For 3/30/2021 (OUP p. 303)
Scene change: Austria, near Ölmütz, in various Russian camps
(November 1805) Short summary: Going into the Battle of Austerlitz
Boris and Berg are both part of the Russian guards that arrive well-rested with the emperor and his entourage, and Nikolai gets a letter from Boris that he has letters and cash from his parents. He goes to see them in their quarters. Berg is as annoyingly self-centered as before, Boris is intent on becoming an adjutant and diplomat, but Nikolai despises that kind of job. He regales them with the story of his battle experience, all lies (“inevitably he lapsed into falsehood,” 257) but also what he thinks is expected. Prince Andrei enters the room, wishing to talk to Boris (intent on helping him) and making clear by his remarks that he doubts Nikolai’s story. The clash between them nearly results in a challenge to a duel.
The next day, the two emperors (Russian Czar Alexander, age 28, and Austrian Emperor Francis I, 37 years old) inspect the Allied army and everyone gets all spiffed up. When Kuzutov’s troops get inspected, Nikolai is smitten with the noble presence of the Czar and can think of nothing than dying for his emperor and his country, and “loves everyone,” so he drops the idea of challenging Andrei to a duel.
Boris goes to see Andrei, hoping for his help in getting ahead in the army, even though he has no money to buy influence, and even though Andrei’s fellow artistocratic officers treat him with scorn. Andrei has a plan for Boris, wishing to recommend him to a commander named Dolgorukov, but cannot immediately help, because Dolgorukov has just come back from the war council where the battle plan has been decided on, and everyone is talking excitedly about how Napoleon has been addressed by the Allies, who refuse to use the title he has given himself. Boris, not for the first time, feels like a “tiny, obedient, and insignificant atom” in a vast machinery of war (268) as he listens.
On the morning of November 16, Denisov’s squadron (which Nikolai is part of) is moving to the spot where it is supposed to wait in reserve. Nikolai hates the idea of not going into battle and still dreams of dying for the Czar, who makes aother brief appearance in camps. As much as Denisov makes fun of Nikolai’s infatuation, everyone in camp loves the Czar.
The war machinery is slowly but surely getting reading (Nov. 18 and 19, with the battle of Austerlitz happening on the 20th, as Tolstoy lets us know, 274), and Andrei witnesses another meeting of commanders as Kuzutov’s adjutant. The young officers (including Dolgorukov) are gung-ho about the idea to attack Napoleon, following the plan generated by the Austrian commander Weyrother. Andrei has some ideas of his own to improve the plan, but never has a chance to bring them up. Kuzutov is deeply skeptical; he thinks the battle will be lost, but sees no chance that his opinion will be heard.
On the evening of the 19th, Weyrother arrives for a council of war in Kutuzov’s quarters and reads out the entire battle plan, and is surprised and also dismissive when some of the Russian generals have objections. Nothing will be changed; Andrei realizes that Weyrother may be right or his critics, but that he might die in battle either way; he is disappointed that he had not had a chance to give input, or to win fame and glory “and men’s love,” which is what he wants more than anything (282).
Nikolai is on skirmishing duty that night in dense fog and is riding around sleepily, almost falling off his horse (stunning stream of consciousness with complicated puns–283), and when he is jerked back awake, thinks that he is hearing the French troops closer by than expected. But a closer investigation with a couple of other soldiers yields no distinctive information; when Nikolai reports back to Bagration, he asks to be attached to his squadron, eager to see action. Bagration says he will give the order.
At the same time, in the French camp, Napoleon’s proclamation to his soldiers, promising to be right there with them in battle, is being read out everywhere in the camps, and that is the shouting they heard everywhere.
It is the morning of the battle of Austerlitz. The war machinery is being put in motion, but because of dense fog, there is chaos everywhere, and the Russians and Austrians are blaming each other for mishaps and miscommunication. Even by 9 am, the valleys all still lie in fog. Napoleon from higher ground can see that his plans have worked and that the allies think that the French troops are at a much greater distance from them than they actually are; as the sun emerges above the fog, he orders his troops to engage.
Andrei, riding behind Kuzutov in his entourage as he moves to the village of Pratzen, sees nothing but mist. Kuzutov is in a foul mood because he has a sense of how close the French are. The two emperors show up, with their fresh and clean entourage of “brilliant young men” (294). Kutuzov only gives the order to move into battle when the Czar demands it, making clear he would like to wait until all troops are in readiness.
As the fog clears, everyone can see that the French are very close. The battle has begun, but Kutuzov’s soldiers are already fleeing; Kutuzov tells Andrei to try to stop them, but it is all in vein. As the battery gets attacked, the standard with the flag gets passed from one man to another, until Andrei holds it and runs off with it until he is wounded and enters a kind of fugue state: he can only see “that lofty infinite sky” and everything else has become “vanity” and “falsehood” (299).
Meanwhile, Bagration’s flank isn’t even engaged in battle yet. He wants to send someone all the way to the commander in chief (Kutuzov), 6 miles away on the other side of the battle, to get more information, so he sends Nikolai, knowing that he might not make it. Nikolai is excited and tries hard to get past various troops and battle scenes, involving the cavalry / Horse Guards (most of whom will die), Foot Guards (including Boris and Berg, who have seen action; Berg relishes having been wounded), and what he thinks are the French, in the “wrong place.” Everything is confusion and the Russians and Austrians are fighting each other, when they are not running away. But Nikolai keeps going.