War and Peace Volume 3, Part 2, Chapter 33 Summary
Here’s a good sense of how battle took place in the 19th century. The main action is happening about a mile and a half from where Napoleon is. He’s facing the sun. Seeing something a mile and a half away, covered in smoke, with the sun in your eyes is probably beyond even the best eagle eyes out there, telescope or no.
Which means Napoleon can’t see what’s happening or how his troops are doing.
Sure, messengers are bringing reports from the field – but this also doesn’t help much because 1) by the time these guys make it to his tent, their news is outdated; and 2) half the reports are just flat-out wrong or third-hand information.
Napoleon is giving orders, but so are generals and other officers. All of these orders contradict each other, of course, and half of them can’t be followed.
The infantry moves this way and that, but the battle is won and lost through the cannon fire and bullets, not hand-to-hand combat.