© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
War and Peace

War and Peace


by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace Volume 1, Part 3, Chapter 13 Summary

  • Nikolai is riding his horse at night and keeps falling asleep. We get a nice little view into his jumbly-mumbly thoughts as he keeps sort of waking up and then sort of falling back asleep over and over again.
  • All of a sudden, there is shouting and bullets coming from the French.
  • Nikolai immediately wakes the heck up and tries to figure out what on earth is happening.
  • At the enemy line the Russians see strange fires being set and some gunfire.
  • What on earth? Are the French retreating? If so, why do they still have soldiers so close to the line?  Or this some kind of trick?
  • Dolgorukov and Bagration come riding up to check things out.
  • Dolgorukov thinks this is supposed to be some kind of diversion, and Bagration seems to agree. Which, OK, but mostly Shmoop is getting the sense from these two that they are just talking so they don’t have to admit that they don’t know what's going on. (Like, for instance, why would retreating soldiers take the time to set random fires?)
  • Nikolai is right there, and he volunteers to ride out and see if there are still any snipers in the nearby hills – the idea being that if they aren’t there, then maybe the retreat is real.
  • He rides and is brave in the darkness, even though he’s still sleepy enough to keep riding into bushes by mistake.
  • Suddenly bullets ring out around him.
  • He gallops back, reports, and asks to be moved to a division that will see some action the next day. Bagration is all, "OK, I guess."
  • Nikolai is thrilled and imagines how he’ll maybe get to run a message to the emperor the next day. Oh, the emperor!
  • Meanwhile, the narrator tells us what’s really up with French. Turns out, to boost morale, Napoleon himself is riding around the army’s front lines, and soldiers who see him start yelling and firing into the air and lighting little tiny fires.  Aw, that’s sweet. Everyone loves his emperor.
  • Also, it seems that Napoleon knows all about the Russians' plans and has figured out his own strategy in response. So...good luck with that, guys.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...