Emma Watson Pussy
War And Peace
Russian towns were left to him, and had not received a single
reply to his repeated announcements of his wish to negotiate.
In giving and accepting battle at Borodino, Kutuzov acted
involuntarily and irrationally. But later on, to fit what had
occurred, the historians provided cunningly devised evidence of the
foresight and genius of the generals who, of all the blind tools of
history were the most enslaved and involuntary.
The ancients have left us model heroic poems in which the heroes
furnish the whole interest of the story, and we are still unable to
accustom ourselves to the fact that for our epoch histories of that
kind are meaningless.
On the other question, how the battle of Borodino and the
preceding battle of Shevardino were fought, there also exists a
definite and well-known, but quite false, conception. All the
historians describe the affair as follows:
The Russian army, they say, in its retreat from Smolensk sought
out for itself the best position for a general engagement and found
such a position at Borodino.
The Russians, they say, fortified this position in advance on the
left of the highroad (from Moscow to Smolensk) and almost at a right
angle to it, from Borodino to Utitsa, at the very place where the
battle was fought.
In front of this position, they say, a fortified outpost was set
up on the Shevardino mound to observe the enemy. On the twenty-fourth,
we are told, Napoleon attacked this advanced post and took it, and, on
the twenty-sixth, attacked the whole Russian army, which was in
position on the field of Borodino.
So the histories say, and it is all quite wrong, as anyone who cares
to look into the matter can easily convince himself.
The Russians did not seek out the best position but, on the
contrary, during the retreat passed many positions better than
Borodino. They did not stop at any one of these positions because
Kutuzov did not wish to occupy a position he had not himself chosen,
because the popular demand for a battle had not yet expressed itself
strongly enough, and because Miloradovich had not yet arrived with the
militia, and for many other reasons. The fact is that other
positions they had passed were stronger, and that the position at
Borodino (the one where the battle was fought), far from being strong,
was no more a position than any other spot one might find in the
Russian Empire by sticking a pin into the map at hazard.
Not only did the Russians not fortify the position on the field of
Borodino to the left of, and at a right angle to, the highroad (that
is, the position on which the battle took place), but never till the
twenty-fifth of August, 1812, did they think that a battle might be
fought there. This was shown first by the fact that there were no
entrenchments there by the twenty fifth and that those begun on the
twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth were not completed, and secondly, by the
position of the Shevardino Redoubt. That redoubt was quite senseless
in front of the position where the battle was accepted. Why was it
more strongly fortified than any other post? And why were all
efforts exhausted and six thousand men sacrificed to defend it till
late at night on the twenty-fourth? A Cossack patrol would have
sufficed to observe the enemy. Thirdly, as proof that the position
on which the battle was fought had not been foreseen and that the
Shevardino Redoubt was not an advanced post of that position, we
have the fact that up to the twenty-fifth, Barclay de Tolly and
Bagration were convinced that the Shevardino Redoubt was the left
flank of the position, and that Kutuzov himself in his report, written
in hot haste after the battle, speaks of the Shevardino Redoubt as the
left flank of the position. It was much later, when reports on the
battle of Borodino were written at leisure, that the incorrect and
extraordinary statement was invented (probably to justify the mistakes
of a commander in chief who had to be represented as infallible)
that the Shevardino Redoubt was an advanced post--whereas in reality
it was simply a fortified point on the left flank--and that the battle
of Borodino was fought by us on an entrenched position previously
selected, where as it was fought on a quite unexpected spot which
was almost unentrenched.
The case was evidently this: a position was selected along the river
Kolocha--which crosses the highroad not at a right angle but at an
acute angle--so that the left flank was at Shevardino,
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