War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace Warfare Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Volume.Part.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation.
Despite the fact that the troops were ill clad, worn out, weakened by a third with the stragglers, the wounded, the dead, and the sick; despite the fact that the sick and the wounded had been left on the other side of the Danube with a letter from Kutuzov entrusting them to the humaneness of the enemy; despite the fact that the big hospitals and the houses in Krems that had been turned into infirmaries could no longer accommodate all the sick and wounded—despite all that, the halt at Krems and the victory over Mortier raised the spirits of the troops significantly. Throughout the army and in headquarters joyful, though incorrect, rumors were rife about the imaginary approach of columns from Russia, about some victory won by the Austrians, and about the retreat of the frightened Bonaparte. (22.214.171.124)
This book is always pointing out the army's hive-like mind. There are a lot of descriptions like this, where the soldiers are all thinking the same thing, usually about a specific rumor spreading or a decision that's been made about the next plan of action. Shmoop wonders if this is something Tolstoy picked up on when he was covering the Crimean War as a journalist.
The further ahead he moved, the closer to the enemy, the more orderly and cheerful the troops looked. The greatest disorder and despondency had been in that baggage train [...] some seven miles away from the French. [...] But the closer Prince Andrei rode to the French line, the more self assured our troops looked. [...] Prince Andrei, having reached the front line, rode along it. Our line and the enemy's stood far from each other on the left and right flanks, but in the center, where the envoys had passed that morning, the lines came so close that the men could see each other's faces and talk to each other. Besides the soldiers who occupied the line at that place, many of the curious stood on both sides and gazed, laughing, at their strange and foreign looking enemies." (126.96.36.199-28)
It's hard today to imagine this old-fashioned kind of war, where battle was formal and you could line up and chat with your enemy for a while before the order to attack them. It's like a game or something. Also, why do you think the troops closest to the front line are the calmest and most cheerful, when they're the ones most likely to die?
Though none of the column leaders rode up to the ranks and spoke to the soldiers [...] the soldiers marched on cheerily, as always when going into action, especially on the offensive. But, having gone for about an hour in the thick fog, the major part of the troops were forced to halt, and an unpleasant awareness of disorder and muddle-headedness passed through the ranks. How such awareness is conveyed is quite difficult to define; but it is unquestionable that it is conveyed with extraordinary sureness, and flows swiftly, imperceptibly and irresistibly, like water through a glen. (188.8.131.52)
Here's another example of the way news spreads like wildfire through the army ranks. Shmoop's going to suggest that this is both a strength and a weakness for the army. What do you think?