve. But if your father is mortally sick you’ll send the valet away and attend to your father with your own unpracticed, awkward hands, and will soothe him better than a skilled man who is a stranger could. So it has been with Barclay. While Russia was well, a foreigner could serve her and be a splendid minister; but as soon as she is in danger she needs one of her own kin. But in your Club they have been making him out a traitor! They slander him as a traitor, and the only result will be that afterwards, ashamed of their false accusations, they will make him out a hero or a genius instead of a traitor, and that will be still more unjust. He is an honest and very punctilious German.”
“And they say he’s a skillful commander,” rejoined Pierre.
“I don’t understand what is meant by ‘a skillful commander,'” replied Prince Andrew ironically.
“A skillful commander?” replied Pierre. “Why, one who foresees all contingencies… and foresees the adversary’s intentions.”
“But that’s impossible,” said Prince Andrew as if it were a matter settled long ago.
Pierre looked at him in surprise.
“And yet they say that war is like a game of chess?” he remarked.
“Yes,” replied Prince Andrew, “but with this little difference, that in chess you may think over each move as long as you please and are not limited for time, and with this difference too, that a knight is always stronger than a pawn, and two pawns are always stronger than one, while in war a battalion is sometimes stronger than a division and sometimes weaker than a company. The relative strength of bodies of troops can never be known to anyone. Believe me,” he went on, “if things depended on arrangements made by the staff, I should be there making arrangements, but instead of that I have the honor to serve here in the regiment with these gentlemen, and I consider that on us tomorrow’s battle will depend and not on those others…. Success never depends, and never will depend, on position, or equipment, or even on numbers, and least of all on position.”
“But on what then?”
“On the feeling that is in me and in him,” he pointed to Timokhin, “and in each soldier.”
Prince Andrew glanced at Timokhin, who looked at his commander in alarm and bewilderment. In contrast to his former reticent taciturnity Prince Andrew now seemed excited. He could apparently not refrain from expressing the thoughts that had suddenly occurred to him.
“A battle is won by those who firmly resolve to win it! Why did we lose the battle at Austerlitz? The French losses were almost equal to ours, but very early we said to ourselves that we were losing the battle, and we did lose it. And we said so because we had nothing to fight for there, we wanted to get away from the battlefield as soon as we could. ‘We’ve lost, so let us run,’ and we ran. If we had not said that till the evening, heaven knows what might not have happened. But tomorrow we shan’t say it! You talk about our position, the left flank weak and the right flank too extended,” he went on. “That’s all nonsense, there’s nothing of the kind. But what awaits us tomorrow? A hundred million most diverse chances which will be decided on the instant by the fact that our men or theirs run or do not run, and that this man or that man is killed, but all that is being done at present is only play. The fact is that those men with whom you have ridden round the position not only do not help matters, but hinder. They are only concerned with their own petty interests.”
“At such a moment?” said Pierre reproachfully.
“At such a moment!” Prince Andrew repeated. “To them it is only a moment affording opportunities to undermine a rival and obtain an extra cross or ribbon. For me tomorrow means this: a Russian army of a hundred thousand and a French army of a hundred thousand have met to fight, and the thing is that these two hundred thousand men will fight and the side that fights more fiercely and spares itself least will win. And if you like I will tell you that whatever happens and whatever muddles those at the top may make, we shall win tomorrow’s battle. Tomorrow, happen what may, we shall win!”
“There now, your excellency! That’s the truth, the real truth,” said Timokhin. “Who would spare himself now? The soldiers in my battalion, believe me, wouldn’t drink their vodka! ‘It’s not the day for that!’ they say.”
All were silent. The officers rose. Prince Andrew went out of the shed with them, giving final orders to the adjutant. After they had gone Pierre approached Prince Andrew and was about to start a conversation when they heard the clatter of three horses’ hoofs on the road not far from the shed, and looking in that direction Prince Andrew recognized Wolzogen and Clausewitz accompanied by a Cossack. They rode close by continuing to converse, and Prince Andrew involuntarily heard these words:
“Der Krieg muss in Raum verlegt werden. Der Ansicht kann ich nicht genug Preis geben,”* said one of them.
*”The war must be extended widely. I cannot sufficiently commend that view.”
“Oh, ja,” said the other, “der Zweck ist nur den Feind zu schwachen, so kann man gewiss nicht den Verlust der Privat-Personen in Achtung nehmen.”*
*”Oh, yes, the only aim is to weaken the enemy, so of course one cannot take into account the loss of private individuals.”
“Oh, no,” agreed the other.
“Extend widely!” said Prince Andrew with an angry snort, when they had ridden past. “In that ‘extend’ were my father, son, and sister, at Bald Hills. That’s all the same to him! That’s what I was saying to you- those German gentlemen won’t win the battle tomorrow but will only make all the mess they can, because they have nothing in their German heads but theories not worth an empty eggshell and haven’t in their hearts the one thing needed tomorrow- that which Timokhin has. They have yielded up all Europe to him, and have now come to teach us. Fine teachers!” and again his voice grew shrill.
“So you think we shall win tomorrow’s battle?” asked Pierre.
“Yes, yes,” answered Prince Andrew absently. “One thing I would do if I had the power,” he began again, “I would not take prisoners. Why take prisoners? It’s chivalry! The French have destroyed my home and are on their way to destroy Moscow, they have outraged and are outraging me every moment. They are my enemies. In my opinion they are all criminals. And so thinks Timokhin and the whole army. They should be executed! Since they are my foes they cannot be my friends, whatever may have been said at Tilsit.”
“Yes, yes,” muttered Pierre, looking with shining eyes at Prince Andrew. “I quite agree with you!”
The question that had perturbed Pierre on the Mozhaysk hill and all that day now seemed to him quite clear and completely solved. He now understood the whole meaning and importance of this war and of the impending battle. All he had seen that day, all the significant and stern expressions on the faces he had seen in passing, were lit up for him by a new light. He understood that latent heat (as they say in physics) of patriotism which was present in all these men he had seen, and this explained to him why they all prepared for death calmly, and as it were lightheartedly.
