BOOK FIFTEEN: 1812 - 13
11. CHAPTER XI
Next day the field marshal gave a dinner and ball which the
Emperor honored by his presence. Kutuzov had received the Order of St.
George of the First Class and the Emperor showed him the highest
honors, but everyone knew of the imperial dissatisfaction with him.
The proprieties were observed and the Emperor was the first to set
that example, but everybody understood that the old man was
blameworthy and good-for-nothing. When Kutuzov, conforming to a custom
of Catherine's day, ordered the standards that had been captured to be
lowered at the Emperor's feet on his entering the ballroom, the
Emperor made a wry face and muttered something in which some people
caught the words, "the old comedian."
The Emperor's displeasure with Kutuzov was specially increased at
Vilna by the fact that Kutuzov evidently could not or would not
understand the importance of the coming campaign.
When on the following morning the Emperor said to the officers
assembled about him: "You have not only saved Russia, you have saved
Europe!" they all understood that the war was not ended.
Kutuzov alone would not see this and openly expressed his opinion
that no fresh war could improve the position or add to the glory of
Russia, but could only spoil and lower the glorious position that
Russia had gained. He tried to prove to the Emperor the
impossibility of levying fresh troops, spoke of the hardships
already endured by the people, of the possibility of failure and so
This being the field marshal's frame of mind he was naturally
regarded as merely a hindrance and obstacle to the impending war.
To avoid unpleasant encounters with the old man, the natural
method was to do what had been done with him at Austerlitz and with
Barclay at the beginning of the Russian campaign- to transfer the
authority to the Emperor himself, thus cutting the ground from under
the commander in chief's feet without upsetting the old man by
informing him of the change.
With this object his staff was gradually reconstructed and its
real strength removed and transferred to the Emperor. Toll,
Konovnitsyn, and Ermolov received fresh appointments. Everyone spoke
loudly of the field marshal's great weakness and failing health.