War and Peace Saturday: Chapters 235-241

The Battle of Borodino has ended. In the interesting part of the reading we learn what Andrew had been up to through the battle. He’d been in charge of a reserve unit, and I guess if you’re in the reserves that means you stand on the battlefield–in range of bullets and cannons–and wait until you’re called to fight. Not surprisingly, he and his men are sitting ducks and are being taken out left and right. It seems like poor planning to me. The men occupy their time playing with the grass, which reminded me of my marching band days of when we’d have to get into our parade position and then wait forever for the parade to start. One time my friends and I made daisy chains. So it’s like that, but with the very strong possibility of death looming over you.

As Andrew is pacing, trying to keep morale up, but realizing that it’s useless, he’s hit. He fights to live and is carried to the field hospital, where, because he’s an officer he’s immediately taken into surgery. There he sees a man getting his leg amputated. The man looks familiar to Andrew, and at first by the description I thought it might be Pierre, but it turns out to be Anatole. Serves him right. We don’t know what Andrew’s fate is because then we have a huge philosophy/history lesson care of Mr. Tolstoy.

Basically, the Russians lost half of their forces, and even though they’d broken the French’s spirit, were physically incapable of driving them out of Russia, so they retreated. The French had the numbers to crush the Russians but couldn’t because their spirit was broken: they were too far from home, gone too long, and their time had come. There was a lot more to this reasoning, and it made sense at the time, but I didn’t write it down, and frankly, didn’t care enough to want to list it all.

And the Russians left Moscow to the French and retreated beyond it. They didn’t take the best possible route because generals and officers in charge of that sort of thing don’t operate with the future in mind when they have so many pressing things in the present. Basically they have a lot of tough choices to make at every moment, and where all of those choices put together get them in the end is known only to historians looking back, who can clearly see that, hey, it would have been better to take that road because it would have been faster. Thank you, Monday morning quarterback. It’s interesting comparing this war to our modern ones. Even with our technology, I’m sure communicating in the heat of battle is very hard.

I hope we get back to the story, because I’m interested to see what happens to everyone once the French reach Moscow and what the aftermath of this war means.

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