“Not take prisoners,” Prince Andrew continued: “That by itself would quite change the whole war and make it less cruel. As it is we have played at war- that’s what’s vile! We play at magnanimity and all that stuff. Such magnanimity and sensibility are like the magnanimity and sensibility of a lady who faints when she sees a calf being killed: she is so kind-hearted that she can’t look at blood, but enjoys eating the calf served up with sauce. They talk to us of the rules of war, of chivalry, of flags of truce, of mercy to the unfortunate and so on. It’s all rubbish! I saw chivalry and flags of truce in 1805; they humbugged us and we humbugged them. They plunder other people’s houses, issue false paper money, and worst of all they kill my children and my father, and then talk of rules of war and magnanimity to foes! Take no prisoners, but kill and be killed! He who has come to this as I have through the same sufferings…”
Prince Andrew, who had thought it was all the same to him whether or not Moscow was taken as Smolensk had been, was suddenly checked in his speech by an unexpected cramp in his throat. He paced up and down a few times in silence, but his eyes glittered feverishly and his lips quivered as he began speaking.
“If there was none of this magnanimity in war, we should go to war only when it was worth while going to certain death, as now. Then there would not be war because Paul Ivanovich had offended Michael Ivanovich. And when there was a war, like this one, it would be war! And then the determination of the troops would be quite different. Then all these Westphalians and Hessians whom Napoleon is leading would not follow him into Russia, and we should not go to fight in Austria and Prussia without knowing why. War is not courtesy but the most horrible thing in life; and we ought to understand that and not play at war. We ought to accept this terrible necessity sternly and seriously. It all lies in that: get rid of falsehood and let war be war and not a game. As it is now, war is the favorite pastime of the idle and frivolous. The military calling is the most highly honored.
“But what is war? What is needed for success in warfare? What are the habits of the military? The aim of war is murder; the methods of war are spying, treachery, and their encouragement, the ruin of a country’s inhabitants, robbing them or stealing to provision the army, and fraud and falsehood termed military craft. The habits of the military class are the absence of freedom, that is, discipline, idleness, ignorance, cruelty, debauchery, and drunkenness. And in spite of all this it is the highest class, respected by everyone. All the kings, except the Chinese, wear military uniforms, and he who kills most people receives the highest rewards.
“They meet, as we shall meet tomorrow, to murder one another; they kill and maim tens of thousands, and then have thanksgiving services for having killed so many people (they even exaggerate the number), and they announce a victory, supposing that the more people they have killed the greater their achievement. How does God above look at them and hear them?” exclaimed Prince Andrew in a shrill, piercing voice. “Ah, my friend, it has of late become hard for me to live. I see that I have begun to understand too much. And it doesn’t do for man to taste of the tree of knowledge of good and evil…. Ah, well, it’s not for long!” he added.
“However, you’re sleepy, and it’s time for me to sleep. Go back to Gorki!” said Prince Andrew suddenly.
“Oh no!” Pierre replied, looking at Prince Andrew with frightened, compassionate eyes.
“Go, go! Before a battle one must have one’s sleep out,” repeated Prince Andrew.
He came quickly up to Pierre and embraced and kissed him. “Good-by, be off!” he shouted. “Whether we meet again or not…” and turning away hurriedly he entered the shed.
It was already dark, and Pierre could not make out whether the expression of Prince Andrew’s face was angry or tender.
For some time he stood in silence considering whether he should follow him or go away. “No, he does not want it!” Pierre concluded. “And I know that this is our last meeting!” He sighed deeply and rode back to Gorki.
On re-entering the shed Prince Andrew lay down on a rug, but he could not sleep.
He closed his eyes. One picture succeeded another in his imagination. On one of them he dwelt long and joyfully. He vividly recalled an evening in Petersburg. Natasha with animated and excited face was telling him how she had gone to look for mushrooms the previous summer and had lost her way in the big forest. She incoherently described the depths of the forest, her feelings, and a talk with a beekeeper she met, and constantly interrupted her story to say: “No, I can’t! I’m not telling it right; no, you don’t understand,” though he encouraged her by saying that he did understand, and he really had understood all she wanted to say. But Natasha was not satisfied with her own words: she felt that they did not convey the passionately poetic feeling she had experienced that day and wished to convey. “He was such a delightful old man, and it was so dark in the forest… and he had such kind… No, I can’t describe it,” she had said, flushed and excited. Prince Andrew smiled now the same happy smile as then when he had looked into her eyes. “I understood her,” he thought. “I not only understood her, but it was just that inner, spiritual force, that sincerity, that frankness of soul- that very soul of hers which seemed to be fettered by her body- it was that soul I loved in her… loved so strongly and happily…” and suddenly he remembered how his love had ended. “He did not need anything of that kind. He neither saw nor understood anything of the sort. He only saw in her a pretty and fresh young girl, with whom he did not deign to unite his fate. And I?… and he is still alive and gay!”
Prince Andrew jumped up as if someone had burned him, and again began pacing up and down in front of the shed.
On August 25, the eve of the battle of Borodino, M. de Beausset, prefect of the French Emperor’s palace, arrived at Napoleon’s quarters at Valuevo with Colonel Fabvier, the former from Paris and the latter from Madrid.
Donning his court uniform, M. de Beausset ordered a box he had brought for the Emperor to be carried before him and entered the first compartment of Napoleon’s tent, where he began opening the box while conversing with Napoleon’s aides-de-camp who surrounded him.
Fabvier, not entering the tent, remained at the entrance talking to some generals of his acquaintance.
The Emperor Napoleon had not yet left his bedroom and was finishing his toilet. Slightly snorting and grunting, he presented now his back and now his plump hairy chest to the brush with which his valet was rubbing him down. Another valet, with his finger over the mouth of a bottle, was sprinkling Eau de Cologne on the Emperor’s pampered body with an expression which seemed to say that he alone knew where and how much Eau de Cologne should be sprinkled. Napoleon’s short hair was wet and matted on the forehead, but his face, though puffy and yellow, expressed physical satisfaction. “Go on, harder, go on!” he muttered to the valet who was rubbing him, slightly twitching and grunting. An aide-de-camp, who had entered the bedroom to report to the Emperor the number of prisoners taken in yesterday’s action, was standing by the door after delivering his message, awaiting permission to withdraw. Napoleon, frowning, looked at him from under his brows.
