Having descended the hill the general after whom Pierre was galloping turned sharply to the left, and Pierre, losing sight of him, galloped in among some ranks of infantry marching ahead of him. He tried to pass either in front of them or to the right or left, but there were soldiers everywhere, all with expression and busy with some unseen but evidently important task. They all gazed with the same dissatisfied and inquiring expression at this stout man in a white hat, who for some unknown reason threatened to trample them under his horse's hoofs.
"Why ride into the middle of the battalion?" one of them shouted at him.
Another prodded his horse with the butt end of a musket, and Pierre, bending over his saddlebow and hardly able to control his shying horse, galloped ahead of the soldiers where there was a free space.
There was a bridge ahead of him, where other soldiers stood firing. Pierre rode up to them. Without being aware of it he had come to the bridge across the Kolocha between Gorki and Borodino, which the French (having occupied Borodino) were attacking in the first phase of the battle. Pierre saw that there was a bridge in front of him and that soldiers were doing something on both sides of it and in the meadow, among the rows of new-mown hay which he had taken no notice of amid the smoke of the campfires the day before; but despite the incessant firing going on there he had no idea that this was the field of battle. He did not notice the sound of the bullets whistling from every side, or the projectiles that flew over him, did not see the enemy on the other side of the river, and for a long time did not notice the killed and wounded, though many fell near him. He looked about him with a smile which did not leave his face.
"Why's that fellow in front of the line?" shouted somebody at him again.
"To the left!... Keep to the right!" the men shouted to him.
Pierre went to the right, and unexpectedly encountered one of Raevski's adjutants whom he knew. The adjutant looked angrily at him, evidently also intending to shout at him, but on recognizing him he nodded.
"How have you got here?" he said, and galloped on.
Pierre, feeling out of place there, having nothing to do, and afraid of getting in someone's way again, galloped after the adjutant.
"What's happening here? May I come with you?" he asked.
"One moment, one moment!" replied the adjutant, and riding up to a stout colonel who was standing in the meadow, he gave him some message and then addressed Pierre.
"Why have you come here, Count?" he asked with a smile. "Still inquisitive?"
"Yes, yes," assented Pierre.
But the adjutant turned his horse about and rode on.
"Here it's tolerable," said he, "but with Bagration on the left flank they're getting it frightfully hot."
"Really?" said Pierre. "Where is that?"
"Come along with me to our knoll. We can get a view from there and in our battery it is still bearable," said the adjutant. "Will you come?"
"Yes, I'll come with you," replied Pierre, looking round for his groom.
It was only now that he noticed wounded men staggering along or being carried on stretchers. On that very meadow he had ridden over the day before, a soldier was lying athwart the rows of scented hay, with his head thrown awkwardly back and his shako off.
"Why haven't they carried him away?" Pierre was about to ask, but seeing the stern expression of the adjutant who was also looking that way, he checked himself.
Pierre did not find his groom and rode along the hollow with the adjutant to Raevski's Redoubt. His horse lagged behind the adjutant's and jolted him at every step.
"You don't seem to be used to riding, Count?" remarked the adjutant.
"No it's not that, but her action seems so jerky," said Pierre in a puzzled tone.
"Why... she's wounded!" said the adjutant. "In the off foreleg above the knee. A bullet, no doubt. I congratulate you, Count, on your baptism of fire!"
Having ridden in the smoke past the Sixth Corps, behind the artillery which had been moved forward and was in action, deafening them with the noise of firing, they came to a small wood. There it was cool and quiet, with a scent of autumn. Pierre and the adjutant dismounted and walked up the hill on foot.
"Is the general here?" asked the adjutant on reaching the knoll.
"He was here a minute ago but has just gone that way," someone told him, pointing to the right.
The adjutant looked at Pierre as if puzzled what to do with him now.
"Don't trouble about me," said Pierre. "I'll go up onto the knoll if I may?"
"Yes, do. You'll see everything from there and it's less dangerous, and I'll come for you."
Pierre went to the battery and the adjutant rode on. They did not meet again, and only much later did Pierre learn that he lost an arm that day.
The knoll to which Pierre ascended was that famous one afterwards known to the Russians as the Knoll Battery or Raevski's Redoubt, and to the French as la grande redoute, la fatale redoute, la redoute du centre, around which tens of thousands fell, and which the French regarded as the key to the whole position.
This redoubt consisted of a knoll, on three sides of which trenches had been dug. Within the entrenchment stood ten guns that were being fired through openings in the earthwork.
In line with the knoll on both sides stood other guns which also fired incessantly. A little behind the guns stood infantry. When ascending that knoll Pierre had no notion that this spot, on which small trenches had been dug and from which a few guns were firing, was the most important point of the battle.
On the contrary, just because he happened to be there he thought it one of the least significant parts of the field.
