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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 34
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War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 34 Post by :mmoneys Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :2712

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 34 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Ten: 1812 - Chapter 34

Napoleon's generals- Davout, Ney, and Murat, who were near that
region of fire and sometimes even entered it- repeatedly led into it
huge masses of well-ordered troops. But contrary to what had always
happened in their former battles, instead of the news they expected of
the enemy's flight, these orderly masses returned thence as
disorganized and terrified mobs. The generals re-formed them, but
their numbers constantly decreased. In the middle of the day Murat
sent his adjutant to Napoleon to demand reinforcements.

Napoleon sat at the foot of the knoll, drinking punch, when
Murat's adjutant galloped up with an assurance that the Russians would
be routed if His Majesty would let him have another division.

"Reinforcements?" said Napoleon in a tone of stern surprise, looking
at the adjutant- a handsome lad with long black curls arranged like
Murat's own- as though he did not understand his words.

"Reinforcements!" thought Napoleon to himself. "How can they need
reinforcements when they already have half the army directed against a
weak, unentrenched Russian wing?"

"Tell the King of Naples," said he sternly, "that it is not noon
yet, and I don't yet see my chessboard clearly. Go!..."

The handsome boy adjutant with the long hair sighed deeply without
removing his hand from his hat and galloped back to where men were
being slaughtered.

Napoleon rose and having summoned Caulaincourt and Berthier began
talking to them about matters unconnected with the battle.

In the midst of this conversation, which was beginning to interest
Napoleon, Berthier's eyes turned to look at a general with a suite,
who was galloping toward the knoll on a lathering horse. It was
Belliard. Having dismounted he went up to the Emperor with rapid
strides and in a loud voice began boldly demonstrating the necessity
of sending reinforcements. He swore on his honor that the Russians
were lost if the Emperor would give another division.

Napoleon shrugged his shoulders and continued to pace up and down
without replying. Belliard began talking loudly and eagerly to the
generals of the suite around him.

"You are very fiery, Belliard," said Napoleon, when he again came up
to the general. "In the heat of a battle it is easy to make a mistake.
Go and have another look and then come back to me."

Before Belliard was out of sight, a messenger from another part of
the battlefield galloped up.

"Now then, what do you want?" asked Napoleon in the tone of a man
irritated at being continually disturbed.

"Sire, the prince..." began the adjutant.

"Asks for reinforcements?" said Napoleon with an angry gesture.

The adjutant bent his head affirmatively and began to report, but
the Emperor turned from him, took a couple of steps, stopped, came
back, and called Berthier.

"We must give reserves," he said, moving his arms slightly apart.
"Who do you think should be sent there?" he asked of Berthier (whom he
subsequently termed "that gosling I have made an eagle").

"Send Claparede's division, sire," replied Berthier, who knew all
the divisions regiments, and battalions by heart.

Napoleon nodded assent.

The adjutant galloped to Claparede's division and a few minutes
later the Young Guards stationed behind the knoll moved forward.
Napoleon gazed silently in that direction.

"No!" he suddenly said to Berthier. "I can't send Claparede. Send
Friant's division."

Though there was no advantage in sending Friant's division instead
of Claparede's, and even in obvious inconvenience and delay in
stopping Claparede and sending Friant now, the order was carried out
exactly. Napoleon did not notice that in regard to his army he was
playing the part of a doctor who hinders by his medicines- a role he
so justly understood and condemned.

Friant's division disappeared as the others had done into the
smoke of the battlefield. From all sides adjutants continued to arrive
at a gallop and as if by agreement all said the same thing. They all
asked for reinforcements and all said that the Russians were holding
their positions and maintaining a hellish fire under which the
French army was melting away.

Napoleon sat on a campstool, wrapped in thought.

M. de Beausset, the man so fond of travel, having fasted since
morning, came up to the Emperor and ventured respectfully to suggest
lunch to His Majesty.

"I hope I may now congratulate Your Majesty on a victory?" said he.

Napoleon silently shook his head in negation. Assuming the
negation to refer only to the victory and not to the lunch, M. de
Beausset ventured with respectful jocularity to remark that there is
no reason for not having lunch when one can get it.

"Go away..." exclaimed Napoleon suddenly and morosely, and turned
aside.

A beatific smile of regret, repentance, and ecstasy beamed on M.
de Beausset's face and he glided away to the other generals.

