Emma Watson Pussy
War And Peace
evident that only along that path does the possibility of discovering
the laws of history lie, and that as yet not a millionth part as much
mental effort has been applied in this direction by historians as has
been devoted to describing the actions of various kings, commanders,
and ministers and propounding the historians own reflections
concerning these actions.
The forces of a dozen European nations burst into Russia. The
Russian army and people avoided a collision till Smolensk was reached,
and again from Smolensk to Borodino. The French army pushed on to
Moscow, its goal, its impetus ever increasing as it neared its aim,
just as the velocity of a falling body increases as it approaches
the earth. Behind it were seven hundred miles of hunger-stricken,
hostile country; ahead were a few dozen miles separating it from its
goal. Every soldier in Napoleons army felt this and the invasion
moved on by its own momentum.
The more the Russian army retreated the more fiercely a spirit of
hatred of the enemy flared up, and while it retreated the army
increased and consolidated. At Borodino a collision took place.
Neither army was broken up, but the Russian army retreated immediately
after the collision as inevitably as a ball recoils after colliding
with another having a greater momentum, and with equal inevitability
the ball of invasion that had advanced with such momentum rolled on
for some distance, though the collision had deprived it of all its
The Russians retreated eighty miles--to beyond Moscow--and the
French reached Moscow and there came to a standstill. For five weeks
after that there was not a single battle. The French did not move.
As a bleeding, mortally wounded animal licks its wounds, they remained
inert in Moscow for five weeks, and then suddenly, with no fresh
reason, fled back: they made a dash for the Kaluga road, and (after
a victory--for at Malo-Yaroslavets the field of conflict again
remained theirs) without undertaking a single serious battle, they
fled still more rapidly back to Smolensk, beyond Smolensk, beyond
the Berezina, beyond Vilna, and farther still.
On the evening of the twenty-sixth of August, Kutuzov and the
whole Russian army were convinced that the battle of Borodino was a
victory. Kutuzov reported so to the Emperor. He gave orders to prepare
for a fresh conflict to finish the enemy and did this not to deceive
anyone, but because he knew that the enemy was beaten, as everyone who
had taken part in the battle knew it.
But all that evening and next day reports came in one after
another of unheard-of losses, of the loss of half the army, and a
fresh battle proved physically impossible.
It was impossible to give battle before information had been
collected, the wounded gathered in, the supplies of ammunition
replenished, the slain reckoned up, new officers appointed to
replace those who had been killed, and before the men had had food and
sleep. And meanwhile, the very next morning after the battle, the
French army advanced of itself upon the Russians, carried forward by
the force of its own momentum now seemingly increased in inverse
proportion to the square of the distance from its aim. Kutuzovs
wish was to attack next day, and the whole army desired to do so.
But to make an attack the wish to do so is not sufficient, there
must also be a possibility of doing it, and that possibility did not
exist. It was impossible not to retreat a days march, and then in the
same way it was impossible not to retreat another and a third days
march, and at last, on the first of September when the army drew
near Moscow--despite the strength of the feeling that had arisen in
all ranks--the force of circumstances compelled it to retire beyond
Moscow. And the troops retired one more, last, days march, and
abandoned Moscow to the enemy.
For people accustomed to think that plans of campaign and battles are
made by generals--as any one of us sitting over a map in his study may
imagine how he would have arranged things in this or that battle--the
questions present themselves: Why did Kutuzov during the retreat not
do this or that? Why did he not take up a position before reaching
Fili? Why did he not retire at once by the Kaluga road, abandoning
Moscow? and so on. People accustomed to think in that way forget, or
do not know, the inevitable conditions which always limit the
activities of any commander in chief. The activity of a commander in
chief does not
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