Having reached the knoll, Pierre sat down at one end of a trench surrounding the battery and gazed at what was going on around him with an unconsciously happy smile. Occasionally he rose and walked about the battery still with that same smile, trying not to obstruct the soldiers who were loading, hauling the guns, and continually running past him with bags and charges. The guns of that battery were being fired continually one after another with a deafening roar, enveloping the whole neighborhood in powder smoke.
In contrast with the dread felt by the infantrymen placed in support, here in the battery where a small number of men busy at their work were separated from the rest by a trench, everyone experienced a common and as it were family feeling of animation.
The intrusion of Pierre's nonmilitary figure in a white hat made an unpleasant impression at first. The soldiers looked askance at him with surprise and even alarm as they went past him. The senior artillery officer, a tall, long-legged, pockmarked man, moved over to Pierre as if to see the action of the farthest gun and looked at him with curiosity.
A young round-faced officer, quite a boy still and evidently only just out of the Cadet College, who was zealously commanding the two guns entrusted to him, addressed Pierre sternly.
"Sir," he said, "permit me to ask you to stand aside. You must not be here."
The soldiers shook their heads disapprovingly as they looked at Pierre. But when they had convinced themselves that this man in the white hat was doing no harm, but either sat quietly on the slope of the trench with a shy smile or, politely making way for the soldiers, paced up and down the battery under fire as calmly as if he were on a boulevard, their feeling of hostile distrust gradually began to change into a kindly and bantering sympathy, such as soldiers feel for their dogs, cocks, goats, and in general for the animals that live with the regiment. The men soon accepted Pierre into their family, adopted him, gave him a nickname ("our gentleman"), and made kindly fun of him among themselves.
A shell tore up the earth two paces from Pierre and he looked around with a smile as he brushed from his clothes some earth it had thrown up.
"And how's it you're not afraid, sir, really now?" a red-faced, broad-shouldered soldier asked Pierre, with a grin that disclosed a set of sound, white teeth.
"Are you afraid, then?" said Pierre.
"What else do you expect?" answered the soldier. "She has no mercy, you know! When she comes spluttering down, out go your innards. One can't help being afraid," he said laughing.
Several of the men, with bright kindly faces, stopped beside Pierre. They seemed not to have expected him to talk like anybody else, and the discovery that he did so delighted them.
"It's the business of us soldiers. But in a gentleman it's wonderful! There's a gentleman for you!"
"To your places!" cried the young officer to the men gathered round Pierre.
The young officer was evidently exercising his duties for the first or second time and therefore treated both his superiors and the men with great precision and formality.
The booming cannonade and the fusillade of musketry were growing more intense over the whole field, especially to the left where Bagration's fleches were, but where Pierre was the smoke of the firing made it almost impossible to distinguish anything. Moreover, his whole attention was engrossed by watching the family circle--separated from all else--formed by the men in the battery. His first unconscious feeling of joyful animation produced by the sights and sounds of the battlefield was now replaced by another, especially since he had seen that soldier lying alone in the hayfield. Now, seated on the slope of the trench, he observed the faces of those around him.
By ten o'clock some twenty men had already been carried away from the battery; two guns were smashed and cannon balls fell more and more frequently on the battery and spent bullets buzzed and whistled around. But the men in the battery seemed not to notice this, and merry voices and jokes were heard on all sides.
"A live one!" shouted a man as a whistling shell approached.
"Not this way! To the infantry!" added another with loud laughter, seeing the shell fly past and fall into the ranks of the supports.
"Are you bowing to a friend, eh?" remarked another, chaffing a peasant who ducked low as a cannon ball flew over.
Several soldiers gathered by the wall of the trench, looking out to see what was happening in front.
"They've withdrawn the front line, it has retired," said they, pointing over the earthwork.
"Mind your own business," an old sergeant shouted at them. "If they've retired it's because there's work for them to do farther back."
And the sergeant, taking one of the men by the shoulders, gave him a shove with his knee. This was followed by a burst of laughter.
"To the fifth gun, wheel it up!" came shouts from one side.
"Now then, all together, like bargees!" rose the merry voices of those who were moving the gun.
"Oh, she nearly knocked our gentleman's hat off!" cried the red-faced humorist, showing his teeth chaffing Pierre. "Awkward baggage!" he added reproachfully to a cannon ball that struck a cannon wheel and a man's leg.
"Now then, you foxes!" said another, laughing at some militiamen who, stooping low, entered the battery to carry away the wounded man.
"So this gruel isn't to your taste? Oh, you crows! You're scared!" they shouted at the militiamen who stood hesitating before the man whose leg had been torn off.
"There, lads... oh, oh!" they mimicked the peasants, "they don't like it at all!"
Pierre noticed that after every ball that hit the redoubt, and after every loss, the liveliness increased more and more.
