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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 33
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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 33 Post by :barnone Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2442

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 33 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 33

The chief action of the battle of Borodino was fought within the
seven thousand feet between Borodino and Bagration's fleches. Beyond
that space there was, on the one side, a demonstration made by the
Russians with Uvarov's cavalry at midday, and on the other side,
beyond Utitsa, Poniatowski's collision with Tuchkov; but these two
were detached and feeble actions in comparison with what took place in
the center of the battlefield. On the field between Borodino and the
fleches, beside the wood, the chief action of the day took place on an
open space visible from both sides and was fought in the simplest
and most artless way.

The battle began on both sides with a cannonade from several hundred
guns.

Then when the whole field was covered with smoke, two divisions,
Campan's and Dessaix's, advanced from the French right, while
Murat's troops advanced on Borodino from their left.

From the Shevardino Redoubt where Napoleon was standing the
fleches were two thirds of a mile away, and it was more than a mile as
the crow flies to Borodino, so that Napoleon could not see what was
happening there, especially as the smoke mingling with the mist hid
the whole locality. The soldiers of Dessaix's division advancing
against the fleches could only be seen till they had entered the
hollow that lay between them and the fleches. As soon as they had
descended into that hollow, the smoke of the guns and musketry on
the fleches grew so dense that it covered the whole approach on that
side of it. Through the smoke glimpses could be caught of something
black- probably men- and at times the glint of bayonets. But whether
they were moving or stationary, whether they were French or Russian,
could not be discovered from the Shevardino Redoubt.

The sun had risen brightly and its slanting rays struck straight
into Napoleon's face as, shading his eyes with his hand, he looked
at the fleches. The smoke spread out before them, and at times it
looked as if the smoke were moving, at times as if the troops moved.
Sometimes shouts were heard through the firing, but it was
impossible to tell what was being done there.

Napoleon, standing on the knoll, looked through a field glass, and
in its small circlet saw smoke and men, sometimes his own and
sometimes Russians, but when he looked again with the naked eye, he
could not tell where what he had seen was.

He descended the knoll and began walking up and down before it.

Occasionally he stopped, listened to the firing, and gazed
intently at the battlefield.

But not only was it impossible to make out what was happening from
where he was standing down below, or from the knoll above on which
some of his generals had taken their stand, but even from the
fleches themselves- in which by this time there were now Russian and
now French soldiers, alternately or together, dead, wounded, alive,
frightened, or maddened- even at those fleches themselves it was
impossible to make out what was taking place. There for several
hours amid incessant cannon and musketry fire, now Russians were
seen alone, now Frenchmen alone, now infantry, and now cavalry: they
appeared, fired, fell, collided, not knowing what to do with one
another, screamed, and ran back again.

From the battlefield adjutants he had sent out, and orderlies from
his marshals, kept galloping up to Napoleon with reports of the
progress of the action, but all these reports were false, both because
it was impossible in the heat of battle to say what was happening at
any given moment and because many of the adjutants did not go to the
actual place of conflict but reported what they had heard from others;
and also because while an adjutant was riding more than a mile to
Napoleon circumstances changed and the news he brought was already
becoming false. Thus an adjutant galloped up from Murat with tidings
that Borodino had been occupied and the bridge over the Kolocha was in
the hands of the French. The adjutant asked whether Napoleon wished
the troops to cross it? Napoleon gave orders that the troops should
form up on the farther side and wait. But before that order was given-
almost as soon in fact as the adjutant had left Borodino- the bridge
had been retaken by the Russians and burned, in the very skirmish at
which Pierre had been present at the beginning of the battle.

An adjutant galloped up from the fleches with a pale and
frightened face and reported to Napoleon that their attack had been
repulsed, Campan wounded, and Davout killed; yet at the very time
the adjutant had been told that the French had been repulsed, the
fleches had in fact been recaptured by other French troops, and Davout
was alive and only slightly bruised. On the basis of these necessarily
untrustworthy reports Napoleon gave his orders, which had either
been executed before he gave them or could not be and were not
executed.

The marshals and generals, who were nearer to the field of battle
but, like Napoleon, did not take part in the actual fighting and
only occasionally went within musket range, made their own
arrangements without asking Napoleon and issued orders where and in
what direction to fire and where cavalry should gallop and infantry
should run. But even their orders, like Napoleon's, were seldom
carried out, and then but partially. For the most part things happened
contrary to their orders. Soldiers ordered to advance ran back on
meeting grapeshot; soldiers ordered to remain where they were,
suddenly, seeing Russians unexpectedly before them, sometimes rushed
back and sometimes forward, and the cavalry dashed without orders in
pursuit of the flying Russians. In this way two cavalry regiments
galloped through the Semenovsk hollow and as soon as they reached
the top of the incline turned round and galloped full speed back
again. The infantry moved in the same way, sometimes running to
quite other places than those they were ordered to go to. All orders
as to where and when to move the guns, when to send infantry to
shoot or horsemen to ride down the Russian infantry- all such orders
were given by the officers on the spot nearest to the units concerned,
without asking either Ney, Davout, or Murat, much less Napoleon.
They did not fear getting into trouble for not fulfilling orders or
for acting on their own initiative, for in battle what is at stake
is what is dearest to man- his own life- and it sometimes seems that
safety lies in running back, sometimes in running forward; and these
men who were right in the heat of the battle acted according to the
mood of the moment. In reality, however, all these movements forward
and backward did not improve or alter the position of the troops.
All their rushing and galloping at one another did little harm, the
harm of disablement and death was caused by the balls and bullets that
flew over the fields on which these men were floundering about. As
soon as they left the place where the balls and bullets were flying
about, their superiors, located in the background, re-formed them
and brought them under discipline and under the influence of that
discipline led them back to the zone of fire, where under the
influence of fear of death they lost their discipline and rushed about
according to the chance promptings of the throng.

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Napoleon's generals- Davout, Ney, and Murat, who were near thatregion of fire and sometimes even entered it- repeatedly led into ithuge masses of well-ordered troops. But contrary to what had alwayshappened in their former battles, instead of the news they expected ofthe enemy's flight, these orderly masses returned thence asdisorganized and terrified mobs. The generals re-formed them, buttheir numbers constantly decreased. In the middle of the day Muratsent his adjutant to Napoleon to demand reinforcements.Napoleon sat at the foot of the knoll, drinking punch, whenMurat's adjutant galloped up with an assurance that the Russians wouldbe routed if His Majesty would let
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Beside himself with terror Pierre jumped up and ran back to thebattery, as to the only refuge from the horrors that surrounded him.On entering the earthwork he noticed that there were men doingsomething there but that no shots were being fired from the battery.He had no time to realize who these men were. He saw the seniorofficer lying on the earth wall with his back turned as if he wereexamining something down below and that one of the soldiers he hadnoticed before was struggling forward shouting "Brothers!" andtrying to free himself from some men who were holding him by thearm. He
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