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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 9
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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 9 Post by :egiftmall Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2585

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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 9

Prince Andrew reached the general headquarters of the army at the
end of June. The first army, with which was the Emperor, occupied
the fortified camp at Drissa; the second army was retreating, trying
to effect a junction with the first one from which it was said to be
cut off by large French forces. Everyone was dissatisfied with the
general course of affairs in the Russian army, but no one
anticipated any danger of invasion of the Russian provinces, and no
one thought the war would extend farther than the western, the Polish,
provinces.

Prince Andrew found Barclay de Tolly, to whom he had been
assigned, on the bank of the Drissa. As there was not a single town or
large village in the vicinity of the camp, the immense number of
generals and courtiers accompanying the army were living in the best
houses of the villages on both sides of the river, over a radius of
six miles. Barclay de Tolly was quartered nearly three miles from
the Emperor. He received Bolkonski stiffly and coldly and told him
in his foreign accent that he would mention him to the Emperor for a
decision as to his employment, but asked him meanwhile to remain on
his staff. Anatole Kuragin, whom Prince Andrew had hoped to find
with the army, was not there. He had gone to Petersburg, but Prince
Andrew was glad to hear this. His mind was occupied by the interests
of the center that was conducting a gigantic war, and he was glad to
be free for a while from the distraction caused by the thought of
Kuragin. During the first four days, while no duties were required
of him, Prince Andrew rode round the whole fortified camp and, by
the aid of his own knowledge and by talks with experts, tried to
form a definite opinion about it. But the question whether the camp
was advantageous or disadvantageous remained for him undecided.
Already from his military experience and what he had seen in the
Austrian campaign, he had come to the conclusion that in war the
most deeply considered plans have no significance and that all depends
on the way unexpected movements of the enemy- that cannot be foreseen-
are met, and on how and by whom the whole matter is handled. To
clear up this last point for himself, Prince Andrew, utilizing his
position and acquaintances, tried to fathom the character of the
control of the army and of the men and parties engaged in it, and he
deduced for himself the following of the state of affairs.

While the Emperor had still been at Vilna, the forces had been
divided into three armies. First, the army under Barclay de Tolly,
secondly, the army under Bagration, and thirdly, the one commanded
by Tormasov. The Emperor was with the first army, but not as commander
in chief. In the orders issued it was stated, not that the Emperor
would take command, but only that he would be with the army. The
Emperor, moreover, had with him not a commander in chief's staff but
the imperial headquarters staff. In attendance on him was the head
of the imperial staff, Quartermaster General Prince Volkonski, as well
as generals, imperial aides-de-camp, diplomatic officials, and a large
number of foreigners, but not the army staff. Besides these, there
were in attendance on the Emperor without any definite appointments:
Arakcheev, the ex-Minister of War; Count Bennigsen, the senior general
in rank; the Grand Duke Tsarevich Constantine Pavlovich; Count
Rumyantsev, the Chancellor; Stein, a former Prussian minister;
Armfeldt, a Swedish general; Pfuel, the chief author of the plan of
campaign; Paulucci, an adjutant general and Sardinian emigre;
Wolzogen- and many others. Though these men had no military
appointment in the army, their position gave them influence, and often
a corps commander, or even the commander in chief, did not know in
what capacity he was questioned by Bennigsen, the Grand Duke,
Arakcheev, or Prince Volkonski, or was given this or that advice and
did not know whether a certain order received in the form of advice
emanated from the man who gave it or from the Emperor and whether it
had to be executed or not. But this was only the external condition;
the essential significance of the presence of the Emperor and of all
these people, from a courtier's point of view (and in an Emperor's
vicinity all became courtiers), was clear to everyone. It was this:
the Emperor did not assume the title of commander in chief, but
disposed of all the armies; the men around him were his assistants.
Arakcheev was a faithful custodian to enforce order and acted as the
sovereign's bodyguard. Bennigsen was a landlord in the Vilna
province who appeared to be doing the honors of the district, but
was in reality a good general, useful as an adviser and ready at
hand to replace Barclay. The Grand Duke was there because it suited
him to be. The ex-Minister Stein was there because his advice was
useful and the Emperor Alexander held him in high esteem personally.
Armfeldt virulently hated Napoleon and was a general full of
self-confidence, a quality that always influenced Alexander.
Paulucci was there because he was bold and decided in speech. The
adjutants general were there because they always accompanied the
Emperor, and lastly and chiefly Pfuel was there because he had drawn
up the plan of campaign against Napoleon and, having induced Alexander
to believe in the efficacy of that plan, was directing the whole
business of the war. With Pfuel was Wolzogen, who expressed Pfuel's
thoughts in a more comprehensible way than Pfuel himself (who was a
harsh, bookish theorist, self-confident to the point of despising
everyone else) was able to do.

Besides these Russians and foreigners who propounded new and
unexpected ideas every day- especially the foreigners, who did so with
a boldness characteristic of people employed in a country not their
own- there were many secondary personages accompanying the army
because their principals were there.