“No prisoners!” said he, repeating the aide-de-camp’s words. “They are forcing us to exterminate them. So much the worse for the Russian army…. Go on… harder, harder!” he muttered, hunching his back and presenting his fat shoulders.
“All right. Let Monsieur de Beausset enter, and Fabvier too,” he said, nodding to the aide-de-camp.
“Yes, sire,” and the aide-de-camp disappeared through the door of the tent.
Two valets rapidly dressed His Majesty, and wearing the blue uniform of the Guards he went with firm quick steps to the reception room.
De Beausset’s hands meanwhile were busily engaged arranging the present he had brought from the Empress, on two chairs directly in front of the entrance. But Napoleon had dressed and come out with such unexpected rapidity that he had not time to finish arranging the surprise.
Napoleon noticed at once what they were about and guessed that they were not ready. He did not wish to deprive them of the pleasure of giving him a surprise, so he pretended not to see de Beausset and called Fabvier to him, listening silently and with a stern frown to what Fabvier told him of the heroism and devotion of his troops fighting at Salamanca, at the other end of Europe, with but one thought- to be worthy of their Emperor- and but one fear- to fail to please him. The result of that battle had been deplorable. Napoleon made ironic remarks during Fabvier’s account, as if he had not expected that matters could go otherwise in his absence.
“I must make up for that in Moscow,” said Napoleon. “I’ll see you later,” he added, and summoned de Beausset, who by that time had prepared the surprise, having placed something on the chairs and covered it with a cloth.
De Beausset bowed low, with that courtly French bow which only the old retainers of the Bourbons knew how to make, and approached him, presenting an envelope.
Napoleon turned to him gaily and pulled his ear.
“You have hurried here. I am very glad. Well, what is Paris saying?” he asked, suddenly changing his former stern expression for a most cordial tone.
“Sire, all Paris regrets your absence,” replied de Beausset as was proper.
But though Napoleon knew that de Beausset had to say something of this kind, and though in his lucid moments he knew it was untrue, he was pleased to hear it from him. Again he honored him by touching his ear.
“I am very sorry to have made you travel so far,” said he.
“Sire, I expected nothing less than to find you at the gates of Moscow,” replied de Beausset.
Napoleon smiled and, lifting his head absentmindedly, glanced to the right. An aide-de-camp approached with gliding steps and offered him a gold snuffbox, which he took.
“Yes, it has happened luckily for you,” he said, raising the open snuffbox to his nose. “You are fond of travel, and in three days you will see Moscow. You surely did not expect to see that Asiatic capital. You will have a pleasant journey.”
De Beausset bowed gratefully at this regard for his taste for travel (of which he had not till then been aware).
“Ha, what’s this?” asked Napoleon, noticing that all the courtiers were looking at something concealed under a cloth.
With courtly adroitness de Beausset half turned and without turning his back to the Emperor retired two steps, twitching off the cloth at the same time, and said:
“A present to Your Majesty from the Empress.”
It was a portrait, painted in bright colors by Gerard, of the son borne to Napoleon by the daughter of the Emperor of Austria, the boy whom for some reason everyone called “The King of Rome.”
A very pretty curly-headed boy with a look of the Christ in the Sistine Madonna was depicted playing at stick and ball. The ball represented the terrestrial globe and the stick in his other hand a scepter.
Though it was not clear what the artist meant to express by depicting the so-called King of Rome spiking the earth with a stick, the allegory apparently seemed to Napoleon, as it had done to all who had seen it in Paris, quite clear and very pleasing.
“The King of Rome!” he said, pointing to the portrait with a graceful gesture. “Admirable!”
With the natural capacity of an Italian for changing the expression of his face at will, he drew nearer to the portrait and assumed a look of pensive tenderness. He felt that what he now said and did would be historical, and it seemed to him that it would now be best for him- whose grandeur enabled his son to play stick and ball with the terrestrial globe- to show, in contrast to that grandeur, the simplest paternal tenderness. His eyes grew dim, he moved forward, glanced round at a chair (which seemed to place itself under him), and sat down on it before the portrait. At a single gesture from him everyone went out on tiptoe, leaving the great man to himself and his emotion.
Having sat still for a while he touched- himself not knowing why- the thick spot of paint representing the highest light in the portrait, rose, and recalled de Beausset and the officer on duty. He ordered the portrait to be carried outside his tent, that the Old Guard, stationed round it, might not be deprived of the pleasure of seeing the King of Rome, the son and heir of their adored monarch.
And while he was doing M. de Beausset the honor of breakfasting with him, they heard, as Napoleon had anticipated, the rapturous cries of the officers and men of the Old Guard who had run up to see the portrait.
“Vive l’Empereur! Vive le roi de Rome! Vive l’Empereur!” came those ecstatic cries.
After breakfast Napoleon in de Beausset’s presence dictated his order of the day to the army.
“Short and energetic!” he remarked when he had read over the proclamation which he had dictated straight off without corrections. It ran:
Soldiers! This is the battle you have so longed for. Victory depends on you. It is essential for us; it will give us all we need: comfortable quarters and a speedy return to our country. Behave as you did at Austerlitz, Friedland, Vitebsk, and Smolensk. Let our remotest posterity recall your achievements this day with pride. Let it be said of each of you: “He was in the great battle before Moscow!”
“Before Moscow!” repeated Napoleon, and inviting M. de Beausset, who was so fond of travel, to accompany him on his ride, he went out of the tent to where the horses stood saddled.
“Your Majesty is too kind!” replied de Beausset to the invitation to accompany the Emperor; he wanted to sleep, did not know how to ride and was afraid of doing so.
But Napoleon nodded to the traveler, and de Beausset had to mount. When Napoleon came out of the tent the shouting of the Guards before his son’s portrait grew still louder. Napoleon frowned.
