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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 23
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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 23 Post by :sk1442 Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1708

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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 23

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.

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