PRINCE ANDREY reached the headquarters of the army at the end of June. The first army, with which the Tsar was, was stationed in a fortified camp at Drissa. The second army was retreating, striving to effect a junction with the first army, from which—so it was said—it had been cut off by immense forces of the French. Every one was dissatisfied with the general course of events in the Russian army. But no one even dreamed of any danger of the Russian provinces being invaded, no one imagined the war could extend beyond the frontiers of the western Polish provinces.
Prince Andrey found Barclay de Tolly, to whom he was sent, on the bank of the Drissa. Since there was not one large village nor dwelling-place in the neighbourhood of the camp, the immense multitude of generals and courtiers accompanying the army were distributed about the neighborhood for ten versts round in the best houses of the village on both sides of the river. Barclay de Tolly was staying four versts away from the Tsar. He gave Bolkonsky a dry and frigid reception, and said in his German accent that he would mention him to the Tsar so that a definite appointment might be given him, and that meanwhile he begged him to remain on his staff. Anatole Kuragin, whom Prince Andrey had expected to find in the army, was not here. He was in Petersburg, and Bolkonsky was glad to hear it. He was absorbed in the interest of being at the centre of the immense war that was in progress, and he was relieved to be free for a time from the irritability produced in him by the idea of Kuragin. The first four days, during which he was not called upon to do anything, he spent in riding round the whole of the fortified camp, and by the aid of his experiences and his conversations with persons of greater experience, he tried to form a definite idea about it. But the question whether such a camp were of use at all or not remained an open one in his mind. He had already, from his own military experience, formed the conviction that in war the most deeply meditated plans are of no avail (as he had seen at Austerlitz), that everything depends on how unexpected actions of the enemy, actions that cannot possibly be foreseen, are met; that all depends on how, and by whom, the battle is led. In order to settle this last question to his own satisfaction, Prince Andrey took advantage of his position and his acquaintances to try to get an insight into the character of the persons and parties who had a hand in the organisation of the army. This was the general idea he gained of the position of affairs.
While the Tsar had been at Vilna, the army had been divided into three. The first army was under the command of Barclay de Tolly, the second under the command of Bagration, and the third under the command of Tormasov. The Tsar was with the first army, but not in the capacity of commander-in-chief. In the proclamations, it was announced that the Tsar would be with the army, but it was not announced that he would take the command. Moreover, there was in attendance on the Tsar personally not a commander-in-chief's staff, but the staff of the imperial headquarters. The chief officer of the imperial staff was General-Quartermaster Volkonsky, and it contained generals, aides-de-camp, diplomatic officials, and an immense number of foreigners, but it was not a military staff. The Tsar had also in attendance on him in no definite capacity, Araktcheev, the late minister of war; Count Bennigsen, by seniority the first of the generals; the Tsarevitch, Konstantin Pavlovitch; Count Rumyantsev, the chancellor; Stein, the former Prussian minister; Armfeldt, the Swedish general; Pfuhl, the chief organiser of the plan of the campaign; Paulucci, a Sardinian refugee, who had been made a general-adjutant; Woltzogen; and many others. Though those personages had no definite posts in the army, yet, from their position, they had influence, and often the commander of a corps, or even one of the commanders-in-chief, did not know in what capacity Bennigsen or the Tsarevitch or Araktcheev or Prince Volkonsky addressed some advice or inquiry to him, and could not tell whether some command in the form of advice came directly from the person who got it or through him from the Tsar, and whether he ought or ought not to obey it. But all this formed simply the external aspect of the situation; the inner import of the presence of the Tsar and all these great personages was, from a courtier's point of view (and in the presence of a monarch all men become courtiers), plain to all. All grasped the fact that though the Tsar was not formally assuming the position of commander-in-chief, he did, in fact, hold the supreme control of all the armies in his hands, and the persons about him were his councillors. Araktcheev was a trusty administrator, a stern upholder of discipline, and careful of the safety of the Tsar. Bennigsen was a land-holder in the neighbourhood, and seemed to feel it his function to entertain the Tsar there; while he was in reality, too, a good general, useful as an adviser, and useful to have in readiness to replace Barclay at any time. The Tsarevitch was there because he thought fit to be. The former Prussian minister, Stein, was there because his advice might be useful, and the Emperor Alexander had a high opinion of his personal qualities. Armfeldt was a bitter enemy of Napoleon, and had self-confidence, which never failed to have influence with Alexander. Paulucci was there because he was bold and decided in his utterances. The generals on the staff were there because they were always where the Emperor was; and the last and principal figure, Pfuhl, was there because he had created a plan of warfare against Napoleon, and having made Alexander believe in the consistency of this plan, was now conducting the plan of the whole campaign. Pfuhl was accompanied by Woltzogen, who put Pfuhl's ideas into a more easily comprehensible form than could be done by Pfuhl himself, who was a rigid theorist, with an implicit faith in his own views, and an absolute contempt for everything else.