As the flames of the fire hidden within come more and more vividly and rapidly from an approaching thundercloud, so, as if in opposition to what was taking place, the lightning of hidden fire growing more and more intense glowed in the faces of these men.
Pierre did not look out at the battlefield and was not concerned to know what was happening there; he was entirely absorbed in watching this fire which burned ever more brightly and which he felt was flaming up in the same way in his own soul.
At ten o'clock the infantry that had been among the bushes in front of the battery and along the Kamenka streamlet retreated. From the battery they could be seen running back past it carrying their wounded on their muskets. A general with his suite came to the battery, and after speaking to the colonel gave Pierre an angry look and went away again having ordered the infantry supports behind the battery to lie down, so as to be less exposed to fire. After this from amid the ranks of infantry to the right of the battery came the sound of a drum and shouts of command, and from the battery one saw how those ranks of infantry moved forward.
Pierre looked over the wall of the trench and was particularly struck by a pale young officer who, letting his sword hang down, was walking backwards and kept glancing uneasily around.
The ranks of the infantry disappeared amid the smoke but their long-drawn shout and rapid musketry firing could still be heard. A few minutes later crowds of wounded men and stretcher-bearers came back from that direction. Projectiles began to fall still more frequently in the battery. Several men were lying about who had not been removed. Around the cannon the men moved still more briskly and busily. No one any longer took notice of Pierre. Once or twice he was shouted at for being in the way. The senior officer moved with big, rapid strides from one gun to another with a frowning face. The young officer, with his face still more flushed, commanded the men more scrupulously than ever. The soldiers handed up the charges, turned, loaded, and did their business with strained smartness. They gave little jumps as they walked, as though they were on springs.
The stormcloud had come upon them, and in every face the fire which Pierre had watched kindle burned up brightly. Pierre standing beside the commanding officer. The young officer, his hand to his shako, ran up to his superior.
"I have the honor to report, sir, that only eight rounds are left. Are we to continue firing?" he asked.
"Grapeshot!" the senior shouted, without answering the question, looking over the wall of the trench.
Suddenly something happened: the young officer gave a gasp and bending double sat down on the ground like a bird shot on the wing. Everything became strange, confused, and misty in Pierre's eyes.
One cannon ball after another whistled by and struck the earthwork, a soldier, or a gun. Pierre, who had not noticed these sounds before, now heard nothing else. On the right of the battery soldiers shouting "Hurrah!" were running not forwards but backwards, it seemed to Pierre.
A cannon ball struck the very end of the earth work by which he was standing, crumbling down the earth; a black ball flashed before his eyes and at the same instant plumped into something. Some militiamen who were entering the battery ran back.
"All with grapeshot!" shouted the officer.
The sergeant ran up to the officer and in a frightened whisper informed him (as a butler at dinner informs his master that there is no more of some wine asked for) that there were no more charges.
"The scoundrels! What are they doing?" shouted the officer, turning to Pierre.
The officer's face was red and perspiring and his eyes glittered under his frowning brow.
"Run to the reserves and bring up the ammunition boxes!" he yelled, angrily avoiding Pierre with his eyes and speaking to his men.
"I'll go," said Pierre.
The officer, without answering him, strode across to the opposite side.
"Don't fire.... Wait!" he shouted.
The man who had been ordered to go for ammunition stumbled against Pierre.
"Eh, sir, this is no place for you," said he, and ran down the slope.
Pierre ran after him, avoiding the spot where the young officer was sitting.
One cannon ball, another, and a third flew over him, falling in front, beside, and behind him. Pierre ran down the slope. "Where am I going?" he suddenly asked himself when he was already near the green ammunition wagons. He halted irresolutely, not knowing whether to return or go on. Suddenly a terrible concussion threw him backwards to the ground. At the same instant he was dazzled by a great flash of flame, and immediately a deafening roar, crackling, and whistling made his ears tingle.
When he came to himself he was sitting on the ground leaning on his hands; the ammunition wagons he had been approaching no longer existed, only charred green boards and rags littered the scorched grass, and a horse, dangling fragments of its shaft behind it, galloped past, while another horse lay, like Pierre, on the ground, uttering prolonged and piercing cries.
Beside himself with terror Pierre jumped up and ran back to the battery, as to the only refuge from the horrors that surrounded him.
On entering the earthwork he noticed that there were men doing something there but that no shots were being fired from the battery. He had no time to realize who these men were. He saw the senior officer lying on the earth wall with his back turned as if he were examining something down below and that one of the soldiers he had noticed before was struggling forward shouting "Brothers!" and trying to free himself from some men who were holding him by the arm. He also saw something else that was strange.
