War and Peace Volume 1, Part 2, Chapter 14 Summary
This chapter zooms back out again to give us a bird’s-eye view of the war. Get ready.
The Russian army is retreating from Austria, chased by the French army.
The Russians are tired, hungry, and poorly equipped.
The French are faster and have a better road to walk on (the two armies are on converging paths).
Kutuzov has two bad choices. Option #1: Go south into the mountains in Germany and have the French disrupt his line of communications (remember, there were no phones or even telegraphs – just humans traveling back and forth with pieces of paper). Option #2: Keep running and try to get to the city of Znaim to meet up with some more Russian troops. The danger is that the French would get to Znaim first and surrounded them on all sides.
Hard call. Kutuzov picks Option #2.
He sends Bagration’s vanguard with four thousand men to stall the French. Meanwhile, he tries to hustle the rest of the army to Znaim with a forced 24-hour march.
It’s crazy hardcore.
Bagration gets to the road the French will be on in time, but his soldiers are totally weak, hungry, tired, and generally in bad shape.
But then he gets a lucky break.
The French general who is coming first is Murat. Murat is still in love with the whole fake-peace-talks gambit that worked in Vienna and so he decides to try the same trick on Bagration.
They sign a three-day truce, which gives the Russian soldiers time to rest and eat and rest and eat some more.
Meanwhile, Bagration promises nothing and sends off a message about all of this to Kutuzov.
Kutuzov decides to double-reverse-trick Murat and sends back an offer of surrender.
Murat is psyched, agrees to truce some more, and sends news back to Napoleon.
Napoleon sees through the trick and sends an angry letter to Murat, basically calling him a grade-A moron. (Shmoop snack for extra fun: the letter Tolstoy prints is the actual letter Napoleon wrote. This novel puts the fun back in history.)