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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 1
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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 1 Post by :neils Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2170

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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 1

Napoleon began the war with Russia because he could not resist going
to Dresden, could not help having his head turned by the homage he
received, could not help donning a Polish uniform and yielding to
the stimulating influence of a June morning, and could not refrain
from bursts of anger in the presence of Kurakin and then of Balashev.

Alexander refused negotiations because he felt himself to be
personally insulted. Barclay de Tolly tried to command the army in the
best way, because he wished to fulfill his duty and earn fame as a
great commander. Rostov charged the French because he could not
restrain his wish for a gallop across a level field; and in the same
way the innumerable people who took part in the war acted in accord
with their personal characteristics, habits, circumstances, and
aims. They were moved by fear or vanity, rejoiced or were indignant,
reasoned, imagining that they knew what they were doing and did it
of their own free will, but they all were involuntary tools of
history, carrying on a work concealed from them but comprehensible
to us. Such is the inevitable fate of men of action, and the higher
they stand in the social hierarchy the less are they free.

The actors of 1812 have long since left the stage, their personal
interests have vanished leaving no trace, and nothing remains of
that time but its historic results.

Providence compelled all these men, striving to attain personal
aims, to further the accomplishment of a stupendous result no one of
them at all expected- neither Napoleon, nor Alexander, nor still
less any of those who did the actual fighting.

The cause of the destruction of the French army in 1812 is clear
to us now. No one will deny that that cause was, on the one hand,
its advance into the heart of Russia late in the season without any
preparation for a winter campaign and, on the other, the character
given to the war by the burning of Russian towns and the hatred of the
foe this aroused among the Russian people. But no one at the time
foresaw (what now seems so evident) that this was the only way an army
of eight hundred thousand men- the best in the world and led by the
best general- could be destroyed in conflict with a raw army of half
its numerical strength, and led by inexperienced commanders as the
Russian army was. Not only did no one see this, but on the Russian
side every effort was made to hinder the only thing that could save
Russia, while on the French side, despite Napoleon's experience and
so-called military genius, every effort was directed to pushing on
to Moscow at the end of the summer, that is, to doing the very thing
that was bound to lead to destruction.

In historical works on the year 1812 French writers are very fond of
saying that Napoleon felt the danger of extending his line, that he
sought a battle and that his marshals advised him to stop at Smolensk,
and of making similar statements to show that the danger of the
campaign was even then understood. Russian authors are still fonder of
telling us that from the commencement of the campaign a Scythian war
plan was adopted to lure Napoleon into the depths of Russia, and
this plan some of them attribute to Pfuel, others to a certain
Frenchman, others to Toll, and others again to Alexander himself-
pointing to notes, projects, and letters which contain hints of such a
line of action. But all these hints at what happened, both from the
French side and the Russian, are advanced only because they fit in
with the event. Had that event not occurred these hints would have
been forgotten, as we have forgotten the thousands and millions of
hints and expectations to the contrary which were current then but
have now been forgotten because the event falsified them. There are
always so many conjectures as to the issue of any event that however
it may end there will always be people to say: "I said then that it
would be so," quite forgetting that amid their innumerable conjectures
many were to quite the contrary effect.

Conjectures as to Napoleon's awareness of the danger of extending
his line, and (on the Russian side) as to luring the enemy into the
depths of Russia, are evidently of that kind, and only by much
straining can historians attribute such conceptions to Napoleon and
his marshals, or such plans to the Russian commanders. All the facts
are in flat contradiction to such conjectures. During the whole period
of the war not only was there no wish on the Russian side to draw
the French into the heart of the country, but from their first entry
into Russia everything was done to stop them. And not only was
Napoleon not afraid to extend his line, but he welcomed every step
forward as a triumph and did not seek battle as eagerly as in former
campaigns, but very lazily.

At the very beginning of the war our armies were divided, and our
sole aim was to unite them, though uniting the armies was no advantage
if we meant to retire and lure the enemy into the depths of the
country. Our Emperor joined the army to encourage it to defend every
inch of Russian soil and not to retreat. The enormous Drissa camp
was formed on Pfuel's plan, and there was no intention of retiring
farther. The Emperor reproached the commanders in chief for every step
they retired. He could not bear the idea of letting the enemy even
reach Smolensk, still less could he contemplate the burning of Moscow,
and when our armies did unite he was displeased that Smolensk was
abandoned and burned without a general engagement having been fought
under its walls.

So thought the Emperor, and the Russian commanders and people were
still more provoked at the thought that our forces were retreating
into the depths of the country.

Napoleon having cut our armies apart advanced far into the country
and missed several chances of forcing an engagement. In August he
was at Smolensk and thought only of how to advance farther, though
as we now see that advance was evidently ruinous to him.

