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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 6
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War And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 6 Post by :lilyg Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :3057

Click below to download : War And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 6 (Format : PDF)

War And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 6

Next day the troops assembled in their appointed places in the
evening and advanced during the night. It was an autumn night with
dark purple clouds, but no rain. The ground was damp but not muddy,
and the troops advanced noiselessly, only occasionally a jingling of
the artillery could be faintly heard. The men were forbidden to talk
out loud, to smoke their pipes, or to strike a light, and they tried
to prevent their horses neighing. The secrecy of the undertaking
heightened its charm and they marched gaily. Some columns,
supposing. they had reached their destination, halted, piled arms, and
settled down on the cold ground, but the majority marched all night
and arrived at places where they evidently should not have been.

Only Count Orlov-Denisov with his Cossacks (the least important
detachment of all) got to his appointed place at the right time.
This detachment halted at the outskirts of a forest, on the path
leading from the village of Stromilova to Dmitrovsk.

Toward dawn, Count Orlov-Denisov, who had dozed off, was awakened by
a deserter from the French army being brought to him. This was a
Polish sergeant of Poniatowski's corps, who explained in Polish that
he had come over because he had been slighted in the service: that
he ought long ago to have been made an officer, that he was braver
than any of them, and so he had left them and wished to pay them
out. He said that Murat was spending the night less than a mile from
where they were, and that if they would let him have a convoy of a
hundred men he would capture him alive. Count Orlov-Denisov
consulted his fellow officers.

The offer was too tempting to be refused. Everyone volunteered to go
and everybody advised making the attempt. After much disputing and
arguing, Major-General Grekov with two Cossack regiments decided to go
with the Polish sergeant.

"Now, remember," said Count Orlov-Denisov to the sergeant at
parting, "if you have been lying I'll have you hanged like a dog;
but if it's true you shall have a hundred gold pieces!"

Without replying, the sergeant, with a resolute air, mounted and
rode away with Grekov whose men had quickly assembled. They
disappeared into the forest, and Count Orlov-Denisov, having seen
Grekov off, returned, shivering from the freshness of the early dawn
and excited by what he had undertaken on his own responsibility, and
began looking at the enemy camp, now just visible in the deceptive
light of dawn and the dying campfires. Our columns ought to have begun
to appear on an open declivity to his right. He looked in that
direction, but though the columns would have been visible quite far
off, they were not to be seen. It seemed to the count that things were
beginning to stir in the French camp, and his keen-sighted adjutant
confirmed this.

"Oh, it is really too late," said Count Orlov, looking at the camp.

As often happens when someone we have trusted is no longer before
our eyes, it suddenly seemed quite clear and obvious to him that the
sergeant was an impostor, that he had lied, and that the whole Russian
attack would be ruined by the absence of those two regiments, which he
would lead away heaven only knew where. How could one capture a
commander in chief from among such a mass of troops!

"I am sure that rascal was lying," said the count.

"They can still be called back," said one of his suite, who like
Count Orlov felt distrustful of the adventure when he looked at the
enemy's camp.

"Eh? Really... what do you think? Should we let them go on or not?"

"Will you have them fetched back?"

"Fetch them back, fetch them back!" said Count Orlov with sudden
determination, looking at his watch. "It will be too late. It is quite
light."

And the adjutant galloped through the forest after Grekov. When
Grekov returned, Count Orlov-Denisov, excited both by the abandoned
attempt and by vainly awaiting the infantry columns that still did not
appear, as well as by the proximity of the enemy, resolved to advance.
All his men felt the same excitement.

"Mount!" he commanded in a whisper. The men took their places and
crossed themselves.... "Forward, with God's aid!"

"Hurrah-ah-ah!" reverberated in the forest, and the Cossack
companies, trailing their lances and advancing one after another as if
poured out of a sack, dashed gaily across the brook toward the camp.

One desperate, frightened yell from the first French soldier who saw
the Cossacks, and all who were in the camp, undressed and only just
waking up, ran off in all directions, abandoning cannons, muskets, and
horses.

Had the Cossacks pursued the French, without heeding what was behind
and around them, they would have captured Murat and everything
there. That was what the officers desired. But it was impossible to
make the Cossacks budge when once they had got booty and prisoners.
None of them listened to orders. Fifteen hundred prisoners and
thirty-eight guns were taken on the spot, besides standards and
(what seemed most important to the Cossacks) horses, saddles,
horsecloths, and the like. All this had to be dealt with, the
prisoners and guns secured, the booty divided- not without some
shouting and even a little themselves- and it was on this that the
Cossacks all busied themselves.

The French, not being farther pursued, began to recover
themselves: they formed into detachments and began firing.
Orlov-Denisov, still waiting for the other columns to arrive, advanced
no further.

Meantime, according to the dispositions which said that "the First
Column will march" and so on, the infantry of the belated columns,
commanded by Bennigsen and directed by Toll, had started in due
order and, as always happens, had got somewhere, but not to their
appointed places. As always happens the men, starting cheerfully,
began to halt; murmurs were heard, there was a sense of confusion, and
finally a backward movement. Adjutants and generals galloped about,
shouted, grew angry, quarreled, said they had come quite wrong and
were late, gave vent to a little abuse, and at last gave it all up and
went forward, simply to get somewhere. "We shall get somewhere or
other!" And they did indeed get somewhere, though not to their right
places; a few eventually even got to their right place, but too late
to be of any use and only in time to be fired at. Toll, who in this
battle played the part of Weyrother at Austerlitz, galloped
assiduously from place to place, finding everything upside down
everywhere. Thus he stumbled on Bagovut's corps in a wood when it
was already broad daylight, though the corps should long before have
joined Orlov-Denisov. Excited and vexed by the failure and supposing
that someone must be responsible for it, Toll galloped up to the
commander of the corps and began upbraiding him severely, saying
that he ought to be shot. General Bagovut, a fighting old soldier of
placid temperament, being also upset by all the delay, confusion,
and cross-purposes, fell into a rage to everybody's surprise and quite
contrary to his usual character and said disagreeable things to Toll.

"I prefer not to take lessons from anyone, but I can die with my men
as well as anybody," he said, and advanced with a single division.

Coming out onto a field under the enemy's fire, this brave general
went straight ahead, leading his men under fire, without considering
in his agitation whether going into action now, with a single
division, would be of any use or no. Danger, cannon balls, and bullets
were just what he needed in his angry mood. One of the first bullets
killed him, and other bullets killed many of his men. And his division
remained under fire for some time quite uselessly.

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Meanwhile another column was to have attacked the French from thefront, but Kutuzov accompanied that column. He well knew thatnothing but confusion would come of this battle undertaken against hiswill, and as far as was in his power held the troops back. He didnot advance.He rode silently on his small gray horse, indolently answeringsuggestions that they should attack."The word attack is always on your tongue, but you don't see that weare unable to execute complicated maneuvers," said he toMiloradovich who asked permission to advance."We couldn't take Murat prisoner this morning or get to the place intime, and nothing can be done
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Next day the decrepit Kutuzov, having given orders to be calledearly, said his prayers, dressed, and, with an unpleasantconsciousness of having to direct a battle he did not approve of,got into his caleche and drove from Letashovka (a village three anda half miles from Tarutino) to the place where the attacking columnswere to meet. He sat in the caleche, dozing and waking up by turns,and listening for any sound of firing on the right as an indicationthat the action had begun. But all was still quiet. A damp dull autumnmorning was just dawning. On approaching Tarutino Kutuzov noticedcavalrymen leading their horses
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