But he had not time to realize that the colonel had been killed, that the soldier shouting "Brothers!" was a prisoner, and that another man had been bayoneted in the back before his eyes, for hardly had he run into the redoubt before a thin, sallow-faced, perspiring man in a blue uniform rushed on him sword in hand, shouting something. Instinctively guarding against the shock--for they had been running together at full speed before they saw one another--Pierre put out his hands and seized the man (a French officer) by the shoulder with one hand and by the throat with the other. The officer, dropping his sword, seized Pierre by his collar.
For some seconds they gazed with frightened eyes at one another's unfamiliar faces and both were perplexed at what they had done and what they were to do next. "Am I taken prisoner or have I taken him prisoner?" each was thinking. But the French officer was evidently more inclined to think he had been taken prisoner because Pierre's strong hand, impelled by instinctive fear, squeezed his throat ever tighter and tighter. The Frenchman was about to say something, when just above their heads, terrible and low, a cannon ball whistled, and it seemed to Pierre that the French officer's head had been torn off, so swiftly had he ducked it.
Pierre too bent his head and let his hands fall. Without further thought as to who had taken whom prisoner, the Frenchman ran back to the battery and Pierre ran down the slope stumbling over the dead and wounded who, it seemed to him, caught at his feet. But before he reached the foot of the knoll he was met by a dense crowd of Russian soldiers who, stumbling, tripping up, and shouting, ran merrily and wildly toward the battery. (This was the attack for which Ermolov claimed the credit, declaring that only his courage and good luck made such a feat possible: it was the attack in which he was said to have thrown some St. George's Crosses he had in his pocket into the battery for the first soldiers to take who got there.)
The French who had occupied the battery fled, and our troops shouting "Hurrah!" pursued them so far beyond the battery that it was difficult to call them back.
The prisoners were brought down from the battery and among them was a wounded French general, whom the officers surrounded. Crowds of wounded--some known to Pierre and some unknown--Russians and French, with faces distorted by suffering, walked, crawled, and were carried on stretchers from the battery. Pierre again went up onto the knoll where he had spent over an hour, and of that family circle which had received him as a member he did not find a single one. There were many dead whom he did not know, but some he recognized. The young officer still sat in the same way, bent double, in a pool of blood at the edge of the earth wall. The red-faced man was still twitching, but they did not carry him away.
Pierre ran down the slope once more.
"Now they will stop it, now they will be horrified at what they have done!" he thought, aimlessly going toward a crowd of stretcher bearers moving from the battlefield.
But behind the veil of smoke the sun was still high, and in front and especially to the left, near Semenovsk, something seemed to be seething in the smoke, and the roar of cannon and musketry did not diminish, but even increased to desperation like a man who, straining himself, shrieks with all his remaining strength.
The chief action of the battle of Borodino was fought within the seven thousand feet between Borodino and Bagration's fleches. Beyond that space there was, on the one side, a demonstration made by the Russians with Uvarov's cavalry at midday, and on the other side, beyond Utitsa, Poniatowski's collision with Tuchkov; but these two were detached and feeble actions in comparison with what took place in the center of the battlefield. On the field between Borodino and the fleches, beside the wood, the chief action of the day took place on an open space visible from both sides and was fought in the simplest and most artless way.
The battle began on both sides with a cannonade from several hundred guns.
Then when the whole field was covered with smoke, two divisions, Campan's and Dessaix's, advanced from the French right, while Murat's troops advanced on Borodino from their left.
From the Shevardino Redoubt where Napoleon was standing the fleches were two thirds of a mile away, and it was more than a mile as the crow flies to Borodino, so that Napoleon could not see what was happening there, especially as the smoke mingling with the mist hid the whole locality. The soldiers of Dessaix's division advancing against the fleches could only be seen till they had entered the hollow that lay between them and the fleches. As soon as they had descended into that hollow, the smoke of the guns and musketry on the fleches grew so dense that it covered the whole approach on that side of it. Through the smoke glimpses could be caught of something black--probably men--and at times the glint of bayonets. But whether they were moving or stationary, whether they were French or Russian, could not be discovered from the Shevardino Redoubt.
The sun had risen brightly and its slanting rays struck straight into Napoleon's face as, shading his eyes with his hand, he looked at the fleches. The smoke spread out before them, and at times it looked as if the smoke were moving, at times as if the troops moved. Sometimes shouts were heard through the firing, but it was impossible to tell what was being done there.
Napoleon, standing on the knoll, looked through a field glass, and in its small circlet saw smoke and men, sometimes his own and sometimes Russians, but when he looked again with the naked eye, he could not tell where what he had seen was.
He descended the knoll and began walking up and down before it.
Occasionally he stopped, listened to the firing, and gazed intently at the battlefield.
