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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 8
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War And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 8 Post by :delvecchio Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :718

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War And Peace - Book Thirteen: 1812 - Chapter 8

Napoleon enters Moscow after the brilliant victory de la Moskowa;
there can be no doubt about the victory for the battlefield remains in
the hands of the French. The Russians retreat and abandon their
ancient capital. Moscow, abounding in provisions, arms, munitions, and
incalculable wealth, is in Napoleon's hands. The Russian army, only
half the strength of the French, does not make a single attempt to
attack for a whole month. Napoleon's position is most brilliant. He
can either fall on the Russian army with double its strength and
destroy it; negotiate an advantageous peace, or in case of a refusal
make a menacing move on Petersburg, or even, in the case of a reverse,
return to Smolensk or Vilna; or remain in Moscow; in short, no special
genius would seem to be required to retain the brilliant position
the French held at that time. For that, only very simple and easy
steps were necessary: not to allow the troops to loot, to prepare
winter clothing- of which there was sufficient in Moscow for the whole
army- and methodically to collect the provisions, of which
(according to the French historians) there were enough in Moscow to
supply the whole army for six months. Yet Napoleon, that greatest of
all geniuses, who the historians declare had control of the army, took
none of these steps.

He not merely did nothing of the kind, but on the contrary he used
his power to select the most foolish and ruinous of all the courses
open to him. Of all that Napoleon might have done: wintering in
Moscow, advancing on Petersburg or on Nizhni-Novgorod, or retiring
by a more northerly or more southerly route (say by the road Kutuzov
afterwards took), nothing more stupid or disastrous can be imagined
than what he actually did. He remained in Moscow till October, letting
the troops plunder the city; then, hesitating whether to leave a
garrison behind him, he quitted Moscow, approached Kutuzov without
joining battle, turned to the right and reached Malo-Yaroslavets,
again without attempting to break through and take the road Kutuzov
took, but retiring instead to Mozhaysk along the devastated Smolensk
road. Nothing more stupid than that could have been devised, or more
disastrous for the army, as the sequel showed. Had Napoleon's aim been
to destroy his army, the most skillful strategist could hardly have
devised any series of actions that would so completely have
accomplished that purpose, independently of anything the Russian
army might do.

Napoleon, the man of genius, did this! But to say that he
destroyed his army because he wished to, or because he was very
stupid, would be as unjust as to say that he had brought his troops to
Moscow because he wished to and because he was very clever and a
genius.

In both cases his personal activity, having no more force than the
personal activity of any soldier, merely coincided with the laws
that guided the event.

The historians quite falsely represent Napoleon's faculties as
having weakened in Moscow, and do so only because the results did
not justify his actions. He employed all his ability and strength to
do the best he could for himself and his army, as he had done
previously and as he did subsequently in 1813. His activity at that
time was no less astounding than it was in Egypt, in Italy, in
Austria, and in Prussia. We do not know for certain in how far his
genius was genuine in Egypt- where forty centuries looked down upon
his grandeur- for his great exploits there are all told us by
Frenchmen. We cannot accurately estimate his genius in Austria or
Prussia, for we have to draw our information from French or German
sources, and the incomprehensible surrender of whole corps without
fighting and of fortresses without a siege must incline Germans to
recognize his genius as the only explanation of the war carried on
in Germany. But we, thank God, have no need to recognize his genius in
order to hide our shame. We have paid for the right to look at the
matter plainly and simply, and we will not abandon that right.

His activity in Moscow was as amazing and as full of genius as
elsewhere. Order after order order and plan after plan were issued
by him from the time he entered Moscow till the time he left it. The
absence of citizens and of a deputation, and even the burning of
Moscow, did not disconcert him. He did not lose sight either of the
welfare of his army or of the doings of the enemy, or of the welfare
of the people of Russia, or of the direction of affairs in Paris, or
of diplomatic considerations concerning the terms of the anticipated
peace.

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With regard to military matters, Napoleon immediately on his entryinto Moscow gave General Sabastiani strict orders to observe themovements of the Russian army, sent army corps out along the differentroads, and charged Murat to find Kutuzov. Then he gave carefuldirections about the fortification of the Kremlin, and drew up abrilliant plan for a future campaign over the whole map of Russia.With regard to diplomatic questions, Napoleon summoned CaptainYakovlev, who had been robbed and was in rags and did not know howto get out of Moscow, minutely explained to him his whole policy andhis magnanimity, and having written a letter to the
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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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