The notion that Napoleon was aware of the danger of extending his line, and that the Russians had a scheme for drawing the enemy into the heart of Russia, obviously belong to the same category; and only historians with a great bias can ascribe such reflections to Napoleon and his marshals, or such plans to the Russian generals. All the facts are directly opposed to such a view. Far from desiring to lure the French into the heart of Russia, the Russians did their utmost to arrest their progress throughout the war from the time they crossed the frontier. And far from dreading the extension of his line of communications, Napoleon rejoiced at every step forward as a triumph, and did not seek pitched battles as eagerly as he had done in his previous campaigns.

At the very beginning of the campaign, our armies were divided up, and the sole aim for which we strove was to unite them; though there was no benefit to be derived from uniting them if our object was to retreat and draw the enemy into the heart of the country. The Emperor was with the army to inspire it not to yield an inch of Russian soil and on no account to retreat. An immense camp was fortified at Drissa in accordance with Pfuhl’s plan, and it was not proposed to retreat further. The Tsar reprimanded the commander-in-chief for every retreat. The Tsar can never have anticipated the burning of Moscow, or even the enemy’s presence at Smolensk, and when the armies had been reunited, the Tsar was indignant at the taking and burning of Smolensk without a general engagement having been fought before its walls. Such was the Tsar’s feeling, but the Russian generals, and the whole Russian people, were even more indignant at the idea of our men retreating.

Napoleon, after dividing up the army, moved on into the heart of the country, letting slip several opportunities of an engagement. In August he was in Smolensk and thinking of nothing but advancing further, though, as we see now, that advance meant inevitable ruin.

The fact shows perfectly clearly that Napoleon foresaw no danger in the advance on Moscow, and that Alexander and the Russian generals did not dream at the time of luring Napoleon on, but aimed at the very opposite. Napoleon was drawn on into Russia, not through any plans—no one dreamed of the possibility of it—but simply through the complex play of intrigues and desires and motives of the actors in the war, who had no conception of what was to come and of what was the sole means of saving Russia. Everything came to pass by chance. The army was split up early in the campaign. We tried to effect a junction between the parts with the obvious intention of fighting a battle and checking the enemy’s advance; and in this effort to effect a junction, avoiding a battle with a far stronger enemy, we were forced to retreat at an acute angle, and so drew the French after us to Smolensk. But it is not enough to say that both parts of the army retreated on lines inclined at an acute angle, because the French were advancing between the two armies. The angle was made the more acute and we retreated further because Barclay de Tolly, an unpopular German, was detested by Bagration, and the latter, in command of the second half of the army, did his utmost to delay a junction with Barclay de Tolly in order to avoid being under his command. Bagration delayed the junction of the armies, though this was the chief aim of all the authorities, because he believed that he would expose his army to danger on the march, and that it would be more advantageous for him to retreat more to the left and the south, annoying the enemy on the flank and rear, and reinforcing his army in Ukraine. And he believed this, because he did not want to put himself under the command of the German Barclay, who was his junior in the service, and personally disliked by him.

The Emperor accompanied the army in order to excite its patriotic ardour; but his presence and inability to decide on any course of action and the immense number of counsellors and plans that swarmed about him, nullified all action on the part of the first army, and that army too had to retreat.

At the camp at Drissa it was proposed to take a stand. But the energy of Paulucci, scheming to become a leading general, affected Alexander; and Pfuhl’s whole plan was abandoned, and the scheme of campaign intrusted to Barclay. But as the latter did not inspire complete confidence, his power too was limited. The armies were split up, there was no unity, no supreme command: Barclay was unpopular. But on one side the confusion and division and unpopularity of the German commander-in-chief led to vacillation and to avoiding a battle, which would have been inevitable had the armies been united and any one

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