But not only was it impossible to make out what was happening from where he was standing down below, or from the knoll above on which some of his generals had taken their stand, but even from the fleches themselves--in which by this time there were now Russian and now French soldiers, alternately or together, dead, wounded, alive, frightened, or maddened--even at those fleches themselves it was impossible to make out what was taking place. There for several hours amid incessant cannon and musketry fire, now Russians were seen alone, now Frenchmen alone, now infantry, and now cavalry: they appeared, fired, fell, collided, not knowing what to do with one another, screamed, and ran back again.
From the battlefield adjutants he had sent out, and orderlies from his marshals, kept galloping up to Napoleon with reports of the progress of the action, but all these reports were false, both because it was impossible in the heat of battle to say what was happening at any given moment and because many of the adjutants did not go to the actual place of conflict but reported what they had heard from others; and also because while an adjutant was riding more than a mile to Napoleon circumstances changed and the news he brought was already becoming false. Thus an adjutant galloped up from Murat with tidings that Borodino had been occupied and the bridge over the Kolocha was in the hands of the French. The adjutant asked whether Napoleon wished the troops to cross it? Napoleon gave orders that the troops should form up on the farther side and wait. But before that order was given- almost as soon in fact as the adjutant had left Borodino--the bridge had been retaken by the Russians and burned, in the very skirmish at which Pierre had been present at the beginning of the battle.
An adjutant galloped up from the fleches with a pale and frightened face and reported to Napoleon that their attack had been repulsed, Campan wounded, and Davout killed; yet at the very time the adjutant had been told that the French had been repulsed, the fleches had in fact been recaptured by other French troops, and Davout was alive and only slightly bruised. On the basis of these necessarily untrustworthy reports Napoleon gave his orders, which had either been executed before he gave them or could not be and were not executed.
The marshals and generals, who were nearer to the field of battle but, like Napoleon, did not take part in the actual fighting and only occasionally went within musket range, made their own arrangements without asking Napoleon and issued orders where and in what direction to fire and where cavalry should gallop and infantry should run. But even their orders, like Napoleon's, were seldom carried out, and then but partially. For the most part things happened contrary to their orders. Soldiers ordered to advance ran back on meeting grapeshot; soldiers ordered to remain where they were, suddenly, seeing Russians unexpectedly before them, sometimes rushed back and sometimes forward, and the cavalry dashed without orders in pursuit of the flying Russians. In this way two cavalry regiments galloped through the Semenovsk hollow and as soon as they reached the top of the incline turned round and galloped full speed back again. The infantry moved in the same way, sometimes running to quite other places than those they were ordered to go to. All orders as to where and when to move the guns, when to send infantry to shoot or horsemen to ride down the Russian infantry--all such orders were given by the officers on the spot nearest to the units concerned, without asking either Ney, Davout, or Murat, much less Napoleon. They did not fear getting into trouble for not fulfilling orders or for acting on their own initiative, for in battle what is at stake is what is dearest to man--his own life--and it sometimes seems that safety lies in running back, sometimes in running forward; and these men who were right in the heat of the battle acted according to the mood of the moment. In reality, however, all these movements forward and backward did not improve or alter the position of the troops. All their rushing and galloping at one another did little harm, the harm of disablement and death was caused by the balls and bullets that flew over the fields on which these men were floundering about. As soon as they left the place where the balls and bullets were flying about, their superiors, located in the background, re-formed them and brought them under discipline and under the influence of that discipline led them back to the zone of fire, where under the influence of fear of death they lost their discipline and rushed about according to the chance promptings of the throng.
Napoleon's generals--Davout, Ney, and Murat, who were near that region of fire and sometimes even entered it--repeatedly led into it huge masses of well-ordered troops. But contrary to what had always happened in their former battles, instead of the news they expected of the enemy's flight, these orderly masses returned thence as disorganized and terrified mobs. The generals re-formed them, but their numbers constantly decreased. In the middle of the day Murat sent his adjutant to Napoleon to demand reinforcements.
Napoleon sat at the foot of the knoll, drinking punch, when Murat's adjutant galloped up with an assurance that the Russians would be routed if His Majesty would let him have another division.
"Reinforcements?" said Napoleon in a tone of stern surprise, looking at the adjutant--a handsome lad with long black curls arranged like Murat's own--as though he did not understand his words.
"Reinforcements!" thought Napoleon to himself. "How can they need reinforcements when they already have half the army directed against a weak, unentrenched Russian wing?"
"Tell the King of Naples," said he sternly, "that it is not noon yet, and I don't yet see my chessboard clearly. Go!..."
The handsome boy adjutant with the long hair sighed deeply without removing his hand from his hat and galloped back to where men were being slaughtered.
Napoleon rose and having summoned Caulaincourt and Berthier began talking to them about matters unconnected with the battle.
In the midst of this conversation, which was beginning to interest Napoleon, Berthier's eyes turned to look at a general with a suite, who was galloping toward the knoll on a lathering horse. It was Belliard. Having dismounted he went up to the Emperor with rapid strides and in a loud voice began boldly demonstrating the necessity of sending reinforcements. He swore on his honor that the Russians were lost if the Emperor would give another division.
