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War and Peace

War and Peace


by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace Volume 3, Part 2, Chapter 31 Summary

  • Of course, Pierre immediately loses the general that he’s following. Instead, he ends up in the middle of an infantry battalion on his horse, bull-in-a-china-shop style. Pierre rides over a key bridge in the battle – totally cluelessly, of course – and then, trying to stay out of everyone’s way, he runs into a guy he knows.
  • The adjutant offers to take Pierre to the barrow, where he’ll be able to check out the action on the left flank of the army, where it’s apparently getting really hot.
  • As Pierre is riding, his horse is doing some strange bouncing. Turns out it’s been shot. Wow, close call.
  • The adjutant drops Pierre off to be babysat by the soldiers in the barrow, where the cannons are. This is the Raevsky battery of the barrow that we heard about earlier. It was actually a real thing, and the soldiers who manned it became famous for their heroics.
  • At first everyone is angry that this annoying civilian is here interfering with their business. But soon enough they start thinking of him as a mascot, or a pet or something.
  • It’s an amazing scene. The cannoneers are being shot at left and right, and new ones just come up and replace the dead ones. Their morale is unsinkable, and they are loading and firing the cannons like they’re chopping wood or something – just like it’s a normal workaday job. They joke about the bullets whizzing around and get more and more hyped up as the day goes on.
  • Finally, the French infantry that was being bombarded by this cannon battery starts to retreat, and Pierre locks on to a face in the crowd – a young French officer.
  • Suddenly the battery is out of ammo. Pierre volunteers to get a different kind of ammo but is generally ignored. (And really, wouldn’t you ignore him?)
  • For some reason, Pierre runs out of the barrow. He feels shots all around him, and suddenly a cannonball explodes right near him, knocking him out.
  • He quickly comes to, uninjured, and sees a half-mangled horse dragging itself past him.

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