And in a parallel to yesterday’s chapter, here we have Kutuzov, showing us how he is faring on the Russian side. The funny thing is, just looking at what actually happens, there’s not a lot of difference between the two sides. Both Napoleon and Kutuzov put up with reports coming from the battlefield (both true and false) and issue orders based on that.
The difference is that Napoleon is becoming increasingly demoralised by the bad stories coming back. In the meantime, Kutuzov, very carefully doesn’t make particular orders, but instead tries to lead the impulse of the men. So when he sends the Prince of Würtermburg out to fight to replace the wounded Bagration andthe Prince turns around and asks for reinforcements – Kutuzov immediately replaces him, because he’s aware that the Prince is too cautious, expecting the worst, and will infect the men with that attitude.
Even more so, when the German Woltzogen shows up from General Barclay de Tolly to say that the Russian army is routed, and Kutuzov tells him off. It was true that Barclay had seen the Russians copping a beating – but we’ve already been told that the battle raged back and forth, so who’s to say at any time who is winning or losing?
So Kutuzov, rather than controlling particular military manouvres simply makes sure that a general optimism and fighting spirit reigns in the command and leaves it at that.
I would be very interested to read comments on War and Peace by actual military officers to see how true they find all this works in real life. Is it just a matter of who has the most desire to win? I can understand, from a patriotic Russian’s point of view, it would be great to say that none of the other European countries that Napoleon conquered had a strong enough desire to win until he locked horns with the Russians – the strongest of them all . . . It makes a great story, and hey, look, I think anyone that can read this far and not feel like a patriotic Russian is missing something.