Napoleon shrugged his shoulders and continued to pace up and down without replying. Belliard began talking loudly and eagerly to the generals of the suite around him.
"You are very fiery, Belliard," said Napoleon, when he again came up to the general. "In the heat of a battle it is easy to make a mistake. Go and have another look and then come back to me."
Before Belliard was out of sight, a messenger from another part of the battlefield galloped up.
"Now then, what do you want?" asked Napoleon in the tone of a man irritated at being continually disturbed.
"Sire, the prince..." began the adjutant.
"Asks for reinforcements?" said Napoleon with an angry gesture.
The adjutant bent his head affirmatively and began to report, but the Emperor turned from him, took a couple of steps, stopped, came back, and called Berthier.
"We must give reserves," he said, moving his arms slightly apart. "Who do you think should be sent there?" he asked of Berthier (whom he subsequently termed "that gosling I have made an eagle").
"Send Claparede's division, sire," replied Berthier, who knew all the divisions regiments, and battalions by heart.
Napoleon nodded assent.
The adjutant galloped to Claparede's division and a few minutes later the Young Guards stationed behind the knoll moved forward. Napoleon gazed silently in that direction.
"No!" he suddenly said to Berthier. "I can't send Claparede. Send Friant's division."
Though there was no advantage in sending Friant's division instead of Claparede's, and even in obvious inconvenience and delay in stopping Claparede and sending Friant now, the order was carried out exactly. Napoleon did not notice that in regard to his army he was playing the part of a doctor who hinders by his medicines--a role he so justly understood and condemned.
Friant's division disappeared as the others had done into the smoke of the battlefield. From all sides adjutants continued to arrive at a gallop and as if by agreement all said the same thing. They all asked for reinforcements and all said that the Russians were holding their positions and maintaining a hellish fire under which the French army was melting away.
Napoleon sat on a campstool, wrapped in thought.
M. de Beausset, the man so fond of travel, having fasted since morning, came up to the Emperor and ventured respectfully to suggest lunch to His Majesty.
"I hope I may now congratulate Your Majesty on a victory?" said he.
Napoleon silently shook his head in negation. Assuming the negation to refer only to the victory and not to the lunch, M. de Beausset ventured with respectful jocularity to remark that there is no reason for not having lunch when one can get it.
"Go away..." exclaimed Napoleon suddenly and morosely, and turned aside.
A beatific smile of regret, repentance, and ecstasy beamed on M. de Beausset's face and he glided away to the other generals.
Napoleon was experiencing a feeling of depression like that of an ever-lucky gambler who, after recklessly flinging money about and always winning, suddenly just when he has calculated all the chances of the game, finds that the more he considers his play the more surely he loses.
His troops were the same, his generals the same, the same preparations had been made, the same dispositions, and the same proclamation courte et energique, he himself was still the same: he knew that and knew that he was now even more experienced and skillful than before. Even the enemy was the same as at Austerlitz and Friedland--yet the terrible stroke of his arm had supernaturally become impotent.
All the old methods that had been unfailingly crowned with success: the concentration of batteries on one point, an attack by reserves to break the enemy's line, and a cavalry attack by "the men of iron," all these methods had already been employed, yet not only was there no victory, but from all sides came the same news of generals killed and wounded, of reinforcements needed, of the impossibility of driving back the Russians, and of disorganization among his own troops.
Formerly, after he had given two or three orders and uttered a few phrases, marshals and adjutants had come galloping up with congratulations and happy faces, announcing the trophies taken, the corps of prisoners, bundles of enemy eagles and standards, cannon and stores, and Murat had only begged leave to loose the cavalry to gather in the baggage wagons. So it had been at Lodi, Marengo, Arcola, Jena, Austerlitz, Wagram, and so on. But now something strange was happening to his troops.
Despite news of the capture of the fleches, Napoleon saw that this was not the same, not at all the same, as what had happened in his former battles. He saw that what he was feeling was felt by all the men about him experienced in the art of war. All their faces looked dejected, and they all shunned one another's eyes--only a de Beausset could fail to grasp the meaning of what was happening.
But Napoleon with his long experience of war well knew the meaning of a battle not gained by the attacking side in eight hours, after all efforts had been expended. He knew that it was a lost battle and that the least accident might now--with the fight balanced on such a strained center--destroy him and his army.
