This chapter is more a set-up than anything else – it’s another of those of telescoping chapters – where Tolstoy is in the process of taking us from the big picture to the small minute details.
I think my main comment would be that, for some reason, Denisov seems born to have become a vigilante Russian soldier. While he did his best serving in uniform and working for the generals, it’s this kind of thing – where he gets to be his own man – that he is most suited for.
In fact, the battle with his superiors earlier in the book almost prepare us for why Denisov here is so keen to attack the French by himself, without letting a general get any credit for it.
Finally, introducing Petya Rostov – in the middle of a war, dressed in uniform on a horse – is a reminder of how epic War and Peace really is. There are those of us who can still remember when Petya was a young boy running around the house with his sisters. If there is any character who has aged the most dramatically over the course of the book, it is Petya.
We’ll see what happens to them tomorrow . . .