Many historians say that the French did not win the battle of Borodino becaus_apoleon had a cold, and that if he had not had a cold the orders he gav_efore and during the battle would have been still more full of genius an_ussia would have been lost and the face of the world have been changed. T_istorians who believe that Russia was shaped by the will of one man—Peter th_reat—and that France from a republic became an empire and French armies wen_o Russia at the will of one man—Napoleon—to say that Russia remained a powe_ecause Napoleon had a bad cold on the twenty-fourth of August may see_ogical and convincing.
If it had depended on Napoleon's will to fight or not to fight the battle o_orodino, and if this or that other arrangement depended on his will, the_vidently a cold affecting the manifestation of his will might have save_ussia, and consequently the valet who omitted to bring Napoleon hi_aterproof boots on the twenty-fourth would have been the savior of Russia.
Along that line of thought such a deduction is indubitable, as indubitable a_he deduction Voltaire made in jest (without knowing what he was jesting at)
when he saw that the Massacre of St. Bartholomew was due to Charles IX'_tomach being deranged. But to men who do not admit that Russia was formed b_he will of one man, Peter I, or that the French Empire was formed and the wa_ith Russia begun by the will of one man, Napoleon, that argument seems no_erely untrue and irrational, but contrary to all human reality. To th_uestion of what causes historic events another answer presents itself,
namely, that the course of human events is predetermined from on high—depend_n the coincidence of the wills of all who take part in the events, and that _apoleon's influence on the course of these events is purely external an_ictitious.
Strange as at first glance it may seem to suppose that the Massacre of St.
Bartholomew was not due to Charles IX's will, though he gave the order for i_nd thought it was done as a result of that order; and strange as it may see_o suppose that the slaughter of eighty thousand men at Borodino was not du_o Napoleon's will, though he ordered the commencement and conduct of th_attle and thought it was done because he ordered it; strange as thes_uppositions appear, yet human dignity—which tells me that each of us is, i_ot more at least not less a man than the great Napoleon—demands th_cceptance of that solution of the question, and historic investigatio_bundantly confirms it.
At the battle of Borodino Napoleon shot at no one and killed no one. That wa_ll done by the soldiers. Therefore it was not he who killed people.
The French soldiers went to kill and be killed at the battle of Borodino no_ecause of Napoleon's orders but by their own volition. The whole army—French,
Italian, German, Polish, and Dutch—hungry, ragged, and weary of the campaign,
felt at the sight of an army blocking their road to Moscow that the wine wa_rawn and must be drunk. Had Napoleon then forbidden them to fight th_ussians, they would have killed him and have proceeded to fight the Russian_ecause it was inevitable.
When they heard Napoleon's proclamation offering them, as compensation fo_utilation and death, the words of posterity about their having been in th_attle before Moscow, they cried "Vive l'Empereur!" just as they had cried
"Vive l'Empereur!" at the sight of the portrait of the boy piercing th_errestrial globe with a toy stick, and just as they would have cried "Viv_'Empereur!" at any nonsense that might be told them. There was nothing lef_or them to do but cry "Vive l'Empereur!" and go to fight, in order to ge_ood and rest as conquerors in Moscow. So it was not because of Napoleon'_ommands that they killed their fellow men.
And it was not Napoleon who directed the course of the battle, for none of hi_rders were executed and during the battle he did not know what was going o_efore him. So the way in which these people killed one another was no_ecided by Napoleon's will but occurred independently of him, in accord wit_he will of hundreds of thousands of people who took part in the commo_ction. It only seemed to Napoleon that it all took place by his will. And s_he question whether he had or had not a cold has no more historic interes_han the cold of the least of the transport soldiers.
Moreover, the assertion made by various writers that his cold was the cause o_is dispositions not being as well planned as on former occasions, and of hi_rders during the battle not being as good as previously, is quite baseless,
which again shows that Napoleon's cold on the twenty-sixth of August wa_nimportant.
The dispositions cited above are not at all worse, but are even better, tha_revious dispositions by which he had won victories. His pseudo-orders durin_he battle were also no worse than formerly, but much the same as usual. Thes_ispositions and orders only seem worse than previous ones because the battl_f Borodino was the first Napoleon did not win. The profoundest and mos_xcellent dispositions and orders seem very bad, and every learned militaris_riticizes them with looks of importance, when they relate to a battle tha_as been lost, and the very worst dispositions and orders seem very good, an_erious people fill whole volumes to demonstrate their merits, when the_elate to a battle that has been won.
The dispositions drawn up by Weyrother for the battle of Austerlitz were _odel of perfection for that kind of composition, but still they wer_riticized—criticized for their very perfection, for their excessiv_inuteness.
Napoleon at the battle of Borodino fulfilled his office as representative o_uthority as well as, and even better than, at other battles. He did nothin_armful to the progress of the battle; he inclined to the most reasonabl_pinions, he made no confusion, did not contradict himself, did not ge_rightened or run away from the field of battle, but with his great tact an_ilitary experience carried out his role of appearing to command, calmly an_ith dignity.