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Chapter 10

  • But strange to say, all these measures, efforts, and plans—which were not a_ll worse than others issued in similar circumstances—did not affect th_ssence of the matter but, like the hands of a clock detached from th_echanism, swung about in an arbitrary and aimless way without engaging th_ogwheels.
  • With reference to the military side—the plan of campaign—that work of geniu_f which Thiers remarks that, "His genius never devised anything mor_rofound, more skillful, or more admirable," and enters into a polemic with M.
  • Fain to prove that this work of genius must be referred not to the fourth bu_o the fifteenth of October- that plan never was or could be executed, for i_as quite out of touch with the facts of the case. The fortifying of th_remlin, for which la Mosquee (as Napoleon termed the church of Basil th_eatified) was to have been razed to the ground, proved quite useless. Th_ining of the Kremlin only helped toward fulfilling Napoleon's wish that i_hould be blown up when he left Moscow—as a child wants the floor on which h_as hurt himself to be beaten. The pursuit of the Russian army, about whic_apoleon was so concerned, produced an unheard-of result. The French general_ost touch with the Russian army of sixty thousand men, and according t_hiers it was only eventually found, like a lost pin, by the skill—an_pparently the genius—of Murat.
  • With reference to diplomacy, all Napoleon's arguments as to his magnanimit_nd justice, both to Tutolmin and to Yakovlev (whose chief concern was t_btain a greatcoat and a conveyance), proved useless; Alexander did no_eceive these envoys and did not reply to their embassage.
  • With regard to legal matters, after the execution of the supposed incendiarie_he rest of Moscow burned down.
  • With regard to administrative matters, the establishment of a municipality di_ot stop the robberies and was only of use to certain people who formed par_f that municipality and under pretext of preserving order looted Moscow o_aved their own property from being looted.
  • With regard to religion, as to which in Egypt matters had so easily bee_ettled by Napoleon's visit to a mosque, no results were achieved. Two o_hree priests who were found in Moscow did try to carry out Napoleon's wish,
  • but one of them was slapped in the face by a French soldier while conductin_ervice, and a French official reported of another that: "The priest whom _ound and invited to say Mass cleaned and locked up the church. That night th_oors were again broken open, the padlocks smashed, the books mutilated, an_ther disorders perpetrated."
  • With reference to commerce, the proclamation to industrious workmen and t_easants evoked no response. There were no industrious workmen, and th_easants caught the commissaries who ventured too far out of town with th_roclamation and killed them.
  • As to the theaters for the entertainment of the people and the troops, thes_id not meet with success either. The theaters set up in the Kremlin and i_osnyakov's house were closed again at once because the actors and actresse_ere robbed.
  • Even philanthropy did not have the desired effect. The genuine as well as th_alse paper money which flooded Moscow lost its value. The French, collectin_ooty, cared only for gold. Not only was the paper money valueless whic_apoleon so graciously distributed to the unfortunate, but even silver los_ts value in relation to gold.
  • But the most amazing example of the ineffectiveness of the orders given by th_uthorities at that time was Napoleon's attempt to stop the looting and re-
  • establish discipline.
  • This is what the army authorities were reporting:
  • "Looting continues in the city despite the decrees against it. Order is no_et restored and not a single merchant is carrying on trade in a lawfu_anner. The sutlers alone venture to trade, and they sell stolen goods."
  • "The neighborhood of my ward continues to be pillaged by soldiers of the 3r_orps who, not satisfied with taking from the unfortunate inhabitants hidin_n the cellars the little they have left, even have the ferocity to wound the_ith their sabers, as I have repeatedly witnessed."
  • "Nothing new, except that the soldiers are robbing and pillaging- October 9."
  • "Robbery and pillaging continue. There is a band of thieves in our distric_ho ought to be arrested by a strong force—October 11."
  • "The Emperor is extremely displeased that despite the strict orders to sto_illage, parties of marauding Guards are continually seen returning to th_remlin. Among the Old Guard disorder and pillage were renewed more violentl_han ever yesterday evening, last night, and today. The Emperor sees wit_egret that the picked soldiers appointed to guard his person, who should se_n example of discipline, carry disobedience to such a point that they brea_nto the cellars and stores containing army supplies. Others have disgrace_hemselves to the extent of disobeying sentinels and officers, and have abuse_nd beaten them."
  • "The Grand Marshal of the palace," wrote the governor, "complains bitterl_hat in spite of repeated orders, the soldiers continue to commit nuisances i_ll the courtyards and even under the very windows of the Emperor."
  • That army, like a herd of cattle run wild and trampling underfoot th_rovender which might have saved it from starvation, disintegrated an_erished with each additional day it remained in Moscow. But it did not g_way.
  • It began to run away only when suddenly seized by a panic caused by th_apture of transport trains on the Smolensk road, and by the battle o_arutino. The news of that battle of Tarutino, unexpectedly received b_apoleon at a review, evoked in him a desire to punish the Russians (Thier_ays), and he issued the order for departure which the whole army wa_emanding.
  • Fleeing from Moscow the soldiers took with them everything they had stolen.
  • Napoleon, too, carried away his own personal tresor, but on seeing the baggag_rains that impeded the army, he was (Thiers says) horror-struck. And yet wit_is experience of war he did not order all the superfluous vehicles to b_urned, as he had done with those of a certain marshal when approachin_oscow. He gazed at the caleches and carriages in which soldiers were ridin_nd remarked that it was a very good thing, as those vehicles could be used t_arry provisions, the sick, and the wounded.
  • The plight of the whole army resembled that of a wounded animal which feels i_s perishing and does not know what it is doing. To study the skillful tactic_nd aims of Napoleon and his army from the time it entered Moscow till it wa_estroyed is like studying the dying leaps and shudders of a mortally wounde_nimal. Very often a wounded animal, hearing a rustle, rushes straight at th_unter's gun, runs forward and back again, and hastens its own end. Napoleon,
  • under pressure from his whole army, did the same thing. The rustle of th_attle of Tarutino frightened the beast, and it rushed forward onto th_unter's gun, reached him, turned back, and finally—like any wild beast—ra_ack along the most disadvantageous and dangerous path, where the old scen_as familiar.
  • During the whole of that period Napoleon, who seems to us to have been th_eader of all these movements—as the figurehead of a ship may seem to a savag_o guide the vessel—acted like a child who, holding a couple of strings insid_ carriage, thinks he is driving it.