“Take him away!” he said, pointing with a gracefully majestic gesture to the portrait. “It is too soon for him to see a field of battle.”
De Beausset closed his eyes, bowed his head, and sighed deeply, to indicate how profoundly he valued and comprehended the Emperor’s words.
On the twenty-fifth of August, so his historians tell us, Napoleon spent the whole day on horseback inspecting the locality, considering plans submitted to him by his marshals, and personally giving commands to his generals.
The original line of the Russian forces along the river Kolocha had been dislocated by the capture of the Shevardino Redoubt on the twenty-fourth, and part of the line- the left flank- had been drawn back. That part of the line was not entrenched and in front of it the ground was more open and level than elsewhere. It was evident to anyone, military or not, that it was here the French should attack. It would seem that not much consideration was needed to reach this conclusion, nor any particular care or trouble on the part of the Emperor and his marshals, nor was there any need of that special and supreme quality called genius that people are so apt to ascribe to Napoleon; yet the historians who described the event later and the men who then surrounded Napoleon, and he himself, thought otherwise.
Napoleon rode over the plain and surveyed the locality with a profound air and in silence, nodded with approval or shook his head dubiously, and without communicating to the generals around him the profound course of ideas which guided his decisions merely gave them his final conclusions in the form of commands. Having listened to a suggestion from Davout, who was now called Prince d’Eckmuhl, to turn the Russian left wing, Napoleon said it should not be done, without explaining why not. To a proposal made by General Campan (who was to attack the fleches) to lead his division through the woods, Napoleon agreed, though the so-called Duke of Elchingen (Ney) ventured to remark that a movement through the woods was dangerous and might disorder the division.
Having inspected the country opposite the Shevardino Redoubt, Napoleon pondered a little in silence and then indicated the spots where two batteries should be set up by the morrow to act against the Russian entrenchments, and the places where, in line with them, the field artillery should be placed.
After giving these and other commands he returned to his tent, and the dispositions for the battle were written down from his dictation.
These dispositions, of which the French historians write with enthusiasm and other historians with profound respect, were as follows:
At dawn the two new batteries established during the night on the plain occupied by the Prince d’Eckmuhl will open fire on the opposing batteries of the enemy.
At the same time the commander of the artillery of the 1st Corps, General Pernetti, with thirty cannon of Campan’s division and all the howitzers of Dessaix’s and Friant’s divisions, will move forward, open fire, and overwhelm with shellfire the enemy’s battery, against which will operate:
24 guns of the artillery of the Guards 30 guns of Campan’s division
and 8 guns of Friant’s and Dessaix’s divisions —
in all 62 guns.
The commander of the artillery of the 3rd Corps, General Fouche, will place the howitzers of the 3rd and 8th Corps, sixteen in all, on the flanks of the battery that is to bombard the entrenchment on the left, which will have forty guns in all directed against it.
General Sorbier must be ready at the first order to advance with all the howitzers of the Guard’s artillery against either one or other of the entrenchments.
During the cannonade Prince Poniatowski is to advance through the wood on the village and turn the enemy’s position.
General Campan will move through the wood to seize the first fortification.
After the advance has begun in this manner, orders will be given in accordance with the enemy’s movements.
The cannonade on the left flank will begin as soon as the guns of the right wing are heard. The sharpshooters of Morand’s division and of the vice-King’s division will open a heavy fire on seeing the attack commence on the right wing.
The vice-King will occupy the village and cross by its three bridges, advancing to the same heights as Morand’s and Gibrard’s divisions, which under his leadership will be directed against the redoubt and come into line with the rest of the forces.
All this must be done in good order (le tout se fera avec ordre et methode) as far as possible retaining troops in reserve. The Imperial Camp near Mozhaysk,
September, 6, 1812.
These dispositions, which are very obscure and confused if one allows oneself to regard the arrangements without religious awe of his genius, related to Napoleon’s orders to deal with four points- four different orders. Not one of these was, or could be, carried out.
In the disposition it is said first that the batteries placed on the spot chosen by Napoleon, with the guns of Pernetti and Fouche; which were to come in line with them, 102 guns in all, were to open fire and shower shells on the Russian fleches and redoubts. This could not be done, as from the spots selected by Napoleon the projectiles did not carry to the Russian works, and those 102 guns shot into the air until the nearest commander, contrary to Napoleon’s instructions, moved them forward.
The second order was that Poniatowski, moving to the village through the wood, should turn the Russian left flank. This could not be done and was not done, because Poniatowski, advancing on the village through the wood, met Tuchkov there barring his way, and could not and did not turn the Russian position.
The third order was: General Campan will move through the wood to seize the first fortification. General Campan’s division did not seize the first fortification but was driven back, for on emerging from the wood it had to reform under grapeshot, of which Napoleon was unaware.
The fourth order was: The vice-King will occupy the village (Borodino) and cross by its three bridges, advancing to the same heights as Morand’s and Gdrard’s divisions (for whose movements no directions are given), which under his leadership will be directed against the redoubt and come into line with the rest of the forces.
As far as one can make out, not so much from this unintelligible sentence as from the attempts the vice-King made to execute the orders given him, he was to advance from the left through Borodino to the redoubt while the divisions of Morand and Gerard were to advance simultaneously from the front.
All this, like the other parts of the disposition, was not and could not be executed. After passing through Borodino the vice-King was driven back to the Kolocha and could get no farther; while the divisions of Morand and Gerard did not take the redoubt but were driven back, and the redoubt was only taken at the end of the battle by the cavalry (a thing probably unforeseen and not heard of by Napoleon). So not one of the orders in the disposition was, or could be, executed. But in the disposition it is said that, after the fight has commenced in this manner, orders will be given in accordance with the enemy’s movements, and so it might be supposed that all necessary arrangements would be made by Napoleon during the battle. But this was not and could not be done, for during the whole battle Napoleon was so far away that, as appeared later, he could not know the course of the battle and not one of his orders during the fight could be executed.
