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War And Peace 494

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War And Peace

it is 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. CHAPTER II 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 force. 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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