The facts clearly show that Napoleon did not foresee the danger of
the advance on Moscow, nor did Alexander and the Russian commanders
then think of luring Napoleon on, but quite the contrary. The luring
of Napoleon into the depths of the country was not the result of any
plan, for no one believed it to be possible; it resulted from a most
complex interplay of intrigues, aims, and wishes among those who
took part in the war and had no perception whatever of the inevitable,
or of the one way of saving Russia. Everything came about
fortuitously. The armies were divided at the commencement of the
campaign. We tried to unite them, with the evident intention of giving
battle and checking the enemy's advance, and by this effort to unite
them while avoiding battle with a much stronger enemy, and necessarily
withdrawing the armies at an acute angle- we led the French on to
Smolensk. But we withdrew at an acute angle not only because the
French advanced between our two armies; the angle became still more
acute and we withdrew still farther, because Barclay de Tolly was an
unpopular foreigner disliked by Bagration (who would come his
command), and Bagration- being in command of the second army- tried to
postpone joining up and coming under Barclay's command as long as he
could. Bagration was slow in effecting the junction- though that was
the chief aim of all at headquarters- because, as he alleged, he
exposed his army to danger on this march, and it was best for him to
retire more to the left and more to the south, worrying the enemy from
flank and rear and securing from the Ukraine recruits for his army;
and it looks as if he planned this in order not to come under the
command of the detested foreigner Barclay, whose rank was inferior
to his own.

The Emperor was with the army to encourage it, but his presence
and ignorance of what steps to take, and the enormous number of
advisers and plans, destroyed the first army's energy and it retired.

The intention was to make a stand at the Drissa camp, but
Paulucci, aiming at becoming commander in chief, unexpectedly employed
his energy to influence Alexander, and Pfuel's whole plan was
abandoned and the command entrusted to Barclay. But as Barclay did not
inspire confidence his power was limited. The armies were divided,
there was no unity of command, and Barclay was unpopular; but from
this confusion, division, and the unpopularity of the foreign
commander in chief, there resulted on the one hand indecision and
the avoidance of a battle (which we could not have refrained from
had the armies been united and had someone else, instead of Barclay,
been in command) and on the other an ever-increasing indignation
against the foreigners and an increase in patriotic zeal.

At last the Emperor left the army, and as the most convenient and
indeed the only pretext for his departure it was decided that it was
necessary for him to inspire the people in the capitals and arouse the
nation in general to a patriotic war. And by this visit of the Emperor
to Moscow the strength of the Russian army was trebled.

He left in order not to obstruct the commander in chief's
undivided control of the army, and hoping that more decisive action
would then be taken, but the command of the armies became still more
confused and enfeebled. Bennigsen, the Tsarevich, and a swarm of
adjutants general remained with the army to keep the commander in
chief under observation and arouse his energy, and Barclay, feeling
less free than ever under the observation of all these "eyes of the
Emperor," became still more cautious of undertaking any decisive
action and avoided giving battle.

Barclay stood for caution. The Tsarevich hinted at treachery and
demanded a general engagement. Lubomirski, Bronnitski, Wlocki, and the
others of that group stirred up so much trouble that Barclay, under
pretext of sending papers to the Emperor, dispatched these Polish
adjutants general to Petersburg and plunged into an open struggle with
Bennigsen and the Tsarevich.

At Smolensk the armies at last reunited, much as Bagration
disliked it.

Bagration drove up in a carriage to to the house occupied by
Barclay. Barclay donned his sash and came out to meet and report to
his senior officer Bagration.

Despite his seniority in rank Bagration, in this contest of
magnanimity, took his orders from Barclay, but, having submitted,
agreed with him less than ever. By the Emperor's orders Bagration
reported direct to him. He wrote to Arakcheev, the Emperor's
confidant: "It must be as my sovereign pleases, but I cannot work with
the Minister (meaning Barclay). For God's sake send me somewhere
else if only in command of a regiment. I cannot stand it here.
Headquarters are so full of Germans that a Russian cannot exist and
there is no sense in anything. I thought I was really serving my
sovereign and the Fatherland, but it turns out that I am serving
Barclay. I confess I do not want to."

The swarm of Bronnitskis and Wintzingerodes and their like still
further embittered the relations between the commanders in chief,
and even less unity resulted. Preparations were made to fight the
French before Smolensk. A general was sent to survey the position.
This general, hating Barclay, rode to visit a friend of his own, a
corps commander, and, having spent the day with him, returned to
Barclay and condemned, as unsuitable from every point of view, the
battleground he had not seen.

While disputes and intrigues were going on about the future field of
battle, and while we were looking for the French- having lost touch
with them- the French stumbled upon Neverovski's division and
reached the walls of Smolensk.

It was necessary to fight an unexpected battle at Smolensk to save
our lines of communication. The battle was fought and thousands were
killed on both sides.

Smolensk was abandoned contrary to the wishes of the Emperor and
of the whole people. But Smolensk was burned by its own
inhabitants-who had been misled by their governor. And these ruined
inhabitants, setting an example to other Russians, went to Moscow
thinking only of their own losses but kindling hatred of the foe.
Napoleon advanced farther and we retired, thus arriving at the very
result which caused his destruction.

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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 2 War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 2

War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 2
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War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 23 War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 23

War And Peace - Book Nine: 1812 - Chapter 23
At that moment Count Rostopchin with his protruding chin and alerteyes, wearing the uniform of a general with sash over his shoulder,entered the room, stepping briskly to the front of the crowd ofgentry."Our sovereign the Emperor will be here in a moment," saidRostopchin. "I am straight from the palace. Seeing the position we arein, I think there is little need for discussion. The Emperor hasdeigned to summon us and the merchants. Millions will pour forthfrom there"- he pointed to the merchants' hall- "but our business isto supply men and not spare ourselves... That is the least we can do!"A conference took