Many historians say that the French did not win the battle of Borodino because Napoleon had a cold, and that if he had not had a cold the orders he gave before and during the battle would have been still more full of genius and Russia would have been lost and the face of the world have been changed. To historians who believe that Russia was shaped by the will of one man- Peter the Great- and that France from a republic became an empire and French armies went to Russia at the will of one man- Napoleon- to say that Russia remained a power because Napoleon had a bad cold on the twenty-fourth of August may seem logical and convincing.
If it had depended on Napoleon’s will to fight or not to fight the battle of Borodino, and if this or that other arrangement depended on his will, then evidently a cold affecting the manifestation of his will might have saved Russia, and consequently the valet who omitted to bring Napoleon his waterproof boots on the twenty-fourth would have been the savior of Russia. Along that line of thought such a deduction is indubitable, as indubitable as the deduction Voltaire made in jest (without knowing what he was jesting at) when he saw that the Massacre of St. Bartholomew was due to Charles IX’s stomach being deranged. But to men who do not admit that Russia was formed by the will of one man, Peter I, or that the French Empire was formed and the war with Russia begun by the will of one man, Napoleon, that argument seems not merely untrue and irrational, but contrary to all human reality. To the question of what causes historic events another answer presents itself, namely, that the course of human events is predetermined from on high- depends on the coincidence of the wills of all who take part in the events, and that a Napoleon’s influence on the course of these events is purely external and fictitious.
Strange as at first glance it may seem to suppose that the Massacre of St. Bartholomew was not due to Charles IX’s will, though he gave the order for it and thought it was done as a result of that order; and strange as it may seem to suppose that the slaughter of eighty thousand men at Borodino was not due to Napoleon’s will, though he ordered the commencement and conduct of the battle and thought it was done because he ordered it; strange as these suppositions appear, yet human dignity- which tells me that each of us is, if not more at least not less a man than the great Napoleon- demands the acceptance of that solution of the question, and historic investigation abundantly confirms it.
At the battle of Borodino Napoleon shot at no one and killed no one. That was all done by the soldiers. Therefore it was not he who killed people.
The French soldiers went to kill and be killed at the battle of Borodino not because of Napoleon’s orders but by their own volition. The whole army- French, Italian, German, Polish, and Dutch- hungry, ragged, and weary of the campaign, felt at the sight of an army blocking their road to Moscow that the wine was drawn and must be drunk. Had Napoleon then forbidden them to fight the Russians, they would have killed him and have proceeded to fight the Russians because it was inevitable.
When they heard Napoleon’s proclamation offering them, as compensation for mutilation and death, the words of posterity about their having been in the battle before Moscow, they cried “Vive l’Empereur!” just as they had cried “Vive l’Empereur!” at the sight of the portrait of the boy piercing the terrestrial globe with a toy stick, and just as they would have cried “Vive l’Empereur!” at any nonsense that might be told them. There was nothing left for them to do but cry “Vive l’Empereur!” and go to fight, in order to get food and rest as conquerors in Moscow. So it was not because of Napoleon’s commands that they killed their fellow men.
And it was not Napoleon who directed the course of the battle, for none of his orders were executed and during the battle he did not know what was going on before him. So the way in which these people killed one another was not decided by Napoleon’s will but occurred independently of him, in accord with the will of hundreds of thousands of people who took part in the common action. It only seemed to Napoleon that it all took place by his will. And so the question whether he had or had not a cold has no more historic interest than the cold of the least of the transport soldiers.
Moreover, the assertion made by various writers that his cold was the cause of his dispositions not being as well planned as on former occasions, and of his orders during the battle not being as good as previously, is quite baseless, which again shows that Napoleon’s cold on the twenty-sixth of August was unimportant.
The dispositions cited above are not at all worse, but are even better, than previous dispositions by which he had won victories. His pseudo-orders during the battle were also no worse than formerly, but much the same as usual. These dispositions and orders only seem worse than previous ones because the battle of Borodino was the first Napoleon did not win. The profoundest and most excellent dispositions and orders seem very bad, and every learned militarist criticizes them with looks of importance, when they relate to a battle that has been lost, and the very worst dispositions and orders seem very good, and serious people fill whole volumes to demonstrate their merits, when they relate to a battle that has been won.
The dispositions drawn up by Weyrother for the battle of Austerlitz were a model of perfection for that kind of composition, but still they were criticized- criticized for their very perfection, for their excessive minuteness.
Napoleon at the battle of Borodino fulfilled his office as representative of authority as well as, and even better than, at other battles. He did nothing harmful to the progress of the battle; he inclined to the most reasonable opinions, he made no confusion, did not contradict himself, did not get frightened or run away from the field of battle, but with his great tact and military experience carried out his role of appearing to command, calmly and with dignity.
On returning from a second inspection of the lines, Napoleon remarked:
“The chessmen are set up, the game will begin tomorrow!”
Having ordered punch and summoned de Beausset, he began to talk to him about Paris and about some changes he meant to make the Empress’ household, surprising the prefect by his memory of minute details relating to the court.
He showed an interest in trifles, joked about de Beausset’s love of travel, and chatted carelessly, as a famous, self-confident surgeon who knows his job does when turning up his sleeves and putting on his apron while a patient is being strapped to the operating table. “The matter is in my hands and is clear and definite in my head. When the times comes to set to work I shall do it as no one else could, but now I can jest, and the more I jest and the calmer I am the more tranquil and confident you ought to be, and the more amazed at my genius.”
Having finished his second glass of punch, Napoleon went to rest before the serious business which, he considered, awaited him next day. He was so much interested in that task that he was unable to sleep, and in spite of his cold which had grown worse from the dampness of the evening, he went into the large division of the tent at three o’clock in the morning, loudly blowing his nose. He asked whether the Russians had not withdrawn, and was told that the enemy’s fires were still in the same places. He nodded approval.
The adjutant in attendance came into the tent.
“Well, Rapp, do you think we shall do good business today?” Napoleon asked him.
“Without doubt, sire,” replied Rapp.
Napoleon looked at him.
“Do you remember, sire, what you did me the honor to say at Smolensk?” continued Rapp. “The wine is drawn and must be drunk.”
