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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Fourteen: 1812 - Chapter 1
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War And Peace - Book Fourteen: 1812 - Chapter 1 Post by :Netbiz4i Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2607

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War And Peace - Book Fourteen: 1812 - Chapter 1

The Battle of Borodino, with the occupation of Moscow that
followed it and the flight of the French without further conflicts, is
one of the most instructive phenomena in history.

All historians agree that the external activity of states and
nations in their conflicts with one another is expressed in wars,
and that as a direct result of greater or less success in war the
political strength of states and nations increases or decreases.

Strange as may be the historical account of how some king or
emperor, having quarreled with another, collects an army, fights his
enemy's army, gains a victory by killing three, five, or ten
thousand men, and subjugates a kingdom and an entire nation of several
millions, all the facts of history (as far as we know it) confirm
the truth of the statement that the greater or lesser success of one
army against another is the cause, or at least an essential
indication, of an increase or decrease in the strength of the
nation- even though it is unintelligible why the defeat of an army-
a hundredth part of a nation- should oblige that whole nation to
submit. An army gains a victory, and at once the rights of the
conquering nation have increased to the detriment of the defeated.
An army has suffered defeat, and at once a people loses its rights
in proportion to the severity of the reverse, and if its army
suffers a complete defeat the nation is quite subjugated.

So according to history it has been found from the most ancient
times, and so it is to our own day. All Napoleon's wars serve to
confirm this rule. In proportion to the defeat of the Austrian army
Austria loses its rights, and the rights and the strength of France
increase. The victories of the French at Jena and Auerstadt destroy
the independent existence of Prussia.

But then, in 1812, the French gain a victory near Moscow. Moscow
is taken and after that, with no further battles, it is not Russia
that ceases to exist, but the French army of six hundred thousand, and
then Napoleonic France itself. To strain the facts to fit the rules of
history: to say that the field of battle at Borodino remained in the
hands of the Russians, or that after Moscow there were other battles
that destroyed Napoleon's army, is impossible.

After the French victory at Borodino there was no general engagement
nor any that were at all serious, yet the French army ceased to exist.
What does this mean? If it were an example taken from the history of
China, we might say that it was not an historic phenomenon (which is
the historians' usual expedient when anything does not fit their
standards); if the matter concerned some brief conflict in which
only a small number of troops took part, we might treat it as an
exception; but this event occurred before our fathers' eyes, and for
them it was a question of the life or death of their fatherland, and
it happened in the greatest of all known wars.

The period of the campaign of 1812 from the battle of Borodino to
the expulsion of the French proved that the winning of a battle does
not produce a conquest and is not even an invariable indication of
conquest; it proved that the force which decides the fate of peoples
lies not in the conquerors, nor even in armies and battles, but in
something else.

The French historians, describing the condition of the French army
before it left Moscow, affirm that all was in order in the Grand Army,
except the cavalry, the artillery, and the transport- there was no
forage for the horses or the cattle. That was a misfortune no one
could remedy, for the peasants of the district burned their hay rather
than let the French have it.

The victory gained did not bring the usual results because the
peasants Karp and Vlas (who after the French had evacuated Moscow
drove in their carts to pillage the town, and in general personally
failed to manifest any heroic feelings), and the whole innumerable
multitude of such peasants, did not bring their hay to Moscow for
the high price offered them, but burned it instead.

Let us imagine two men who have come out to fight a duel with
rapiers according to all the rules of the art of fencing. The
fencing has gone on for some time; suddenly one of the combatants,
feeling himself wounded and understanding that the matter is no joke
but concerns his life, throws down his rapier, and seizing the first
cudgel that comes to hand begins to brandish it. Then let us imagine
that the combatant who so sensibly employed the best and simplest
means to attain his end was at the same time influenced by
traditions of chivalry and, desiring to conceal the facts of the case,
insisted that he had gained his victory with the rapier according to
all the rules of art. One can imagine what confusion and obscurity
would result from such an account of the duel.

The fencer who demanded a contest according to the rules of
fencing was the French army; his opponent who threw away the rapier
and snatched up the cudgel was the Russian people; those who try to
explain the matter according to the rules of fencing are the
historians who have described the event.

After the burning of Smolensk a war began which did not follow any
previous traditions of war. The burning of towns and villages, the
retreats after battles, the blow dealt at Borodino and the renewed
retreat, the burning of Moscow, the capture of marauders, the
seizure of transports, and the guerrilla war were all departures
from the rules.

Napoleon felt this, and from the time he took up the correct fencing
attitude in Moscow and instead of his opponent's rapier saw a cudgel
raised above his head, he did not cease to complain to Kutuzov and
to the Emperor Alexander that the war was being carried on contrary to
all the rules- as if there were any rules for killing people. In spite
of the complaints of the French as to the nonobservance of the
rules, in spite of the fact that to some highly placed Russians it
seemed rather disgraceful to fight with a cudgel and they wanted to
assume a pose en quarte or en tierce according to all the rules, and
to make an adroit thrust en prime, and so on- the cudgel of the
people's war was lifted with all its menacing and majestic strength,
and without consulting anyone's tastes or rules and regardless of
anything else, it rose and fell with stupid simplicity, but
consistently, and belabored the French till the whole invasion had
perished.

And it is well for a people who do not- as the French did in 1813-
salute according to all the rules of art, and, presenting the hilt
of their rapier gracefully and politely, hand it to their
magnanimous conqueror, but at the moment of trial, without asking what
rules others have adopted in similar cases, simply and easily pick
up the first cudgel that comes to hand and strike with it till the
feeling of resentment and revenge in their soul yields to a feeling of
contempt and compassion.

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One of the most obvious and advantageous departures from theso-called laws of war is the action of scattered groups against menpressed together in a mass. Such action always occurs in wars thattake on a national character. In such actions, instead of two crowdsopposing each other, the men disperse, attack singly, run away whenattacked by stronger forces, but again attack when opportunity offers.This was done by the guerrillas in Spain, by the mountain tribes inthe Caucasus, and by the Russians in 1812.People have called this kind of war "guerrilla warfare" and assumethat by so calling it they have explained its meaning. But
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A man in motion always devises an aim for that motion. To be able togo a thousand miles he must imagine that something good awaits himat the end of those thousand miles. One must have the prospect of apromised land to have the strength to move.The promised land for the French during their advance had beenMoscow, during their retreat it was their native land. But that nativeland was too far off, and for a man going a thousand miles it isabsolutely necessary to set aside his final goal and to say tohimself: "Today I shall get to a place twenty-five miles
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