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War And Peace 479

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War And Peace

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. Georges 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. CHAPTER XXXIII The chief action of the battle of Borodino was fought within the seven thousand feet between Borodino and Bagrations fleches. Beyond that space there was, on the one side, a demonstration made by the Russians with Uvarovs cavalry at midday, and on the other side, beyond Utitsa, Poniatowskis 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, Campans and Dessaixs, advanced from the French right, while Murats 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 Dessaixs 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 Napoleons 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

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