War and Peace Volume 4, Part 3, Chapter 19 Summary
A little Q&A session here. Why wasn’t the whole French army destroyed while fleeing? Basically because it would have been impossible. The French army was no longer a unified mass, just a bunch of guys trying to get away as fast as possible. There was no way to catch up to them and meaningfully engage them in any kind of battle.
Also, the French were starving and freezing in the horrible conditions in which they suddenly found themselves. It was an extra-cold winter, and they didn’t have enough provisions. The Russians had burned everything when they fled their towns and villages, so the French couldn’t steal any new supplies. The Russian soldiers would have been in the same situation if they’d tried to follow the French.
Basically, the Russian army here was like a whip hurrying a running animal along. Hey, good metaphor, Tolstoy.