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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 28
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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 28 Post by :freespirit Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2420

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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 28

Many historians say that the French did not win the battle of
Borodino because Napoleon had a cold, and that if he had not had a
cold the orders he gave before and during the battle would have been
still more full of genius and Russia would have been lost and the face
of the world have been changed. To historians who believe that
Russia was shaped by the will of one man- Peter the Great- and that
France from a republic became an empire and French armies went to
Russia at the will of one man- Napoleon- to say that Russia remained a
power because Napoleon had a bad cold on the twenty-fourth of August
may seem logical and convincing.

If it had depended on Napoleon's will to fight or not to fight the
battle of Borodino, and if this or that other arrangement depended
on his will, then evidently a cold affecting the manifestation of
his will might have saved Russia, and consequently the valet who
omitted to bring Napoleon his waterproof boots on the twenty-fourth
would have been the savior of Russia. Along that line of thought
such a deduction is indubitable, as indubitable as the deduction
Voltaire made in jest (without knowing what he was jesting at) when he
saw that the Massacre of St. Bartholomew was due to Charles IX's
stomach being deranged. But to men who do not admit that Russia was
formed by the will of one man, Peter I, or that the French Empire
was formed and the war with Russia begun by the will of one man,
Napoleon, that argument seems not merely untrue and irrational, but
contrary to all human reality. To the question of what causes historic
events another answer presents itself, namely, that the course of
human events is predetermined from on high- depends on the coincidence
of the wills of all who take part in the events, and that a Napoleon's
influence on the course of these events is purely external and

Strange as at first glance it may seem to suppose that the
Massacre of St. Bartholomew was not due to Charles IX's will, though
he gave the order for it and thought it was done as a result of that
order; and strange as it may seem to suppose that the slaughter of
eighty thousand men at Borodino was not due to Napoleon's will, though
he ordered the commencement and conduct of the battle and thought it
was done because he ordered it; strange as these suppositions
appear, yet human dignity- which tells me that each of us is, if not
more at least not less a man than the great Napoleon- demands the
acceptance of that solution of the question, and historic
investigation abundantly confirms it.

At the battle of Borodino Napoleon shot at no one and killed no one.
That was all done by the soldiers. Therefore it was not he who
killed people.

The French soldiers went to kill and be killed at the battle of
Borodino not because of Napoleon's orders but by their own volition.
The whole army- French, Italian, German, Polish, and Dutch- hungry,
ragged, and weary of the campaign, felt at the sight of an army
blocking their road to Moscow that the wine was drawn and must be
drunk. Had Napoleon then forbidden them to fight the Russians, they
would have killed him and have proceeded to fight the Russians because
it was inevitable.

When they heard Napoleon's proclamation offering them, as
compensation for mutilation and death, the words of posterity about
their having been in the battle before Moscow, they cried "Vive
l'Empereur!" just as they had cried "Vive l'Empereur!" at the sight of
the portrait of the boy piercing the terrestrial globe with a toy
stick, and just as they would have cried "Vive l'Empereur!" at any
nonsense that might be told them. There was nothing left for them to
do but cry "Vive l'Empereur!" and go to fight, in order to get food
and rest as conquerors in Moscow. So it was not because of
Napoleon's commands that they killed their fellow men.

And it was not Napoleon who directed the course of the battle, for
none of his orders were executed and during the battle he did not know
what was going on before him. So the way in which these people
killed one another was not decided by Napoleon's will but occurred
independently of him, in accord with the will of hundreds of thousands
of people who took part in the common action. It only seemed to
Napoleon that it all took place by his will. And so the question
whether he had or had not a cold has no more historic interest than
the cold of the least of the transport soldiers.

Moreover, the assertion made by various writers that his cold was
the cause of his dispositions not being as well planned as on former
occasions, and of his orders during the battle not being as good as
previously, is quite baseless, which again shows that Napoleon's
cold on the twenty-sixth of August was unimportant.

The dispositions cited above are not at all worse, but are even
better, than previous dispositions by which he had won victories.
His pseudo-orders during the battle were also no worse than
formerly, but much the same as usual. These dispositions and orders
only seem worse than previous ones because the battle of Borodino
was the first Napoleon did not win. The profoundest and most excellent
dispositions and orders seem very bad, and every learned militarist
criticizes them with looks oks importance, when they relate to a
battle that has been lost, and the very worst dispositions and
orders seem very good, and serious people fill whole volumes to
demonstrate their merits, when they relate to a battle that has been

The dispositions drawn up by Weyrother for the battle of
Austerlitz were a model of perfection for that kind of composition,
but still they were criticized- criticized for their very
perfection, for their excessive minuteness.

Napoleon at the battle of Borodino fulfilled his office as
representative of authority as well as, and even better than, at other
battles. He did nothing harmful to the progress of the battle; he
inclined to the most reasonable opinions, he made no confusion, did
not contradict himself, did not get frightened or run away from the
field of battle, but with his great tact and military experience
carried out his role of appearing to command, calmly and with dignity.

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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 29 War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 29

War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 29
On returning from a second inspection of the lines, Napoleonremarked:"The chessmen are set up, the game will begin tomorrow!"Having ordered punch and summoned de Beausset, he began to talk tohim about Paris and about some changes he meant to make the Empress'household, surprising the prefect by his memory of minute detailsrelating to the court.He showed an interest in trifles, joked about de Beausset's loveof travel, and chatted carelessly, as a famous, self-confident surgeonwho knows his job does when turning up his sleeves and putting onhis apron while a patient is being strapped to the operating table."The matter is in my hands

War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 27 War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 27

War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 27
On the twenty-fifth of August, so his historians tell us, Napoleonspent the whole day on horseback inspecting the locality,considering plans submitted to him by his marshals, and personallygiving commands to his generals.The original line of the Russian forces along the river Kolochahad been dislocated by the capture of the Shevardino Redoubt on thetwenty-fourth, and part of the line- the left flank- had been drawnback. That part of the line was not entrenched and in front of itthe ground was more open and level than elsewhere. It was evident toanyone, military or not, that it was here the French should attack. Itwould