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War And Peace 640


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in time. If news was received one day that the enemy had been in a certain position the day before, by the third day when something could have been done, that army was already two days march farther on and in quite another position. One army fled and the other pursued. Beyond Smolensk there were several different roads available for the French, and one would have thought that during their stay of four days they might have learned where the enemy was, might have arranged some more advantageous plan and undertaken something new. But after a four days halt the mob, with no maneuvers or plans, again began running along the beaten track, neither to the right nor to the left but along the old--the worst--road, through Krasnoe and Orsha. Expecting the enemy from behind and not in front, the French separated in their flight and spread out over a distance of twenty-four hours. In front of them all fled the Emperor, then the kings, then the dukes. The Russian army, expecting Napoleon to take the road to the right beyond the Dnieper--which was the only reasonable thing for him to do--themselves turned to the right and came out onto the highroad at Krasnoe. And here as in a game of blindmans buff the French ran into our vanguard. Seeing their enemy unexpectedly the French fell into confusion and stopped short from the sudden fright, but then they resumed their flight, abandoning their comrades who were farther behind. Then for three days separate portions of the French army--first Murats (the vice-kings), then Davouts, and then Neys--ran, as it were, the gauntlet of the Russian army. They abandoned one another, abandoned all their heavy baggage, their artillery, and half their men, and fled, getting past the Russians by night by making semicircles to the right. Ney, who came last, had been busying himself blowing up the walls of Smolensk which were in nobodys way, because despite the unfortunate plight of the French or because of it, they wished to punish the floor against which they had hurt themselves. Ney, who had had a corps of ten thousand men, reached Napoleon at Orsha with only one thousand men left, having abandoned all the rest and all his cannon, and having crossed the Dnieper at night by stealth at a wooded spot. From Orsha they fled farther along the road to Vilna, still playing at blindmans buff with the pursuing army. At the Berezina they again became disorganized, many were drowned and many surrendered, but those who got across the river fled farther. Their supreme chief donned a fur coat and, having seated himself in a sleigh, galloped on alone, abandoning his companions. The others who could do so drove away too, leaving those who could not to surrender or die. CHAPTER XVIII This campaign consisted in a flight of the French during which they did all they could to destroy themselves. From the time they turned onto the Kaluga road to the day their leader fled from the army, none of the movements of the crowd had any sense. So one might have thought that regarding this period of the campaign the historians, who attributed the actions of the mass to the will of one man, would have found it impossible to make the story of the retreat fit their theory. But no! Mountains of books have been written by the historians about this campaign, and everywhere are described Napoleons arrangements, the maneuvers, and his profound plans which guided the army, as well as the military genius shown by his marshals. The retreat from Malo-Yaroslavets when he had a free road into a well-supplied district and the parallel road was open to him along which Kutuzov afterwards pursued him--this unnecessary retreat along a devastated road--is explained to us as being due to profound considerations. Similarly profound considerations are given for his retreat from Smolensk to Orsha. Then his heroism at Krasnoe is described, where he is reported to have been prepared to accept battle and take personal command, and to have walked about with a birch stick and said: "Jai assez fait lempereur; il est temps de faire le general,"* but nevertheless immediately ran away again, abandoning to its fate the scattered fragments of the army he left behind. *"I have acted the Emperor long enough; it is time to act the general." Then we are told of the greatness of soul of the marshals, especially of Ney--a greatness of soul consisting in this: that he made his way by night around through the forest and across the Dnieper and escaped to Orsha, abandoning

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