Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace

BOOK TWO: 1805
14. CHAPTER XIV (continued)

Kutuzov's expectations that the proposals of capitulation (which were in no way binding) might give time for part of the transport to pass, and also that Murat's mistake would very soon be discovered, proved correct. As soon as Bonaparte (who was at Schonbrunn, sixteen miles from Hollabrunn) received Murat's dispatch with the proposal of a truce and a capitulation, he detected a ruse and wrote the following letter to Murat:

Schonbrunn, 25th Brumaire, 1805,

at eight o'clock in the morning


I cannot find words to express to you my displeasure. You command only my advance guard, and have no right to arrange an armistice without my order. You are causing me to lose the fruits of a campaign. Break the armistice immediately and march on the enemy. Inform him that the general who signed that capitulation had no right to do so, and that no one but the Emperor of Russia has that right.

If, however, the Emperor of Russia ratifies that convention, I will ratify it; but it is only a trick. March on, destroy the Russian army.... You are in a position to seize its baggage and artillery.

The Russian Emperor's aide-de-camp is an impostor. Officers are nothing when they have no powers; this one had none.... The Austrians let themselves be tricked at the crossing of the Vienna bridge, you are letting yourself be tricked by an aide-de-camp of the Emperor.


Bonaparte's adjutant rode full gallop with this menacing letter to Murat. Bonaparte himself, not trusting to his generals, moved with all the Guards to the field of battle, afraid of letting a ready victim escape, and Bagration's four thousand men merrily lighted campfires, dried and warmed themselves, cooked their porridge for the first time for three days, and not one of them knew or imagined what was in store for him.

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