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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 2
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War And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 2 Post by :lombadas2 Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :591

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War And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 2

The famous flank movement merely consisted in this: after the
advance of the French had ceased, the Russian army, which had been
continually retreating straight back from the invaders, deviated
from that direct course and, not finding itself pursued, was naturally
drawn toward the district where supplies were abundant.

If instead of imagining to ourselves commanders of genius leading
the Russian army, we picture that army without any leaders, it could
not have done anything but make a return movement toward Moscow,
describing an arc in the direction where most provisions were to be
found and where the country was richest.

That movement from the Nizhni to the Ryazan, Tula, and Kaluga
roads was so natural that even the Russian marauders moved in that
direction, and demands were sent from Petersburg for Kutuzov to take
his army that way. At Tarutino Kutuzov received what was almost a
reprimand from the Emperor for having moved his army along the
Ryazan road, and the Emperor's letter indicated to him the very
position he had already occupied near Kaluga.

Having rolled like a ball in the direction of the impetus given by
the whole campaign and by the battle of Borodino, the Russian army-
when the strength of that impetus was exhausted and no fresh push
was received- assumed the position natural to it.

Kutuzov's merit lay, not in any strategic maneuver of genius, as
it is called, but in the fact that he alone understood the
significance of what had happened. He alone then understood the
meaning of the French army's inactivity, he alone continued to
assert that the battle of Borodino had been a victory, he alone- who
as commander in chief might have been expected to be eager to
attack- employed his whole strength to restrain the Russian army
from useless engagements.

The beast wounded at Borodino was lying where the fleeing hunter had
left him; but whether he was still alive, whether he was strong and
merely lying low, the hunter did not know. Suddenly the beast was
heard to moan.

The moan of that wounded beast (the French army) which betrayed
its calamitous condition was the sending of Lauriston to Kutuzov's
camp with overtures for peace.

Napoleon, with his usual assurance that whatever entered his head
was right, wrote to Kutuzov the first words that occurred to him,
though they were meaningless.


MONSIEUR LE PRINCE KOUTOUZOV: I am sending one of my
adjutants-general to discuss several interesting questions with you. I
beg your Highness to credit what he says to you, especially when he
expresses the sentiment of esteem and special regard I have long
entertained for your person. This letter having no other object, I
pray God, monsieur le Prince Koutouzov, to keep you in His holy and
gracious protection!

NAPOLEON

MOSCOW, OCTOBER 30, 1812


Kutuzov replied: "I should be cursed by posterity were I looked on
as the initiator of a settlement of any sort. Such is the present
spirit of my nation." But he continued to exert all his powers to
restrain his troops from attacking.

During the month that the French troops were pillaging in Moscow and
the Russian troops were quietly encamped at Tarutino, a change had
taken place in the relative strength of the two armies- both in spirit
and in number- as a result of which the superiority had passed to
the Russian side. Though the condition and numbers of the French
army were unknown to the Russians, as soon as that change occurred the
need of attacking at once showed itself by countless signs. These
signs were: Lauriston's mission; the abundance of provisions at
Tarutino; the reports coming in from all sides of the inactivity and
disorder of the French; the flow of recruits to our regiments; the
fine weather; the long rest the Russian soldiers had enjoyed, and
the impatience to do what they had been assembled for, which usually
shows itself in an army that has been resting; curiosity as to what
the French army, so long lost sight of, was doing; the boldness with
which our outposts now scouted close up to the French stationed at
Tarutino; the news of easy successes gained by peasants and
guerrilla troops over the French, the envy aroused by this; the desire
for revenge that lay in the heart of every Russian as long as the
French were in Moscow, and (above all) a dim consciousness in every
soldier's mind that the relative strength of the armies had changed
and that the advantage was now on our side. There was a substantial
change in the relative strength, and an advance had become inevitable.
And at once, as a clock begins to strike and chime as soon as the
minute hand has completed a full circle, this change was shown by an
increased activity, whirring, and chiming in the higher spheres.

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The Russian army was commanded by Kutuzov and his staff, and also bythe Emperor from Petersburg. Before the news of the abandonment ofMoscow had been received in Petersburg, a detailed plan of the wholecampaign had been drawn up and sent to Kutuzov for his guidance.Though this plan had been drawn up on the supposition that Moscowwas still in our hands, it was approved by the staff and accepted as abasis for action. Kutuzov only replied that movements arranged froma distance were always difficult to execute. So fresh instructionswere sent for the solution of difficulties that might beencountered, as well as fresh
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Man's mind cannot grasp the causes of events in theircompleteness, but the desire to find those causes is implanted inman's soul. And without considering the multiplicity and complexity ofthe conditions any one of which taken separately may seem to be thecause, he snatches at the first approximation to a cause that seems tohim intelligible and says: "This is the cause!" In historical events(where the actions of men are the subject of observation) the firstand most primitive approximation to present itself was the will of thegods and, after that, the will of those who stood in the mostprominent position- the heroes of
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