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

War and Peace


by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace Volume 1, Part 3, Chapter 17 Summary

  • Meanwhile, on the other side of the army, Bagration doesn’t want to take responsibility for sending troops in.  Instead, he decides to send off a messenger to ask the commander in chief (Kutuzov) or the emperor to clarify the orders. The idea is that even if the messenger survives, this errand will take all day, so Bagration won’t have to do anything until at least that night. Why does he want to stall? Good question. It’s not too clear.
  • Nikolai is psyched to go be this messenger, hoping to deliver his message to the emperor, obviously.
  • Before he goes, he tries to figure out the front lines, but the fog is impossible to see into.
  • Still, Nikolai rides out, past wounded soldiers and attacking people.
  • Suddenly he is about to be trampled by a galloping pack of cavalrymen. He just barely makes it.
  • These cavalry guys are amazing and their attack is famous. Famous for being awesome, and also because almost all of them died.
  • After that, Nikolai is under cannon fire. He runs into Boris, who starts telling him a story about beating back some French in an attack.
  • Nikolai isn’t really listening and starts riding away toward where the commander in chief was supposed to be.
  • But – oh no – he sees enemy troops behind the Russian front line. Or, at least that’s what it seems like, since there is shooting and yelling. Turns out, though, that it’s Russians and Austrians shooting at each other. Guys, come on now, you’re supposed to be allies.
  • Nikolai keeps riding to the hill where Kutuzov is supposed to be, even though he sees French cannons on top of it.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...