Napoleon frowned and sat silent for a long time leaning his head on his hand.
“This poor army!” he suddenly remarked. “It has diminished greatly since Smolensk. Fortune is frankly a courtesan, Rapp. I have always said so and I am beginning to experience it. But the Guards, Rapp, the Guards are intact?” he remarked interrogatively.
“Yes, sire,” replied Rapp.
Napoleon took a lozenge, put it in his mouth, and glanced at his watch. He was not sleepy and it was still not nearly morning. It was impossible to give further orders for the sake of killing time, for the orders had all been given and were now being executed.
“Have the biscuits and rice been served out to the regiments of the Guards?” asked Napoleon sternly.
“The rice too?”
Rapp replied that he had given the Emperor’s order about the rice, but Napoleon shook his head in dissatisfaction as if not believing that his order had been executed. An attendant came in with punch. Napoleon ordered another glass to be brought for Rapp, and silently sipped his own.
“I have neither taste nor smell,” he remarked, sniffing at his glass. “This cold is tiresome. They talk about medicine- what is the good of medicine when it can’t cure a cold! Corvisart gave me these lozenges but they don’t help at all. What can doctors cure? One can’t cure anything. Our body is a machine for living. It is organized for that, it is its nature. Let life go on in it unhindered and let it defend itself, it will do more than if you paralyze it by encumbering it with remedies. Our body is like a perfect watch that should go for a certain time; watchmaker cannot open it, he can only adjust it by fumbling, and that blindfold…. Yes, our body is just a machine for living, that is all.”
And having entered on the path of definition, of which he was fond, Napoleon suddenly and unexpectedly gave a new one.
“Do you know, Rapp, what military art is?” asked he. “It is the art of being stronger than the enemy at a given moment. That’s all.”
Rapp made no reply.
“Tomorrow we shall have to deal with Kutuzov!” said Napoleon. “We shall see! Do you remember at Braunau he commanded an army for three weeks and did not once mount a horse to inspect his entrenchments…. We shall see!”
He looked at his watch. It was still only four o’clock. He did not feel sleepy. The punch was finished and there was still nothing to do. He rose, walked to and fro, put on a warm overcoat and a hat, and went out of the tent. The night was dark and damp, a scarcely perceptible moisture was descending from above. Near by, the campfires were dimly burning among the French Guards, and in the distance those of the Russian line shone through the smoke. The weather was calm, and the rustle and tramp of the French troops already beginning to move to take up their positions were clearly audible.
Napoleon walked about in front of his tent, looked at the fires and listened to these sounds, and as he was passing a tall guardsman in a shaggy cap, who was standing sentinel before his tent and had drawn himself up like a black pillar at sight of the Emperor, Napoleon stopped in front of him.
“What year did you enter the service?” he asked with that affectation of military bluntness and geniality with which he always addressed the soldiers.
The man answered the question.
“Ah! One of the old ones! Has your regiment had its rice?”
“It has, Your Majesty.”
Napoleon nodded and walked away.
At half-past five Napoleon rode to the village of Shevardino.
It was growing light, the sky was clearing, only a single cloud lay in the east. The abandoned campfires were burning themselves out in the faint morning light.
On the right a single deep report of a cannon resounded and died away in the prevailing silence. Some minutes passed. A second and a third report shook the air, then a fourth and a fifth boomed solemnly near by on the right.
The first shots had not yet ceased to reverberate before others rang out and yet more were heard mingling with and overtaking one another.
Napoleon with his suite rode up to the Shevardino Redoubt where he dismounted. The game had begun.
On returning to Gorki after having seen Prince Andrew, Pierre ordered his groom to get the horses ready and to call him early in the morning, and then immediately fell asleep behind a partition in a corner Boris had given up to him.
Before he was thoroughly awake next morning everybody had already left the hut. The panes were rattling in the little windows and his groom was shaking him.
“Your excellency! Your excellency! Your excellency!” he kept repeating pertinaciously while he shook Pierre by the shoulder without looking at him, having apparently lost hope of getting him to wake up.
“What? Has it begun? Is it time?” Pierre asked, waking up.
“Hear the firing,” said the groom, a discharged soldier. “All the gentlemen have gone out, and his Serene Highness himself rode past long ago.”
Pierre dressed hastily and ran out to the porch. Outside all was bright, fresh, dewy, and cheerful. The sun, just bursting forth from behind a cloud that had concealed it, was shining, with rays still half broken by the clouds, over the roofs of the street opposite, on the dew-besprinkled dust of the road, on the walls of the houses, on the windows, the fence, and on Pierre’s horses standing before the hut. The roar of guns sounded more distinct outside. An adjutant accompanied by a Cossack passed by at a sharp trot.
“It’s time, Count; it’s time!” cried the adjutant.
Telling the groom to follow him with the horses, Pierre went down the street to the knoll from which he had looked at the field of battle the day before. A crowd of military men was assembled there, members of the staff could be heard conversing in French, and Kutuzov’s gray head in a white cap with a red band was visible, his gray nape sunk between his shoulders. He was looking through a field glass down the highroad before him.
Mounting the steps to the knoll Pierre looked at the scene before him, spellbound by beauty. It was the same panorama he had admired from that spot the day before, but now the whole place was full of troops and covered by smoke clouds from the guns, and the slanting rays of the bright sun, rising slightly to the left behind Pierre, cast upon it through the clear morning air penetrating streaks of rosy, golden tinted light and long dark shadows. The forest at the farthest extremity of the panorama seemed carved in some precious stone of a yellowish-green color; its undulating outline was silhouetted against the horizon and was pierced beyond Valuevo by the Smolensk highroad crowded with troops. Nearer at hand glittered golden cornfields interspersed with copses. There were troops to be seen everywhere, in front and to the right and left. All this was vivid, majestic, and unexpected; but what impressed Pierre most of all was the view of the battlefield itself, of Borodino and the hollows on both sides of the Kolocha.
