(d) The Russian War of 1812 (Borodino and the retreat from Moscow).
When it fails it is because its inventor himself hesitates to push his own conception to its full development (Eckmiihl 1809, Borodino 1812).
In the more congenial grande guerre of Russia and Germany he was in his element, and at Smolensk, Borodino and Leipzig he did brilliant service.
In the Spanish campaign of 1810 and 1811 he gained special distinction at the battle of Fuentes d'Onor; and in the expedition to Russia he was present at Smolensk and Valutina, and displayed such bravery and ability in the battle of Borodino that he was made general of division.
He and they distinguished themselves especially at the battles of Borodino and Malojaroslavitz; and on several occasions during the disastrous retreat which ensued, Eugene's soldierly constancy and devotion to Napoleon shone out conspicuously in 1813-1814, especially by contrast with the tergiversations of Murat.
On the twenty-fourth of August the battle of the Shevardino Redoubt was fought, on the twenty-fifth not a shot was fired by either side, and on the twenty-sixth the battle of Borodino itself took place.
Why and how were the battles of Shevardino and Borodino given and accepted?
Why was the battle of Borodino fought?
Before the battle of Borodino our strength in proportion to the French was about as five to six, but after that battle it was little more than one to two: previously we had a hundred thousand against a hundred and twenty thousand; afterwards little more than fifty thousand against a hundred thousand.
In giving and accepting battle at Borodino, Kutuzov acted involuntarily and irrationally.
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.
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.
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.
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, the right flank near the village of Novoe, and the center at Borodino at the confluence of the rivers Kolocha and Voyna.
To anyone who looks at the field of Borodino without thinking of how the battle was actually fought, this position, protected by the river Kolocha, presents itself as obvious for an army whose object was to prevent an enemy from advancing along the Smolensk road to Moscow.
Napoleon, riding to Valuevo on the twenty-fourth, did not see (as the history books say he did) the position of the Russians from Utitsa to Borodino (he could not have seen that position because it did not exist), nor did he see an advanced post of the Russian army, but while pursuing the Russian rearguard he came upon the left flank of the Russian position--at the Shevardino Redoubt--and unexpectedly for the Russians moved his army across the Kolocha.
By crossing to the other side of the Kolocha to the left of the highroad, Napoleon shifted the whole forthcoming battle from right to left (looking from the Russian side) and transferred it to the plain between Utitsa, Semenovsk, and Borodino--a plain no more advantageous as a position than any other plain in Russia--and there the whole battle of the twenty-sixth of August took place.
The battle of Borodino was not fought on a chosen and entrenched position with forces only slightly weaker than those of the enemy, but, as a result of the loss of the Shevardino Redoubt, the Russians fought the battle of Borodino on an open and almost unentrenched position, with forces only half as numerous as the French; that is to say, under conditions in which it was not merely unthinkable to fight for ten hours and secure an indecisive result, but unthinkable to keep an army even from complete disintegration and flight.
"Borodino," the other corrected him.
There's our center, at Borodino, just there, and he pointed to the village in front of them with the white church.
They rode across that bridge into the village of Borodino and thence turned to the left, passing an enormous number of troops and guns, and came to a high knoll where militiamen were digging.
At the battle of Borodino Napoleon shot at no one and killed no one.
The French soldiers went to kill and be killed at the battle of Borodino not because of Napoleon's orders but by their own volition.
These dispositions and orders only seem worse than previous ones because the battle of Borodino was the first Napoleon did not win.
Napoleon at the battle of Borodino fulfilled his office as representative of authority as well as, and even better than, at other battles.
All this was vivid, majestic, and unexpected; but what impressed Pierre most of all was the view of the battlefield itself, of Borodino and the hollows on both sides of the Kolocha.
The chief action of the battle of Borodino was fought within the seven thousand feet between Borodino and Bagration's fleches.
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.
Then when the whole field was covered with smoke, two divisions, Campan's and Dessaix's, advanced from the French right, while Murat's troops advanced on Borodino from their left.
At Borodino a collision took place.
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.
At Drissa and at Smolensk and most palpably of all on the twenty-fourth of August at Shevardino and on the twenty- sixth at Borodino, and each day and hour and minute of the retreat from Borodino to Fili.
Toward the end of the battle of Borodino, Pierre, having run down from Raevski's battery a second time, made his way through a gully to Knyazkovo with a crowd of soldiers, reached the dressing station, and seeing blood and hearing cries and groans hurried on, still entangled in the crowds of soldiers.
Every day thousands of men wounded at Borodino were brought in by the Dorogomilov gate and taken to various parts of Moscow, and thousands of carts conveyed the inhabitants and their possessions out by the other gates.
At Anna Pavlovna's on the twenty-sixth of August, the very day of the battle of Borodino, there was a soiree, the chief feature of which was to be the reading of a letter from His Lordship the Bishop when sending the Emperor an icon of the Venerable Sergius.
A few days before the battle of Borodino, Nicholas received the necessary money and warrants, and having sent some hussars on in advance, he set out with post horses for Voronezh.
The dreadful news of the battle of Borodino, of our losses in killed and wounded, and the still more terrible news of the loss of Moscow reached Voronezh in the middle of September.
The historians consider that, next to the battle of Borodino and the occupation of Moscow by the enemy and its destruction by fire, the most important episode of the war of 1812 was the movement of the Russian army from the Ryazana to the Kaluga road and to the Tarutino camp--the so-called flank march across the Krasnaya Pakhra River.
The beast wounded at Borodino was lying where the fleeing hunter had left him; but whether he was still alive, whether he was strong and merely lying low, the hunter did not know.
No battle--Tarutino, Borodino, or Austerlitz--takes place as those who planned it anticipated.
And the quiet little Dokhturov rode thither, and Borodino became the greatest glory of the Russian army.
The undecided question as to whether the wound inflicted at Borodino was mortal or not had hung over Kutuzov's head for a whole month.
To strain the facts to fit the rules of history: to say that the field of battle at Borodino remained in the hands of the Russians, or that after Moscow there were other battles that destroyed Napoleon's army, is impossible.
The burning of towns and villages, the retreats after battles, the blow dealt at Borodino and the renewed retreat, the burning of Moscow, the capture of marauders, the seizure of transports, and the guerrilla war were all departures from the rules.
How was it that the Russian army, which when numerically weaker than the French had given battle at Borodino, did not achieve its purpose when it had surrounded the French on three sides and when its aim was to capture them?
Why was the Russian army--which with inferior forces had withstood the enemy in full strength at Borodino--defeated at Krasnoe and the Berezina by the disorganized crowds of the French when it was numerically superior?
Beginning with the battle of Borodino, from which time his disagreement with those about him began, he alone said that the battle of Borodino was a victory, and repeated this both verbally and in his dispatches and reports up to the time of his death.
This procrastinator Kutuzov, whose motto was "Patience and Time," this enemy of decisive action, gave battle at Borodino, investing the preparations for it with unparalleled solemnity.
That same day he had learned that Prince Andrew, after surviving the battle of Borodino for more than a month had recently died in the Rostovs' house at Yaroslavl, and Denisov who told him this news also mentioned Helene's death, supposing that Pierre had heard of it long before.
But suddenly instead of those chances and that genius which hitherto had so consistently led him by an uninterrupted series of successes to the predestined goal, an innumerable sequence of inverse chances occur--from the cold in his head at Borodino to the sparks which set Moscow on fire, and the frosts--and instead of genius, stupidity and immeasurable baseness become evident.