Among the opinions and voices in this immense, restless,
brilliant, and proud sphere, Prince Andrew noticed the following
sharply defined subdivisions of and parties:

The first party consisted of Pfuel and his adherents- military
theorists who believed in a science of war with immutable laws- laws
of oblique movements, outflankings, and so forth. Pfuel and his
adherents demanded a retirement into the depths of the country in
accordance with precise laws defined by a pseudo-theory of war, and
they saw only barbarism, ignorance, or evil intention in every
deviation from that theory. To this party belonged the foreign nobles,
Wolzogen, Wintzingerode, and others, chiefly Germans.

The second party was directly opposed to the first; one extreme,
as always happens, was met by representatives of the other. The
members of this party were those who had demanded an advance from
Vilna into Poland and freedom from all prearranged plans. Besides
being advocates of bold action, this section also represented
nationalism, which made them still more one-sided in the dispute. They
were Russians: Bagration, Ermolov (who was beginning to come to the
front), and others. At that time a famous joke of Ermolov's was
being circulated, that as a great favor he had petitioned the
Emperor to make him a German. The men of that party, remembering
Suvorov, said that what one had to do was not to reason, or stick pins
into maps, but to fight, beat the enemy, keep him out of Russia, and
not let the army get discouraged.

To the third party- in which the Emperor had most confidence-
belonged the courtiers who tried to arrange compromises between the
other two. The members of this party, chiefly civilians and to whom
Arakcheev belonged, thought and said what men who have no
convictions but wish to seem to have some generally say. They said
that undoubtedly war, particularly against such a genius as
Bonaparte (they called him Bonaparte now), needs most deeply devised
plans and profound scientific knowledge and in that respect Pfuel
was a genius, but at the same time it had to be acknowledged that
the theorists are often one sided, and therefore one should not
trust them absolutely, but should also listen to what Pfuel's
opponents and practical men of experience in warfare had to say, and
then choose a middle course. They insisted on the retention of the
camp at Drissa, according to Pfuel's plan, but on changing the
movements of the other armies. Though, by this course, neither one aim
nor the other could be attained, yet it seemed best to the adherents
of this third party.

Of a fourth opinion the most conspicuous representative was the
Tsarevich, who could not forget his disillusionment at Austerlitz,
where he had ridden out at the head of the Guards, in his casque and
cavalry uniform as to a review, expecting to crush the French
gallantly; but unexpectedly finding himself in the front line had
narrowly escaped amid the general confusion. The men of this party had
both the quality and the defect of frankness in their opinions. They
feared Napoleon, recognized his strength and their own weakness, and
frankly said so. They said: "Nothing but sorrow, shame, and ruin
will come of all this! We have abandoned Vilna and Vitebsk and shall
abandon Drissa. The only reasonable thing left to do is to conclude
peace as soon as possible, before we are turned out of Petersburg."

This view was very general in the upper army circles and found
support also in Petersburg and from the chancellor, Rumyantsev, who,
for other reasons of state, was in favor of peace.

The fifth party consisted of those who were adherents of Barclay
de Tolly, not so much as a man but as minister of war and commander in
chief. "Be he what he may" (they always began like that), "he is an
honest, practical man and we have nobody better. Give him real
power, for war cannot be conducted successfully without unity of
command, and he will show what he can do, as he did in Finland. If our
army is well organized and strong and has withdrawn to Drissa
without suffering any defeats, we owe this entirely to Barclay. If
Barclay is now to be superseded by Bennigsen all will be lost, for
Bennigsen showed his incapacity already in 1807."

The sixth party, the Bennigsenites, said, on the contrary, that at
any rate there was no one more active and experienced than
Bennigsen: "and twist about as you may, you will have to come to
Bennigsen eventually. Let the others make mistakes now!" said they,
arguing that our retirement to Drissa was a most shameful reverse
and an unbroken series of blunders. "The more mistakes that are made
the better. It will at any rate be understood all the sooner that
things cannot go on like this. What is wanted is not some Barclay or
other, but a man like Bennigsen, who made his mark in 1807, and to
whom Napoleon himself did justice- a man whose authority would be
willingly recognized, and Bennigsen is the only such man."

The seventh party consisted of the sort of people who are always
to be found, especially around young sovereigns, and of whom there
were particularly many round Alexander- generals and imperial
aides-de-camp passionately devoted to the Emperor, not merely as a
monarch but as a man, adoring him sincerely and disinterestedly, as
Rostov had done in 1805, and who saw in him not only all the virtues
but all human capabilities as well. These men, though enchanted with
the sovereign for refusing the command of the army, yet blamed him for
such excessive modesty, and only desired and insisted that their
adored sovereign should abandon his diffidence and openly announce
that he would place himself at the head of the army, gather round
him a commander in chief's staff, and, consulting experienced
theoreticians and practical men where necessary, would himself lead
the troops, whose spirits would thereby be raised to the highest
pitch.