The above-mentioned were the most prominent personages about the Tsar, and among them the foreigners were in the ascendant, and were every day making new and startling suggestions with the audacity characteristic of men who are acting in a sphere not their own. But, besides those, there were many more persons of secondary importance, who were with the army because their principals were there.
In this vast, brilliant, haughty, and uneasy world, among all these conflicting voices, Prince Andrey detected the following sharply opposed parties and differences of opinion.
The first party consisted of Pfuhl and his followers; military theorists, who believe in a science of war, having its invariable laws—laws of oblique movements, out-flanking, etc. Pfuhl and his adherents demanded that the army should retreat into the heart of the country in accordance with the exact principles laid down by their theory of war, and in every departure from this theory they saw nothing but barbarism, ignorance, or evil intention. To this party belonged Woltzogen, Wintzengerode, and others—principally Germans.
The second party was in direct opposition to the first. As is always the case where there is one extreme opinion, representatives had come forward of the opposite extreme. This party had urged an advance from Vilna into Poland regardless of all previous plans. This party, while advocating bold action, consisted of the representatives of nationalism, which made them even more one-sided in their views. They were Russians: Bagration, Yermolov, who was just beginning to make his mark, and some others. Yermolov's well-known joke was much quoted at the time—a supposed petition to the Tsar for promotion to be a “German.” The members of this party, recalling Suvorov, maintained that what was wanted was not reasoning and sticking pins into maps, but fighting, beating the enemy, preventing the enemy from getting into Russia, and keeping up the spirits of the army.
To the third party, in which the Tsar was disposed to place most confidence, belonged the courtiers, who tried to effect a compromise between the two contending sides. The members of this party—to which Araktcheev belonged—were mostly not military men, and they spoke and reasoned as men usually do who have no convictions, but wish to pass for having them. They admitted that a war with such a genius as Bonaparte (they called him Bonaparte again now) did undoubtedly call for the profoundest tactical considerations and thorough scientific knowledge, and that on that side Pfuhl was a genius. But, at the same time, they acknowledged that it could not be denied that theorists were often one-sided, and so one should not put implicit confidence in them, but should listen too to what Pfuhl's opponents urged, and also to the views of practical men who had experience, and should take a middle course. They advocated maintaining the camp at Drissa on Pfuhl's plan, but altering his disposition of the other two armies. Though by this course of action neither aim could be attained, this seemed to the party of compromise the best line to adopt.
Of the fourth section of opinions, the most prominent representative was the Grand Duke, and heir-apparent, who could not get over his rude awakening at Austerlitz. He had ridden out at the head of his guards in helmet and cuirass as though to a review, expecting gallantly to rout the French, and finding himself unexpectedly just in the line of the enemy's fire, had with difficulty escaped in the general disorder. The members of this party had at once the merit and the defect of sincerity in their convictions. They feared Napoleon; they saw his strength and their own weakness, and frankly admitted it. They said: “Nothing but a huge disgrace and ruin can come of the war! We have abandoned Vilna, and abandoned Vitebsk, and we are abandoning the Drissa too. The only sensible thing left for us to do is to conclude peace, and as soon as possible, before we have been driven out of Petersburg!”
This view was widely diffused in the higher military circles, and found adherents, too, in Petersburg—one of them being the chancellor Rumyantsev, who advocated peace on other political considerations.
A fifth section were the adherents of Barclay de Tolly, not so much from his qualities as a man, as a minister of war and commander-in-chief. “Whatever he may be,” they always began, “he is an honest, practical man, and there is nobody better. Let him have sole responsibility, since war can never be prosecuted successfully under divided authority and he will show what he can do, as he did in Finland. We owe it simply to Barclay that our army is strong and well organised, and has retreated to the Drissa without disaster. If Barclay is replaced by Bennigsen now, everything will be lost; for Bennigsen has proved his incapacity already in 1807.” Such was the line of argument of the fifth party.
The sixth party, the partisans of Bennigsen, maintained on the contrary that there was after all no one more capable and experienced than Bennigsen, and that whatever else were done they would have to come back to him. They maintained that the whole Russian retreat to Drissa had been an uninterrupted series of shameful disasters and blunders. “Let them blunder now if they will,” they said; “the more blunders the better, at least it will teach them all the sooner that we can't go on like this. And we want none of your Barclays, but a man like Bennigsen, who showed what he was in 1807, so that Napoleon himself had to do him justice, and a man, too, is needed to whom all would readily intrust authority, and Bennigsen is the only such man.”
