War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace Courage Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Volume.Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation.
When [Napoleon] ran his mind over the whole of this strange Russian campaign in which not one battle had been won, and in which not a flag, or cannon, or army corps had been captured in two months, when he looked at the concealed depression on the faces around him and heard reports of the Russians still holding their ground a terrible feeling like a nightmare took possession of him, and all the unlucky accidents that might destroy him occurred to his mind. The Russians might fall on his left wing, might break through his center, he himself might be killed by a stray cannon ball. All this was possible. [It was like the kind of] horror of unavoidable destruction [that seizes a man in the middle of a bad dream because of] his helplessness.
The news that the Russians were attacking the left flank of the French army aroused that horror in Napoleon. He sat silently on a campstool below the knoll, with head bowed and elbows on his knees. (126.96.36.199-36)
What's happening here to Napoleon psychologically? Is he a coward at this moment? How does this dream state compare to the dream states described in the quotes above?
"Lie down!" cried the adjutant, throwing himself flat on the ground.
Andrei hesitated. The smoking shell spun like a top between him and the prostrate adjutant, near a wormwood plant between the field and the meadow.
"Can this be death?" thought Andrei, looking with a quite new, envious glance at the grass, the wormwood, and the streamlet of smoke that curled up from the rotating black ball. "I cannot, I do not wish to die. I love life – I love this grass, this earth, this air...." He thought this, and at the same time remembered that people were looking at him.
"It's shameful, sir!" he said to the adjutant. "What . . ."
He did not finish speaking. At one and the same moment came the sound of an explosion, a whistle of splinters as from a breaking window frame, a suffocating smell of powder, and Andrei started to one side, raising his arm, and fell on his chest. Several officers ran up to him. From the right side of his abdomen, blood was welling out making a large stain on the grass. (188.8.131.52-12)
We're digging the huge conflict between Andrei's inner deep thoughts about universal love and his realization that, as a commanding officer, he has to demonstrate courage in the face of danger. It's this self-awareness that gets him shot, since if he'd lain down like the adjutant he probably would have walked away without a shrapnel wound.
The tactical rule that an army should act in masses when attacking, and in smaller groups in retreat, unconsciously confirms the truth that the strength of an army depends on its spirit. To lead men forward under fire more discipline (obtainable only by movement in masses) is needed than is needed to resist attacks. But this rule which leaves out of account the spirit of the army continually proves incorrect and is in particularly striking contrast to the facts when some strong rise or fall in the spirit of the troops occurs, as in all national wars.
The French, retreating in 1812 – though according to tactics they should have separated into detachments to defend themselves – congregated into a mass because the spirit of the army had so fallen that only the mass held the army together. The Russians, on the contrary, ought according to tactics to have attacked in mass, but in fact they split up into small units, because their spirit had so risen that separate individuals, without orders, dealt blows at the French without needing any compulsion to induce them to expose themselves to hardships and dangers. (184.108.40.206-15)
The theory here is that when soldiers are sufficiently pumped, they will be brave on their own, without needing to be led or ordered. But is this kind of exuberance what we want from an armed force? How do you get those guys to slow down when the fighting is over? What's better, discipline or initiative?