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War and Peace

War and Peace


by Leo Tolstoy

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

  • We guess the next logical thing to do is to try to apply this view of history (from Chapter 1) to the War of 1812.
  • What do we know so far? Well the French push forward, and the Russians retreat. They fight at Smolensk and again at Borodino. After Borodino, the Russian army keeps on retreating, and the French army gets to Moscow. (Wait, wasn't the French army just defeated in the last chapter? Keep reading.) They hang out in Moscow for five weeks, not attacking, not doing anything, then they suddenly flee back toward France. What’s up with that?
  • Well, after Borodino, everyone thinks the Russians have won. Kutuzov orders a new attack for the next day and sends off a letter to Alexander describing their victory.
  • But the attack just cannot happen. It’s not enough to just order the army to attack. There are more Russians dead than first thought, and one night isn’t enough to promote a bunch of new officers to replace the ones that were killed and wounded. There just isn’t enough momentum to keep going.
  • Meanwhile, the French have the opposite problem – too much momentum. The next day their army is starting to get a move on towards Moscow.
  • That’s why a week after the victory at Borodino, the Russian troops retreat and the French take Moscow. This is a big deal.
  • While Kutuzov is retreating, he keeps trying to figure out the moment when the tide turned. One day he ordered an attack and the next he found himself retreating. He doesn't have enough perspective on the events to see how every tiny thing slowly flowed into the next, setting up the necessity that the Russian army head back deeper into Russia. But that’s what happens. Every moment is forever setting up all the moments to come for the rest of time.

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