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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWar And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 14
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War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 14 Post by :MrSonic Category :Long Stories Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :December 2010 Read :613

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War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 14

At five in the morning it was still quite dark. The troops of the
center, the reserves, and Bagration's right flank had not yet moved,
but on the left flank the columns of infantry, cavalry, and artillery,
which were to be the first to descend the heights to attack the French
right flank and drive it into the Bohemian mountains according to
plan, were already up and astir. The smoke of the campfires, into
which they were throwing everything superfluous, made the eyes
smart. It was cold and dark. The officers were hurriedly drinking
tea and breakfasting, the soldiers, munching biscuit and beating a
tattoo with their feet to warm themselves, gathering round the fires
throwing into the flames the remains of sheds, chairs, tables, wheels,
tubs, and everything that they did not want or could not carry away
with them. Austrian column guides were moving in and out among the
Russian troops and served as heralds of the advance. As soon as an
Austrian officer showed himself near a commanding officer's
quarters, the regiment began to move: the soldiers ran from the fires,
thrust their pipes into their boots, their bags into the carts, got
their muskets ready, and formed rank. The officers buttoned up their
coats, buckled on their swords and pouches, and moved along the
ranks shouting. The train drivers and orderlies harnessed and packed
the wagons and tied on the loads. The adjutants and battalion and
regimental commanders mounted, crossed themselves, gave final
instructions, orders, and commissions to the baggage men who
remained behind, and the monotonous tramp of thousands of feet
resounded. The column moved forward without knowing where and
unable, from the masses around them, the smoke and the increasing fog,
to see either the place they were leaving or that to which they were

A soldier on the march is hemmed in and borne along by his
regiment as much as a sailor is by his ship. However far he has
walked, whatever strange, unknown, and dangerous places he reaches,
just as a sailor is always surrounded by the same decks, masts, and
rigging of his ship, so the soldier always has around him the same
comrades, the same ranks, the same sergeant major Ivan Mitrich, the
same company dog Jack, and the same commanders. The sailor rarely
cares to know the latitude in which his ship is sailing, but on the
day of battle- heaven knows how and whence- a stern note of which
all are conscious sounds in the moral atmosphere of an army,
announcing the approach of something decisive and solemn, and
awakening in the men an unusual curiosity. On the day of battle the
soldiers excitedly try to get beyond the interests of their
regiment, they listen intently, look about, and eagerly ask concerning
what is going on around them.

The fog had grown so dense that though it was growing light they
could not see ten paces ahead. Bushes looked like gigantic trees and
level ground like cliffs and slopes. Anywhere, on any side, one
might encounter an enemy invisible ten paces off. But the columns
advanced for a long time, always in the same fog, descending and
ascending hills, avoiding gardens and enclosures, going over new and
unknown ground, and nowhere encountering the enemy. On the contrary,
the soldiers became aware that in front, behind, and on all sides,
other Russian columns were moving in the same direction. Every soldier
felt glad to know that to the unknown place where he was going, many
more of our men were going too.

"There now, the Kurskies have also gone past," was being said in the

"It's wonderful what a lot of our troops have gathered, lads! Last
night I looked at the campfires and there was no end of them. A
regular Moscow!"

Though none of the column commanders rode up to the ranks or
talked to the men (the commanders, as we saw at the council of war,
were out of humor and dissatisfied with the affair, and so did not
exert themselves to cheer the men but merely carried out the
orders), yet the troops marched gaily, as they always do when going
into action, especially to an attack. But when they had marched for
about an hour in the dense fog, the greater part of the men had to
halt and an unpleasant consciousness of some dislocation and blunder
spread through the ranks. How such a consciousness is communicated
is very difficult to define, but it certainly is communicated very
surely, and flows rapidly, imperceptibly, and irrepressibly, as
water does in a creek. Had the Russian army been alone without any
allies, it might perhaps have been a long time before this
consciousness of mismanagement became a general conviction, but as
it was, the disorder was readily and naturally attributed to the
stupid Germans, and everyone was convinced that a dangerous muddle had
been occasioned by the sausage eaters.

"Why have we stopped? Is the way blocked? Or have we already come up
against the French?"

"No, one can't hear them. They'd be firing if we had."

"They were in a hurry enough to start us, and now here we stand in
the middle of a field without rhyme or reason. It's all those damned
Germans' muddling! What stupid devils!"

"Yes, I'd send them on in front, but no fear, they're crowding up
behind. And now here we stand hungry."

"I say, shall we soon be clear? They say the cavalry are blocking
the way," said an officer.

"Ah, those damned Germans! They don't know their own country!"
said another.

"What division are you?" shouted an adjutant, riding up.

"The Eighteenth."

"Then why are you here? You should have gone on long ago, now you
won't get there till evening."

"What stupid orders! They don't themselves know what they are
doing!" said the officer and rode off.

Then a general rode past shouting something angrily, not in Russian.

"Tafa-lafa! But what he's jabbering no one can make out," said a
soldier, mimicking the general who had ridden away. "I'd shoot them,
the scoundrels!"

"We were ordered to be at the place before nine, but we haven't
got halfway. Fine orders!" was being repeated on different sides.

And the feeling of energy with which the troops had started began to
turn into vexation and anger at the stupid arrangements and at the

The cause of the confusion was that while the Austrian cavalry was
moving toward our left flank, the higher command found that our center
was too far separated from our right flank and the cavalry were all
ordered to turn back to the right. Several thousand cavalry crossed in
front of the infantry, who had to wait.