The seventh class were persons such as are always found in courts, and especially in the courts of young sovereigns, and were particularly plentiful in the suite of Alexander—generals and adjutants, who were passionately devoted to the Tsar, not merely as an emperor, but sincerely and disinterestedly adored him as a man, as Rostov had adored him in 1805, and saw in him every virtue and good quality of humanity. These persons, while they were ecstatic over the modesty of the Tsar in declining the chief command of the army, deplored that excess of modesty, and desired and urged one thing only, that their adored Tsar, conquering his excessive diffidence, would openly proclaim that he put himself at the head of the army, would gather the staff of the commander-in-chief about him, and, consulting experienced theorists and practical men where necessary, would himself lead his forces, who would be excited to the highest pitch of enthusiasm by this step.
The eighth and largest group, numbering ninety-nine to every one of the others, consisted of people who were eager neither for peace nor for war, neither for offensive operations nor defensive camps, neither at Drissa nor anywhere else; who did not take the side of Barclay, nor of the Tsar, nor of Pfuhl, nor of Bennigsen, but cared only for the one thing most essential—their own greatest gain and enjoyment. In the troubled waters of those cross-currents of intrigue, eddying about the Tsar's headquarters, success could be attained in very many ways that would have been inconceivable at other times. One courtier, with the single-hearted motive of retaining a lucrative position, would agree today with Pfuhl, and to-morrow with his opponents, and the day after to-morrow would declare that he had no opinion on the subject in question, simply to avoid responsibility and to gratify the Tsar. Another, in the hope of bettering his position, would seek to attract the Tsar's attention by loudly clamouring a suggestion hinted at by the Tsar on the previous day, by quarrelling noisily at the council, striking himself on the chest and challenging opponents to a duel to prove his readiness to sacrifice himself for the common good. A third simply took advantage of the absence of enemies between two councils to beg a grant from the Single Assistance Fund for his faithful service, knowing there would be no time now for a refusal. A fourth took care to place himself where the Tsar might quite casually find him deeply engrossed in work. A fifth tried to reach the long-desired goal of his ambition—a dinner at the Tsar's table—by violently espousing one side or another and collecting more or less true and valid arguments in support of it.
All the members of this party were on the hunt after roubles, crosses, and promotions; and in that chase they simply followed the scent given them by the fluctuations of imperial favour. As soon as they saw the imperial weather-cock shifting to one quarter the whole swarm of these drones began buzzing away in the direction, making it more difficult for the Tsar to shift his course back again. In the uncertainty of the position, with the menace of serious danger, which gave a peculiarly intense character to everything, in this whirlpool of ambitions, of conflicting vanities, and views, and feelings, and different nationalities, this eighth and largest party, absorbed only in the pursuit of personal interests, greatly increased the complexity and confusion. Whatever question arose, the swarm of drones, still humming over the last subject, flew to the new one, and by their buzzing drowned and confused the voices of sincere disputants.
At the time when Prince Andrey reached the army yet another—a ninth party—was being formed out of all the rest, and was just making its voice heard. It consisted of sensible men of age and political experience, sharing none of the conflicting opinions, and able to take a general view of all that was being done at headquarters, and to consider means for escaping from the vagueness, uncertainty, confusion, and feebleness.
The members of this party thought and said that the whole evil was primarily due to the presence of the Tsar with his military court in the army; that it brought into the army that indefinite, conditional, and fluctuating uncertainty of relations which is in place in a court, but mischievous in an army; that it was for the Tsar to govern and not to lead his troops; that the only escape from the position was the departure of the Tsar and his court from the army; that the simple presence of the Tsar paralysed fifty thousand troops, which must be retained to secure his personal safety; that the worst commander-in-chief, acting independently, would be better than the best commander-in-chief with his hands tied by the presence and authority of the Tsar.
While Prince Andrey was staying, with nothing to do, at Drissa, Sishkov, the secretary of state, one of the leading representatives of this last group, wrote to the Tsar a letter to which Balashov and Araktcheev agreed to add their signatures. In this letter he took advantage of the Tsar's permitting him to offer his opinion on the general question, and respectfully suggested the sovereign's leaving the army, urging as a pretext for his doing so the absolute necessity of his presence to rouse public feeling in the capital.
To appeal to the people, and to rouse them in defence of their fatherland, was represented as urgently necessary to the Tsar, and was accepted by him as a sufficient reason for leaving. The outburst of patriotism that followed that appeal (so far indeed as it can be said to have been produced by the Tsar's visit to Moscow) was the principal cause of the subsequent triumph of Russia.