Above the Kolocha, in Borodino and on both sides of it, especially to the left where the Voyna flowing between its marshy banks falls into the Kolocha, a mist had spread which seemed to melt, to dissolve, and to become translucent when the brilliant sun appeared and magically colored and outlined everything. The smoke of the guns mingled with this mist, and over the whole expanse and through that mist the rays of the morning sun were reflected, flashing back like lightning from the water, from the dew, and from the bayonets of the troops crowded together by the riverbanks and in Borodino. A white church could be seen through the mist, and here and there the roofs of huts in Borodino as well as dense masses of soldiers, or green ammunition chests and ordnance. And all this moved, or seemed to move, as the smoke and mist spread out over the whole space. Just as in the mist-enveloped hollow near Borodino, so along the entire line outside and above it and especially in the woods and fields to the left, in the valleys and on the summits of the high ground, clouds of powder smoke seemed continually to spring up out of nothing, now singly, now several at a time, some translucent, others dense, which, swelling, growing, rolling, and blending, extended over the whole expanse.
These puffs of smoke and (strange to say) the sound of the firing produced the chief beauty of the spectacle.
“Puff!”- suddenly a round compact cloud of smoke was seen merging from violet into gray and milky white, and “boom!” came the report a second later.
“Puff! puff!”- and two clouds arose pushing one another and blending together; and “boom, boom!” came the sounds confirming what the eye had seen.
Pierre glanced round at the first cloud, which he had seen as a round compact ball, and in its place already were balloons of smoke floating to one side, and- “puff” (with a pause)- “puff, puff!” three and then four more appeared and then from each, with the same interval- “boom- boom, boom!” came the fine, firm, precise sounds in reply. It seemed as if those smoke clouds sometimes ran and sometimes stood still while woods, fields, and glittering bayonets ran past them. From the left, over fields and bushes, those large balls of smoke were continually appearing followed by their solemn reports, while nearer still, in the hollows and woods, there burst from the muskets small cloudlets that had no time to become balls, but had their little echoes in just the same way. “Trakh-ta-ta-takh!” came the frequent crackle of musketry, but it was irregular and feeble in comparison with the reports of the cannon.
Pierre wished to be there with that smoke, those shining bayonets, that movement, and those sounds. He turned to look at Kutuzov and his suite, to compare his impressions with those of others. They were all looking at the field of battle as he was, and, as it seemed to him, with the same feelings. All their faces were now shining with that latent warmth of feeling Pierre had noticed the day before and had fully understood after his talk with Prince Andrew.
“Go, my dear fellow, go… and Christ be with you!” Kutuzov was saying to a general who stood beside him, not taking his eye from the battlefield.
Having received this order the general passed by Pierre on his way down the knoll.
“To the crossing!” said the general coldly and sternly in reply to one of the staff who asked where he was going.
“I’ll go there too, I too!” thought Pierre, and followed the general.
The general mounted a horse a Cossack had brought him. Pierre went to his groom who was holding his horses and, asking which was the quietest, clambered onto it, seized it by the mane, and turning out his toes pressed his heels against its sides and, feeling that his spectacles were slipping off but unable to let go of the mane and reins, he galloped after the general, causing the staff officers to smile as they watched him from the knoll.
Having descended the hill the general after whom Pierre was galloping turned sharply to the left, and Pierre, losing sight of him, galloped in among some ranks of infantry marching ahead of him. He tried to pass either in front of them or to the right or left, but there were soldiers everywhere, all with expression and busy with some unseen but evidently important task. They all gazed with the same dissatisfied and inquiring expression at this stout man in a white hat, who for some unknown reason threatened to trample them under his horse’s hoofs.
“Why ride into the middle of the battalion?” one of them shouted at him.
Another prodded his horse with the butt end of a musket, and Pierre, bending over his saddlebow and hardly able to control his shying horse, galloped ahead of the soldiers where there was a free space.
There was a bridge ahead of him, where other soldiers stood firing. Pierre rode up to them. Without being aware of it he had come to the bridge across the Kolocha between Gorki and Borodino, which the French (having occupied Borodino) were attacking in the first phase of the battle. Pierre saw that there was a bridge in front of him and that soldiers were doing something on both sides of it and in the meadow, among the rows of new-mown hay which he had taken no notice of amid the smoke of the campfires the day before; but despite the incessant firing going on there he had no idea that this was the field of battle. He did not notice the sound of the bullets whistling from every side, or the projectiles that flew over him, did not see the enemy on the other side of the river, and for a long time did not notice the killed and wounded, though many fell near him. He looked about him with a smile which did not leave his face.
“Why’s that fellow in front of the line?” shouted somebody at him again.
“To the left!… Keep to the right!” the men shouted to him.
Pierre went to the right, and unexpectedly encountered one of Raevski’s adjutants whom he knew. The adjutant looked angrily at him, evidently also intending to shout at him, but on recognizing him he nodded.
“How have you got here?” he said, and galloped on.
Pierre, feeling out of place there, having nothing to do, and afraid of getting in someone’s way again, galloped after the adjutant.
“What’s happening here? May I come with you?” he asked.
“One moment, one moment!” replied the adjutant, and riding up to a stout colonel who was standing in the meadow, he gave him some message and then addressed Pierre.
“Why have you come here, Count?” he asked with a smile. “Still inquisitive?”
“Yes, yes,” assented Pierre.
But the adjutant turned his horse about and rode on.
“Here it’s tolerable,” said he, “but with Bagration on the left flank they’re getting it frightfully hot.”
“Really?” said Pierre. “Where is that?”
“Come along with me to our knoll. We can get a view from there and in our battery it is still bearable,” said the adjutant. “Will you come?”
“Yes, I’ll come with you,” replied Pierre, looking round for his groom.
It was only now that he noticed wounded men staggering along or being carried on stretchers. On that very meadow he had ridden over the day before, a soldier was lying athwart the rows of scented hay, with his head thrown awkwardly back and his shako off.
“Why haven’t they carried him away?” Pierre was about to ask, but seeing the stern expression of the adjutant who was also looking that way, he checked himself.
Pierre did not find his groom and rode along the hollow with the adjutant to Raevski’s Redoubt. His horse lagged behind the adjutant’s and jolted him at every step.