At the front an altercation occurred between an Austrian guide and a
Russian general. The general shouted a demand that the cavalry
should be halted, the Austrian argued that not he, but the higher
command, was to blame. The troops meanwhile stood growing listless and
dispirited. After an hour's delay they at last moved on, descending
the hill. The fog that was dispersing on the hill lay still more
densely below, where they were descending. In front in the fog a
shot was heard and then another, at first irregularly at varying
intervals- trata... tat- and then more and more regularly and rapidly,
and the action at the Goldbach Stream began.

Not expecting to come on the enemy down by the stream, and having
stumbled on him in the fog, hearing no encouraging word from their
commanders, and with a consciousness of being too late spreading
through the ranks, and above all being unable to see anything in front
or around them in the thick fog, the Russians exchanged shots with the
enemy lazily and advanced and again halted, receiving no timely orders
from the officers or adjutants who wandered about in the fog in
those unknown surroundings unable to find their own regiments. In this
way the action began for the first, second, and third columns, which
had gone down into the valley. The fourth column, with which Kutuzov
was, stood on the Pratzen Heights.

Below, where the fight was beginning, there was still thick fog;
on the higher ground it was clearing, but nothing could be seen of
what was going on in front. Whether all the enemy forces were, as we
supposed, six miles away, or whether they were near by in that sea
of mist, no one knew till after eight o'clock.

It was nine o'clock in the morning. The fog lay unbroken like a
sea down below, but higher up at the village of Schlappanitz where
Napoleon stood with his marshals around him, it was quite light. Above
him was a clear blue sky, and the sun's vast orb quivered like a
huge hollow, crimson float on the surface of that milky sea of mist.
The whole French army, and even Napoleon himself with his staff,
were not on the far side of the streams and hollows of Sokolnitz and
Schlappanitz beyond which we intended to take up our position and
begin the action, but were on this side, so close to our own forces
that Napoleon with the naked eye could distinguish a mounted man
from one on foot. Napoleon, in the blue cloak which he had worn on his
Italian campaign, sat on his small gray Arab horse a little in front
of his marshals. He gazed silently at the hills which seemed to rise
out of the sea of mist and on which the Russian troops were moving
in the distance, and he listened to the sounds of firing in the
valley. Not a single muscle of his face- which in those days was still
thin- moved. His gleaming eyes were fixed intently on one spot. His
predictions were being justified. Part of the Russian force had
already descended into the valley toward the ponds and lakes and
part were leaving these Pratzen Heights which he intended to attack
and regarded as the key to the position. He saw over the mist that
in a hollow between two hills near the village of Pratzen, the Russian
columns, their bayonets glittering, were moving continuously in one
direction toward the valley and disappearing one after another into
the mist. From information he had received the evening before, from
the sound of wheels and footsteps heard by the outposts during the
night, by the disorderly movement of the Russian columns, and from all
indications, he saw clearly that the allies believed him to be far
away in front of them, and that the columns moving near Pratzen
constituted the center of the Russian army, and that that center was
already sufficiently weakened to be successfully attacked. But still
he did not begin the engagement.

Today was a great day for him- the anniversary of his coronation.
Before dawn he had slept for a few hours, and refreshed, vigorous, and
in good spirits, he mounted his horse and rode out into the field in
that happy mood in which everything seems possible and everything
succeeds. He sat motionless, looking at the heights visible above
the mist, and his cold face wore that special look of confident,
self-complacent happiness that one sees on the face of a boy happily
in love. The marshals stood behind him not venturing to distract his
attention. He looked now at the Pratzen Heights, now at the sun
floating up out of the mist.

When the sun had entirely emerged from the fog, and fields and
mist were aglow with dazzling light- as if he had only awaited this to
begin the action- he drew the glove from his shapely white hand,
made a sign with it to the marshals, and ordered the action to
begin. The marshals, accompanied by adjutants, galloped off in
different directions, and a few minutes later the chief forces of
the French army moved rapidly toward those Pratzen Heights which
were being more and more denuded by Russian troops moving down the
valley to their left.

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War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 15 War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 15

War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 15
At eight o'clock Kutuzov rode to Pratzen at the head of the fourthcolumn, Miloradovich's, the one that was to take the place ofPrzebyszewski's and Langeron's columns which had already gone downinto the valley. He greeted the men of the foremost regiment andgave them the order to march, thereby indicating that he intended tolead that column himself. When he had reached the village of Pratzenhe halted. Prince Andrew was behind, among the immense numberforming the commander in chief's suite. He was in a state ofsuppressed excitement and irritation, though controlledly calm as aman is at the approach of a long-awaited moment. He

War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 13 War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 13

War And Peace - Book Three: 1805 - Chapter 13
That same night, Rostov was with a platoon on skirmishing duty infront of Bagration's detachment. His hussars were placed along theline in couples and he himself rode along the line trying to masterthe sleepiness that kept coming over him. An enormous space, withour army's campfires dimly glowing in the fog, could be seen behindhim; in front of him was misty darkness. Rostov could see nothing,peer as he would into that foggy distance: now something gleamed gray,now there was something black, now little lights seemed to glimmerwhere the enemy ought to be, now he fancied it was only something inhis own eyes.