Napoleon was experiencing a feeling of depression like that of an
ever-lucky gambler who, after recklessly flinging money about and
always winning, suddenly just when he has calculated all the chances
of the game, finds that the more he considers his play the more surely
he loses.

His troops were the same, his generals the same, the same
preparations had been made, the same dispositions, and the same
proclamation courte et energique, he himself was still the same: he
knew that and knew that he was now even more experienced and
skillful than before. Even the enemy was the same as at Austerlitz and
Friedland- yet the terrible stroke of his arm had supernaturally
become impotent.

All the old methods that had been unfailingly crowned with
success: the concentration of batteries on one point, an attack by
reserves to break the enemy's line, and a cavalry attack by "the men
of iron," all these methods had already been employed, yet not only
was there no victory, but from all sides came the same news of
generals killed and wounded, of reinforcements needed, of the
impossibility of driving back the Russians, and of disorganization
among his own troops.

Formerly, after he had given two or three orders and uttered a few
phrases, marshals and adjutants had come galloping up with
congratulations and happy faces, announcing the trophies taken, the
corps of prisoners, bundles of enemy eagles and standards, cannon
and stores, and Murat had only begged leave to loose the cavalry to
gather in the baggage wagons. So it had been at Lodi, Marengo, Arcola,
Jena, Austerlitz, Wagram, and so on. But now something strange was
happening to his troops.

Despite news of the capture of the fleches, Napoleon saw that this
was not the same, not at all the same, as what had happened in his
former battles. He saw that what he was feeling was felt by all the
men about him experienced in the art of war. All their faces looked
dejected, and they all shunned one another's eyes- only a de
Beausset could fail to grasp the meaning of what was happening.

But Napoleon with his long experience of war well knew the meaning
of a battle not gained by the attacking side in eight hours, after all
efforts had been expended. He knew that it was a lost battle and
that the least accident might now- with the fight balanced on such a
strained center- destroy him and his army.

When he ran his mind over the whole of this strange Russian campaign
in which not one battle had been won, and in which not a flag, or
cannon, or army corps had been captured in two months, when he
looked at the concealed depression on the faces around him and heard
reports of the Russians still holding their ground- a terrible feeling
like a nightmare took possession of him, and all the unlucky accidents
that might destroy him occurred to his mind. The Russians might fall
on his left wing, might break through his center, he himself might
be killed by a stray cannon ball. All this was possible. In former
battles he had only considered the possibilities of success, but now
innumerable unlucky chances presented themselves, and he expected them
all. Yes, it was like a dream in which a man fancies that a ruffian is
coming to attack him, and raises his arm to strike that ruffian a
terrible blow which he knows should annihilate him, but then feels
that his arm drops powerless and limp like a rag, and the horror of
unavoidable destruction seizes him in his helplessness.

The news that the Russians were attacking the left flank of the
French army aroused that horror in Napoleon. He sat silently on a
campstool below the knoll, with head bowed and elbows on his knees.
Berthier approached and suggested that they should ride along the line
to ascertain the position of affairs.

"What? What do you say?" asked Napoleon. "Yes, tell them to bring me
my horse."

He mounted and rode toward Semenovsk.

Amid the powder smoke, slowly dispersing over the whole space
through which Napoleon rode, horses and men were lying in pools of
blood, singly or in heaps. Neither Napoleon nor any of his generals
had ever before seen such horrors or so many slain in such a small
area. The roar of guns, that had not ceased for ten hours, wearied the
ear and gave a peculiar significance to the spectacle, as music does
to tableaux vivants. Napoleon rode up the high ground at Semenovsk,
and through the smoke saw ranks of men in uniforms of a color
unfamiliar to him. They were Russians.

The Russians stood in serried ranks behind Semenovsk village and its
knoll, and their guns boomed incessantly along their line and sent
forth clouds of smoke. It was no longer a battle: it was a
continuous slaughter which could be of no avail either to the French
or the Russians. Napoleon stopped his horse and again fell into the
reverie from which Berthier had aroused him. He could not stop what
was going on before him and around him and was supposed to be directed
by him and to depend on him, and from its lack of success this affair,
for the first time, seemed to him unnecessary and horrible.

One of the generals rode up to Napoleon and ventured to offer to
lead the Old Guard into action. Ney and Berthier, standing near
Napoleon, exchanged looks and smiled contemptuously at this
general's senseless offer.

Napoleon bowed his head and remained silent a long time.

"At eight hundred leagues from France, I will not have my Guard
destroyed!" he said, and turning his horse rode back to Shevardino.

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