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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 27
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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 27 Post by :Fexana Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :708

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 27 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 27

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.

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