“You don’t seem to be used to riding, Count?” remarked the adjutant.
“No it’s not that, but her action seems so jerky,” said Pierre in a puzzled tone.
“Why… she’s wounded!” said the adjutant. “In the off foreleg above the knee. A bullet, no doubt. I congratulate you, Count, on your baptism of fire!”
Having ridden in the smoke past the Sixth Corps, behind the artillery which had been moved forward and was in action, deafening them with the noise of firing, they came to a small wood. There it was cool and quiet, with a scent of autumn. Pierre and the adjutant dismounted and walked up the hill on foot.
“Is the general here?” asked the adjutant on reaching the knoll.
“He was here a minute ago but has just gone that way,” someone told him, pointing to the right.
The adjutant looked at Pierre as if puzzled what to do with him now.
“Don’t trouble about me,” said Pierre. “I’ll go up onto the knoll if I may?”
“Yes, do. You’ll see everything from there and it’s less dangerous, and I’ll come for you.”
Pierre went to the battery and the adjutant rode on. They did not meet again, and only much later did Pierre learn that he lost an arm that day.
The knoll to which Pierre ascended was that famous one afterwards known to the Russians as the Knoll Battery or Raevski’s Redoubt, and to the French as la grande redoute, la fatale redoute, la redoute du centre, around which tens of thousands fell, and which the French regarded as the key to the whole position.
This redoubt consisted of a knoll, on three sides of which trenches had been dug. Within the entrenchment stood ten guns that were being fired through openings in the earthwork.
In line with the knoll on both sides stood other guns which also fired incessantly. A little behind the guns stood infantry. When ascending that knoll Pierre had no notion that this spot, on which small trenches had been dug and from which a few guns were firing, was the most important point of the battle.
On the contrary, just because he happened to be there he thought it one of the least significant parts of the field.
Having reached the knoll, Pierre sat down at one end of a trench surrounding the battery and gazed at what was going on around him with an unconsciously happy smile. Occasionally he rose and walked about the battery still with that same smile, trying not to obstruct the soldiers who were loading, hauling the guns, and continually running past him with bags and charges. The guns of that battery were being fired continually one after another with a deafening roar, enveloping the whole neighborhood in powder smoke.
In contrast with the dread felt by the infantrymen placed in support, here in the battery where a small number of men busy at their work were separated from the rest by a trench, everyone experienced a common and as it were family feeling of animation.
The intrusion of Pierre’s nonmilitary figure in a white hat made an unpleasant impression at first. The soldiers looked askance at him with surprise and even alarm as they went past him. The senior artillery officer, a tall, long-legged, pockmarked man, moved over to Pierre as if to see the action of the farthest gun and looked at him with curiosity.
A young round-faced officer, quite a boy still and evidently only just out of the Cadet College, who was zealously commanding the two guns entrusted to him, addressed Pierre sternly.
“Sir,” he said, “permit me to ask you to stand aside. You must not be here.”
The soldiers shook their heads disapprovingly as they looked at Pierre. But when they had convinced themselves that this man in the white hat was doing no harm, but either sat quietly on the slope of the trench with a shy smile or, politely making way for the soldiers, paced up and down the battery under fire as calmly as if he were on a boulevard, their feeling of hostile distrust gradually began to change into a kindly and bantering sympathy, such as soldiers feel for their dogs, cocks, goats, and in general for the animals that live with the regiment. The men soon accepted Pierre into their family, adopted him, gave him a nickname (“our gentleman”), and made kindly fun of him among themselves.
A shell tore up the earth two paces from Pierre and he looked around with a smile as he brushed from his clothes some earth it had thrown up.
“And how’s it you’re not afraid, sir, really now?” a red-faced, broad-shouldered soldier asked Pierre, with a grin that disclosed a set of sound, white teeth.
“Are you afraid, then?” said Pierre.
“What else do you expect?” answered the soldier. “She has no mercy, you know! When she comes spluttering down, out go your innards. One can’t help being afraid,” he said laughing.
Several of the men, with bright kindly faces, stopped beside Pierre. They seemed not to have expected him to talk like anybody else, and the discovery that he did so delighted them.
“It’s the business of us soldiers. But in a gentleman it’s wonderful! There’s a gentleman for you!”
“To your places!” cried the young officer to the men gathered round Pierre.
The young officer was evidently exercising his duties for the first or second time and therefore treated both his superiors and the men with great precision and formality.
The booming cannonade and the fusillade of musketry were growing more intense over the whole field, especially to the left where Bagration’s fleches were, but where Pierre was the smoke of the firing made it almost impossible to distinguish anything. Moreover, his whole attention was engrossed by watching the family circle- separated from all else- formed by the men in the battery. His first unconscious feeling of joyful animation produced by the sights and sounds of the battlefield was now replaced by another, especially since he had seen that soldier lying alone in the hayfield. Now, seated on the slope of the trench, he observed the faces of those around him.
By ten o’clock some twenty men had already been carried away from the battery; two guns were smashed and cannon balls fell more and more frequently on the battery and spent bullets buzzed and whistled around. But the men in the battery seemed not to notice this, and merry voices and jokes were heard on all sides.
“A live one!” shouted a man as a whistling shell approached.
“Not this way! To the infantry!” added another with loud laughter, seeing the shell fly past and fall into the ranks of the supports.
“Are you bowing to a friend, eh?” remarked another, chaffing a peasant who ducked low as a cannon ball flew over.
Several soldiers gathered by the wall of the trench, looking out to see what was happening in front.
“They’ve withdrawn the front line, it has retired,” said they, pointing over the earthwork.
“Mind your own business,” an old sergeant shouted at them. “If they’ve retired it’s because there’s work for them to do farther back.”
And the sergeant, taking one of the men by the shoulders, gave him a shove with his knee. This was followed by a burst of laughter.
“To the fifth gun, wheel it up!” came shouts from one side.
“Now then, all together, like bargees!” rose the merry voices of those who were moving the gun.
“Oh, she nearly knocked our gentleman’s hat off!” cried the