When he ran his mind over the whole of this strange Russian campaign in which not one battle had been won, and in which not a flag, or cannon, or army corps had been captured in two months, when he looked at the concealed depression on the faces around him and heard reports of the Russians still holding their ground--a terrible feeling like a nightmare took possession of him, and all the unlucky accidents that might destroy him occurred to his mind. The Russians might fall on his left wing, might break through his center, he himself might be killed by a stray cannon ball. All this was possible. In former battles he had only considered the possibilities of success, but now innumerable unlucky chances presented themselves, and he expected them all. Yes, it was like a dream in which a man fancies that a ruffian is coming to attack him, and raises his arm to strike that ruffian a terrible blow which he knows should annihilate him, but then feels that his arm drops powerless and limp like a rag, and the horror of unavoidable destruction seizes him in his helplessness.
The news that the Russians were attacking the left flank of the French army aroused that horror in Napoleon. He sat silently on a campstool below the knoll, with head bowed and elbows on his knees. Berthier approached and suggested that they should ride along the line to ascertain the position of affairs.
"What? What do you say?" asked Napoleon. "Yes, tell them to bring me my horse."
He mounted and rode toward Semenovsk.
Amid the powder smoke, slowly dispersing over the whole space through which Napoleon rode, horses and men were lying in pools of blood, singly or in heaps. Neither Napoleon nor any of his generals had ever before seen such horrors or so many slain in such a small area. The roar of guns, that had not ceased for ten hours, wearied the ear and gave a peculiar significance to the spectacle, as music does to tableaux vivants. Napoleon rode up the high ground at Semenovsk, and through the smoke saw ranks of men in uniforms of a color unfamiliar to him. They were Russians.
The Russians stood in serried ranks behind Semenovsk village and its knoll, and their guns boomed incessantly along their line and sent forth clouds of smoke. It was no longer a battle: it was a continuous slaughter which could be of no avail either to the French or the Russians. Napoleon stopped his horse and again fell into the reverie from which Berthier had aroused him. He could not stop what was going on before him and around him and was supposed to be directed by him and to depend on him, and from its lack of success this affair, for the first time, seemed to him unnecessary and horrible.
One of the generals rode up to Napoleon and ventured to offer to lead the Old Guard into action. Ney and Berthier, standing near Napoleon, exchanged looks and smiled contemptuously at this general's senseless offer.
Napoleon bowed his head and remained silent a long time.
"At eight hundred leagues from France, I will not have my Guard destroyed!" he said, and turning his horse rode back to Shevardino.
On the rug-covered bench where Pierre had seen him in the morning sat Kutuzov, his gray head hanging, his heavy body relaxed. He gave no orders, but only assented to or dissented from what others suggested.
"Yes, yes, do that," he replied to various proposals. "Yes, yes: go, dear boy, and have a look," he would say to one or another of those about him; or, "No, don't, we'd better wait!" He listened to the reports that were brought him and gave directions when his subordinates demanded that of him; but when listening to the reports it seemed as if he were not interested in the import of the words spoken, but rather in something else--in the expression of face and tone of voice of those who were reporting. By long years of military experience he knew, and with the wisdom of age understood, that it is impossible for one man to direct hundreds of thousands of others struggling with death, and he knew that the result of a battle is decided not by the orders of a commander in chief, nor the place where the troops are stationed, nor by the number of cannon or of slaughtered men, but by that intangible force called the spirit of the army, and he watched this force and guided it in as far as that was in his power.
Kutuzov's general expression was one of concentrated quiet attention, and his face wore a strained look as if he found it difficult to master the fatigue of his old and feeble body.
At eleven o'clock they brought him news that the fleches captured by the French had been retaken, but that Prince Bagration was wounded. Kutuzov groaned and swayed his head.
"Ride over to Prince Peter Ivanovich and find out about it exactly," he said to one of his adjutants, and then turned to the Duke of Wurttemberg who was standing behind him.
"Will Your Highness please take command of the first army?"
Soon after the duke's departure--before he could possibly have reached Semenovsk--his adjutant came back from him and told Kutuzov that the duke asked for more troops.
Kutuzov made a grimace and sent an order to Dokhturov to take over the command of the first army, and a request to the duke--whom he said he could not spare at such an important moment--to return to him. When they brought him news that Murat had been taken prisoner, and the staff officers congratulated him, Kutuzov smiled.
"Wait a little, gentlemen," said he. "The battle is won, and there is nothing extraordinary in the capture of Murat. Still, it is better to wait before we rejoice."
But he sent an adjutant to take the news round the army.
When Scherbinin came galloping from the left flank with news that the French had captured the fleches and the village of Semenovsk, Kutuzov, guessing by the sounds of the battle and by Scherbinin's looks that the news was bad, rose as if to stretch his legs and, taking Scherbinin's arm, led him aside.
"Go, my dear fellow," he said to Ermolov, "and see whether something can't be done."
Kutuzov was in Gorki, near the center of the Russian position. The attack directed by Napoleon against our left flank had been several times repulsed. In the center the French had not got beyond Borodino, and on their left flank Uvarov's cavalry had put the French to flight.