The eighth and largest group, which in its enormous numbers was to
the others as ninety-nine to one, consisted of men who desired neither
peace nor war, neither an advance nor a defensive camp at the Drissa
or anywhere else, neither Barclay nor the Emperor, neither Pfuel nor
Bennigsen, but only the one most essential thing- as much advantage
and pleasure for themselves as possible. In the troubled waters of
conflicting and intersecting intrigues that eddied about the Emperor's
headquarters, it was possible to succeed in many ways unthinkable at
other times. A man who simply wished to retain his lucrative post
would today agree with Pfuel, tomorrow with his opponent, and the
day after, merely to avoid responsibility or to please the Emperor,
would declare that he had no opinion at all on the matter. Another who
wished to gain some advantage would attract the Emperor's attention by
loudly advocating the very thing the Emperor had hinted at the day
before, and would dispute and shout at the council, beating his breast
and challenging those who did not agree with him to duels, thereby
proving that he was prepared to sacrifice himself for the common good.
A third, in the absence of opponents, between two councils would
simply solicit a special gratuity for his faithful services, well
knowing that at that moment people would be too busy to refuse him.
A fourth while seemingly overwhelmed with work would often come
accidentally under the Emperor's eye. A fifth, to achieve his
long-cherished aim of dining with the Emperor, would stubbornly insist
on the correctness or falsity of some newly emerging opinion and for
this object would produce arguments more or less forcible and correct.

All the men of this party were fishing for rubles, decorations,
and promotions, and in this pursuit watched only the weathercock of
imperial favor, and directly they noticed it turning in any direction,
this whole drone population of the army began blowing hard that way,
so that it was all the harder for the Emperor to turn it elsewhere.
Amid the uncertainties of the position, with the menace of serious
danger giving a peculiarly threatening character to everything, amid
this vortex of intrigue, egotism, conflict of views and feelings,
and the diversity of race among these people- this eighth and
largest party of those preoccupied with personal interests imparted
great confusion and obscurity to the common task. Whatever question
arose, a swarm of these drones, without having finished their
buzzing on a previous theme, flew over to the new one and by their hum
drowned and obscured the voices of those who were disputing honestly.

From among all these parties, just at the time Prince Andrew reached
the army, another, a ninth party, was being formed and was beginning
to raise its voice. This was the party of the elders, reasonable men
experienced and capable in state affairs, who, without sharing any
of those conflicting opinions, were able to take a detached view of
what was going on at the staff at headquarters and to consider means
of escape from this muddle, indecision, intricacy, and weakness.

The men of this party said and thought that what was wrong
resulted chiefly from the Emperor's presence in the army with his
military court and from the consequent presence there of an
indefinite, conditional, and unsteady fluctuation of relations,
which is in place at court but harmful in an army; that a sovereign
should reign but not command the army, and that the only way out of
the position would be for the Emperor and his court to leave the army;
that the mere presence of the Emperor paralyzed the action of fifty
thousand men required to secure his personal safety, and that the
worst commander in chief if independent would be better than the
very best one trammeled by the presence and authority of the monarch.

Just at the time Prince Andrew was living unoccupied at Drissa,
Shishkov, the Secretary of State and one of the chief
representatives of this party, wrote a letter to the Emperor which
Arakcheev and Balashev agreed to sign. In this letter, availing
himself of permission given him by the Emperor to discuss the
general course of affairs, he respectfully suggested- on the plea that
it was necessary for the sovereign to arouse a warlike spirit in the
people of the capital- that the Emperor should leave the army.

That arousing of the people by their sovereign and his call to
them to defend their country- the very incitement which was the
chief cause of Russia's triumph in so far as it was produced by the
Tsar's personal presence in Moscow- was suggested to the Emperor,
and accepted by him, as a pretext for quitting the army.

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This letter had not yet been presented to the Emperor whenBarclay, one day at dinner, informed Bolkonski that the sovereignwished to see him personally, to question him about Turkey, and thatPrince Andrew was to present himself at Bennigsen's quarters at sixthat evening.News was received at the Emperor's quarters that very day of a freshmovement by Napoleon which might endanger the army- newssubsequently found to be false. And that morning Colonel Michaud hadridden round the Drissa fortifications with the Emperor and hadpointed out to him that this fortified camp constructed by Pfuel,and till then considered a chef-d'oeuvre of tactical science whichwould ensure
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After his interview with Pierre in Moscow, Prince Andrew went toPetersburg, on business as he told his family, but really to meetAnatole Kuragin whom he felt it necessary to encounter. On reachingPetersburg he inquired for Kuragin but the latter had already left thecity. Pierre had warned his brother-in-law that Prince Andrew was onhis track. Anatole Kuragin promptly obtained an appointment from theMinister of War and went to join the army in Moldavia. While inPetersburg Prince Andrew met Kutuzov, his former commander who wasalways well disposed toward him, and Kutuzov suggested that heshould accompany him to the army in Moldavia, to which
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