BOOK THIRTEEN: 1812
2. CHAPTER II
The famous flank movement merely consisted in this: after the
advance of the French had ceased, the Russian army, which had been
continually retreating straight back from the invaders, deviated
from that direct course and, not finding itself pursued, was naturally
drawn toward the district where supplies were abundant.
If instead of imagining to ourselves commanders of genius leading
the Russian army, we picture that army without any leaders, it could
not have done anything but make a return movement toward Moscow,
describing an arc in the direction where most provisions were to be
found and where the country was richest.
That movement from the Nizhni to the Ryazan, Tula, and Kaluga
roads was so natural that even the Russian marauders moved in that
direction, and demands were sent from Petersburg for Kutuzov to take
his army that way. At Tarutino Kutuzov received what was almost a
reprimand from the Emperor for having moved his army along the
Ryazan road, and the Emperor's letter indicated to him the very
position he had already occupied near Kaluga.
Having rolled like a ball in the direction of the impetus given by
the whole campaign and by the battle of Borodino, the Russian army-
when the strength of that impetus was exhausted and no fresh push
was received- assumed the position natural to it.
Kutuzov's merit lay, not in any strategic maneuver of genius, as
it is called, but in the fact that he alone understood the
significance of what had happened. He alone then understood the
meaning of the French army's inactivity, he alone continued to
assert that the battle of Borodino had been a victory, he alone- who
as commander in chief might have been expected to be eager to
attack- employed his whole strength to restrain the Russian army
from useless engagements.
The beast wounded at Borodino was lying where the fleeing hunter had
left him; but whether he was still alive, whether he was strong and
merely lying low, the hunter did not know. Suddenly the beast was
heard to moan.
The moan of that wounded beast (the French army) which betrayed
its calamitous condition was the sending of Lauriston to Kutuzov's
camp with overtures for peace.