Toward three o'clock the French attacks ceased. On the faces of all who came from the field of battle, and of those who stood around him, Kutuzov noticed an expression of extreme tension. He was satisfied with the day's success--a success exceeding his expectations, but the old man's strength was failing him. Several times his head dropped low as if it were falling and he dozed off. Dinner was brought him.
Adjutant General Wolzogen, the man who when riding past Prince Andrew had said, "the war should be extended widely," and whom Bagration so detested, rode up while Kutuzov was at dinner. Wolzogen had come from Barclay de Tolly to report on the progress of affairs on the left flank. The sagacious Barclay de Tolly, seeing crowds of wounded men running back and the disordered rear of the army, weighed all the circumstances, concluded that the battle was lost, and sent his favorite officer to the commander in chief with that news.
Kutuzov was chewing a piece of roast chicken with difficulty and glanced at Wolzogen with eyes that brightened under their puckering lids.
Wolzogen, nonchalantly stretching his legs, approached Kutuzov with a half-contemptuous smile on his lips, scarcely touching the peak of his cap.
He treated his Serene Highness with a somewhat affected nonchalance intended to show that, as a highly trained military man, he left it to Russians to make an idol of this useless old man, but that he knew whom he was dealing with. "Der alte Herr" (as in their own set the Germans called Kutuzov) "is making himself very comfortable," thought Wolzogen, and looking severely at the dishes in front of Kutuzov he began to report to "the old gentleman" the position of affairs on the left flank as Barclay had ordered him to and as he himself had seen and understood it.
"All the points of our position are in the enemy's hands and we cannot dislodge them for lack of troops, the men are running away and it is impossible to stop them," he reported.
Kutuzov ceased chewing and fixed an astonished gaze on Wolzogen, as if not understand what was said to him. Wolzogen, noticing "the old gentleman's" agitation, said with a smile:
"I have not considered it right to conceal from your Serene Highness what I have seen. The troops are in complete disorder..."
"You have seen? You have seen?..." Kutuzov shouted frowning, and rising quickly he went up to Wolzogen.
"How... how dare you!..." he shouted, choking and making a threatening gesture with his trembling arms: "How dare you, sir, say that to me? You know nothing about it. Tell General Barclay from me that his information is incorrect and that the real course of the battle is better known to me, the commander in chief, than to him."
Wolzogen was about to make a rejoinder, but Kutuzov interrupted him.
"The enemy has been repulsed on the left and defeated on the right flank. If you have seen amiss, sir, do not allow yourself to say what you don't know! Be so good as to ride to General Barclay and inform him of my firm intention to attack the enemy tomorrow," said Kutuzov sternly.
All were silent, and the only sound audible was the heavy breathing of the panting old general.
"They are repulsed everywhere, for which I thank God and our brave army! The enemy is beaten, and tomorrow we shall drive him from the sacred soil of Russia," said Kutuzov crossing himself, and he suddenly sobbed as his eyes filled with tears.
Wolzogen, shrugging his shoulders and curling his lips, stepped silently aside, marveling at "the old gentleman's" conceited stupidity.
"Ah, here he is, my hero!" said Kutuzov to a portly, handsome, dark-haired general who was just ascending the knoll.
This was Raevski, who had spent the whole day at the most important part of the field of Borodino.
Raevski reported that the troops were firmly holding their ground and that the French no longer ventured to attack.
After hearing him, Kutuzov said in French:
"Then you do not think, like some others, that we must retreat?"
"On the contrary, your Highness, in indecisive actions it is always the most stubborn who remain victors," replied Raevski, "and in my opinion..."
"Kaysarov!" Kutuzov called to his adjutant. "Sit down and write out the order of the day for tomorrow. And you," he continued, addressing another, "ride along the line and that tomorrow we attack."
While Kutuzov was talking to Raevski and dictating the order of the day, Wolzogen returned from Barclay and said that General Barclay wished to have written confirmation of the order the field marshal had given.
Kutuzov, without looking at Wolzogen, gave directions for the order to be written out which the former commander in chief, to avoid personal responsibility, very judiciously wished to receive.
And by means of that mysterious indefinable bond which maintains throughout an army one and the same temper, known as "the spirit of the army," and which constitutes the sinew of war, Kutuzov's words, his order for a battle next day, immediately became known from one end of the army to the other.
It was far from being the same words or the same order that reached the farthest links of that chain. The tales passing from mouth to mouth at different ends of the army did not even resemble what Kutuzov had said, but the sense of his words spread everywhere because what he said was not the outcome of cunning calculations, but of a feeling that lay in the commander in chief's soul as in that of every Russian.
And on learning that tomorrow they were to attack the enemy, and hearing from the highest quarters a confirmation of what they wanted to believe, the exhausted, wavering men felt comforted and inspirited.