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Chapter 23

  • From Gorki, Bennigsen descended the highroad to the bridge which, when the_ad looked it from the hill, the officer had pointed out as being the cente_f our position and where rows of fragrant new-mown hay lay by the riverside.
  • They rode across that bridge into the village of Borodino and thence turned t_he left, passing an enormous number of troops and guns, and came to a hig_noll where militiamen were digging. This was the redoubt, as yet unnamed,
  • which afterwards became known as the Raevski Redoubt, or the Knoll Battery,
  • but Pierre paid no special attention to it. He did not know that it woul_ecome more memorable to him than any other spot on the plain of Borodino.
  • They then crossed the hollow to Semenovsk, where the soldiers were draggin_way the last logs from the huts and barns. Then they rode downhill an_phill, across a ryefield trodden and beaten down as if by hail, following _rack freshly made by the artillery over the furrows of the plowed land, an_eached some fleches[[87]](footnotes.xml#footnote_87) which were still bein_ug. At the fleches Bennigsen stopped and began looking at the Shevardin_edoubt opposite, which had been ours the day before and where severa_orsemen could be descried. The officers said that either Napoleon or Mura_as there, and they all gazed eagerly at this little group of horsemen. Pierr_lso looked at them, trying to guess which of the scarcely discernible figure_as Napoleon. At last those mounted men rode away from the mound an_isappeared. Bennigsen spoke to a general who approached him, and bega_xplaining the whole position of our troops. Pierre listened to him, strainin_ach faculty to understand the essential points of the impending battle, bu_as mortified to feel that his mental capacity was inadequate for the task. H_ould make nothing of it. Bennigsen stopped speaking and, noticing that Pierr_as listening, suddenly said to him: "I don't think this interests you?" "O_he contrary it's very interesting!" replied Pierre not quite truthfully. Fro_he fleches they rode still farther to the left, along a road winding throug_ thick, low-growing birch wood. In the middle of the wood a brown hare wit_hite feet sprang out and, scared by the tramp of the many horses, grew s_onfused that it leaped along the road in front of them for some time,
  • arousing general attention and laughter, and only when several voices shoute_t it did it dart to one side and disappear in the thicket. After goin_hrough the wood for about a mile and a half they came out on a glade wher_roops of Tuchkov's corps were stationed to defend the left flank. Here, a_he extreme left flank, Bennigsen talked a great deal and with much heat, and,
  • as it seemed to Pierre, gave orders of great military importance. In front o_uchkov's troops was some high ground not occupied by troops. Bennigsen loudl_riticized this mistake, saying that it was madness to leave a height whic_ommanded the country around unoccupied and to place troops below it. Some o_he generals expressed the same opinion. One in particular declared wit_artial heat that they were put there to be slaughtered. Bennigsen on his ow_uthority ordered the troops to occupy the high ground. This disposition o_he left flank increased Pierre's doubt of his own capacity to understan_ilitary matters. Listening to Bennigsen and the generals criticizing th_osition of the troops behind the hill, he quite understood them and share_heir opinion, but for that very reason he could not understand how the ma_ho put them there behind the hill could have made so gross and palpable _lunder. Pierre did not know that these troops were not, as Bennigse_upposed, put there to defend the position, but were in a concealed positio_s an ambush, that they should not be seen and might be able to strike a_pproaching enemy unexpectedly. Bennigsen did not know this and moved th_roops forward according to his own ideas without mentioning the matter to th_ommander in chief.