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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 3
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War And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 3 Post by :Melvin_Ng Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :1817

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War And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 3

The Russian army was commanded by Kutuzov and his staff, and also by
the Emperor from Petersburg. Before the news of the abandonment of
Moscow had been received in Petersburg, a detailed plan of the whole
campaign had been drawn up and sent to Kutuzov for his guidance.
Though this plan had been drawn up on the supposition that Moscow
was still in our hands, it was approved by the staff and accepted as a
basis for action. Kutuzov only replied that movements arranged from
a distance were always difficult to execute. So fresh instructions
were sent for the solution of difficulties that might be
encountered, as well as fresh people who were to watch Kutuzov's
actions and report upon them.

Besides this, the whole staff of the Russian army was now
reorganized. The posts left vacant by Bagration, who had been
killed, and by Barclay, who had gone away in dudgeon, had to be
filled. Very serious consideration was given to the question whether
it would be better to put A in B's place and B in D's, or on the
contrary to put D in A's place, and so on- as if anything more than
A's or B's satisfaction depended on this.

As a result of the hostility between Kutuzov and Bennigsen, his
Chief of Staff, the presence of confidential representatives of the
Emperor, and these transfers, a more than usually complicated play
of parties was going on among the staff of the army. A was undermining
B, D was undermining C, and so on in all possible combinations and
permutations. In all these plottings the subject of intrigue was
generally the conduct of the war, which all these men believed they
were directing; but this affair of the war went on independently of
them, as it had to go: that is, never in the way people devised, but
flowing always from the essential attitude of the masses. Only in
the highest spheres did all these schemes, crossings, and
interminglings appear to be a true reflection of what had to happen.


Prince Michael Ilarionovich! (wrote the Emperor on the second of
October in a letter that reached Kutuzov after the battle at Tarutino)
Since September 2 Moscow has been in the hands of the enemy. Your last
reports were written on the twentieth, and during all this time not
only has no action been taken against the enemy or for the relief of
the ancient capital, but according to your last report you have even
retreated farther. Serpukhov is already occupied by an enemy
detachment and Tula with its famous arsenal so indispensable to the
army, is in danger. From General Wintzingerode's reports, I see that
an enemy corps of ten thousand men is moving on the Petersburg road.
Another corps of several thousand men is moving on Dmitrov. A third
has advanced along the Vladimir road, and a fourth, rather
considerable detachment is stationed between Ruza and Mozhaysk.
Napoleon himself was in Moscow as late as the twenty-fifth. In view of
all this information, when the enemy has scattered his forces in large
detachments, and with Napoleon and his Guards in Moscow, is it
possible that the enemy's forces confronting you are so considerable
as not to allow of your taking the offensive? On the contrary, he is
probably pursuing you with detachments, or at most with an army
corps much weaker than the army entrusted to you. It would seem
that, availing yourself of these circumstances, you might
advantageously attack a weaker one and annihilate him, or at least
oblige him to retreat, retaining in our hands an important part of the
provinces now occupied by the enemy, and thereby averting danger
from Tula and other towns in the interior. You will be responsible
if the enemy is able to direct a force of any size against
Petersburg to threaten this capital in which it has not been
possible to retain many troops; for with the army entrusted to you,
and acting with resolution and energy, you have ample means to avert
this fresh calamity. Remember that you have still to answer to our
offended country for the loss of Moscow. You have experienced my
readiness to reward you. That readiness will not weaken in me, but I
and Russia have a right to expect from you all the zeal, firmness, and
success which your intellect, military talent, and the courage of
the troops you command justify us in expecting.


But by the time this letter, which proved that the real relation
of the forces had already made itself felt in Petersburg, was
dispatched, Kutuzov had found himself unable any longer to restrain
the army he commanded from attacking and a battle had taken place.

On the second of October a Cossack, Shapovalov, who was out
scouting, killed one hare and wounded another. Following the wounded
hare he made his way far into the forest and came upon the left
flank of Murat's army, encamped there without any precautions. The
Cossack laughingly told his comrades how he had almost fallen into the
hands of the French. A cornet, hearing the story, informed his
commander.

The Cossack was sent for and questioned. The Cossack officers wished
to take advantage of this chance to capture some horses, but one of
the superior officers, who was acquainted with the higher authorities,
reported the incident to a general on the staff. The state of
things on the staff had of late been exceedingly strained. Ermolov had
been to see Bennigsen a few days previously and had entreated him to
use his influence with the commander in chief to induce him to take
the offensive.

"If I did not know you I should think you did not want what you
are asking for. I need only advise anything and his Highness is sure
to do the opposite," replied Bennigsen.

The Cossack's report, confirmed by horse patrols who were sent
out, was the final proof that events had matured. The tightly coiled
spring was released, the clock began to whirr and the chimes to
play. Despite all his supposed power, his intellect, his experience,
and his knowledge of men, Kutuzov- having taken into consideration the
Cossack's report, a note from Bennigsen who sent personal reports to
the Emperor, the wishes he supposed the Emperor to hold, and the
fact that all the generals expressed the same wish- could no longer
check the inevitable movement, and gave the order to do what he
regarded as useless and harmful- gave his approval, that is, to the
accomplished fact.

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Bennigsen's note and the Cossack's information that the left flankof the French was unguarded were merely final indications that itwas necessary to order an attack, and it was fixed for the fifth ofOctober.On the morning of the fourth of October Kutuzov signed thedispositions. Toll read them to Ermolov, asking him to attend to thefurther arrangements."All right- all right. I haven't time just now," replied Ermolov,and left the hut.The dispositions drawn up by Toll were very good. As in theAusterlitz dispositions, it was written- though not in German thistime:"The First Column will march here and here," "the Second Column willmarch there and
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The famous flank movement merely consisted in this: after theadvance of the French had ceased, the Russian army, which had beencontinually retreating straight back from the invaders, deviatedfrom that direct course and, not finding itself pursued, was naturallydrawn toward the district where supplies were abundant.If instead of imagining to ourselves commanders of genius leadingthe Russian army, we picture that army without any leaders, it couldnot have done anything but make a return movement toward Moscow,describing an arc in the direction where most provisions were to befound and where the country was richest.That movement from the Nizhni to the Ryazan, Tula, and
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