War and Peace

War and Peace

by

Leo Tolstoy

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Napoleon Bonaparte Character Analysis

Napoleon is the Emperor of France and Russian Emperor Alexander I’s antagonist in the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon is characterized as short and stout with a springy walk, and he is exaggeratedly self-confident, regarding his own will as the most important thing in the world. He has an explosive temper. He tugs people’s ears as a sign of his personal favor toward them. Prince Andrei Bolkonsky believes Napoleon is an exemplary general, but after getting wounded at Austerlitz and seeing Bonaparte beneath the infinite sky, he realizes Napoleon is just a man, and an insignificant one at that. Pierre also idealizes Napoleon at the beginning of the novel, but by 1812 his feelings have changed so much that he dreams of assassinating the emperor. Napoleon seems invincible until he invades Russia in 1812 and wins a hollow victory at Borodino; after taking Moscow, his French army is so depleted that they’re soon forced into a desperate retreat.

Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes in War and Peace

The War and Peace quotes below are all either spoken by Napoleon Bonaparte or refer to Napoleon Bonaparte. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of War and Peace published in 2008.
Volume 1, Part 1: Chapters 5–6 Quotes

“There’s war now against Napoleon. If it were a war for freedom, I could understand it, I’d be the first to go into military service; but to help England and Austria against the greatest man in the world . . . is not right.”

Prince Andrei merely shrugged his shoulders at Pierre’s childish talk. He made it look as though he could not reply to such stupidity; but in fact it was hard to reply to this naive question in any other way than Prince Andrei had done.

“If everyone made war only according to his own convictions, there would be no war,” he said. […]

“Well, what makes you go to war?” asked Pierre.

“What makes me? I don’t know. I have to. Besides, I’m going . . .” He paused. “I’m going because this life I lead here, this life— is not for me!”

Related Characters: Pierre Bezukhov (speaker), Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (speaker), Napoleon Bonaparte
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Volume 1, Part 3: Chapters 14–19 Quotes

“Voilà une belle mort,” said Napoleon, looking at Bolkonsky.

Prince Andrei understood that it had been said about him, and that it was Napoleon speaking. […] But he heard these words as if he was hearing the buzzing of a fly. He not only was not interested, he did not even notice, and at once forgot them. […] He knew that it was Napoleon— his hero— but at that moment, Napoleon seemed to him such a small, insignificant man compared with what was now happening between his soul and this lofty, infinite sky with clouds racing across it. To him it was all completely the same at that moment who was standing over him or what he said about him; he was only glad that people had stopped over him and only wished that those people would help him and bring him back to life, which seemed so beautiful to him, because he now understood it so differently.

Related Characters: Prince Andrei Bolkonsky (speaker), Napoleon Bonaparte
Related Symbols: Sky
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:
Volume 2, Part 2: Chapters 19–21 Quotes

Rostov stood at the corner for a long time, looking at the feasting men from a distance. Painful work was going on in his mind, which he could not bring to an end. Terrible doubts arose in his soul. Now he remembered [] the whole hospital with those torn-off arms and legs, that filth and disease. He imagined so vividly now that hospital stench of dead flesh that he looked around to see where the stench could be coming from. Then he remembered that self-satisfied Bonaparte with his white little hand, who was now an emperor, whom the emperor Alexander liked and respected. Why, then, those torn-off arms and legs, those dead people? […] He caught himself in such strange thoughts that it made him frightened.

Page Number: 416
Explanation and Analysis:
Volume 3, Part 1: Chapters 1–7 Quotes

Understandably, these and a countless, endless number of other causes, the number of which depends on countless different points of view, presented themselves to contemporaries; but for us, the descendants, who contemplate the enormity of the event in all its scope and delve into its simple and terrible meaning, these causes seem insufficient. For us it is not understandable that millions of Christians killed and tortured each other because Napoleon was a lover of power, Alexander was firm, English policy cunning, and the duke of Oldenburg offended.

Page Number: 604
Explanation and Analysis:
Volume 3, Part 3: Chapters 18–22 Quotes

“Here it is, the reward for all those of little faith,” he thought, looking at his retinue and at the troops approaching and forming up. “One word from me, one movement of my hand, and this ancient capital des Czars is destroyed. […] [H]ere she is lying at my feet, her golden cupolas and crosses playing and glittering in the sunlight. But I will spare her. On the ancient monuments of barbarism and despotism, I will write great words of justice and mercy . . . Alexander will take precisely that most painfully of all— I know him.” (It seemed to Napoleon that the main significance of what was happening lay in his personal struggle with Alexander.) “From the heights of the Kremlin—yes, yes, that’s the Kremlin—I will give them the laws of justice, I will show them the meaning of true civilization; I will make the generations of boyars remember the name of their conqueror with love.”

Related Characters: Napoleon Bonaparte (speaker), Emperor Alexander I
Page Number: 872
Explanation and Analysis:
Volume 4, Part 3: Chapters 16–19 Quotes

…[W]hen it is no longer possible to stretch the so-elastic threads of historical discourse any further, when an action clearly contradicts all that mankind calls good and even just, historians resort to the saving notion of greatness. It is as if greatness excludes the possibility of the measure of good and bad. For the great man there is no bad. There is no horror that can be laid to the blame of someone who is great.

[…] Grand, to their minds, is the property of some sort of special animals known as heroes. And Napoleon, in his warm fur coat, clearing off for home from his perishing men […] feels que c’est grand, and his soul is at peace.

Related Characters: Napoleon Bonaparte
Page Number: 1070
Explanation and Analysis:
Volume 4, Part 4: Chapters 4–9 Quotes

For Russian historians— strange and terrible to say— Napoleon, that most insignificant instrument of history, who never and nowhere, even in exile, displayed any human dignity— Napoleon is the object of admiration and enthusiasm; he is grand. While Kutuzov, a man who, from the beginning to the end of his activity in 1812, from Borodino to Vilno, while always being true to himself in all his acts and words, shows an example uncommon in history of self-denial and awareness in the present of the future significance of the event— Kutuzov seems to them something indefinite and pathetic, and when they speak of Kutuzov and the year twelve, it is as if they are always slightly embarrassed.

Related Characters: Napoleon Bonaparte, General Kutuzov
Page Number: 1085
Explanation and Analysis:
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Napoleon Bonaparte Character Timeline in War and Peace

The timeline below shows where the character Napoleon Bonaparte appears in War and Peace. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Volume 1, Part 1: Chapters 1–4
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...chat about society events and about the emissary Novosiltsov. The prince tells Anna Pavlovna that Napoleon has “burned his boats” and that Russia is in the process of doing the same.... (full context)
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...anecdote of the duc d’Enghien going secretly to Paris, where he shared a mistress with Bonaparte. When Bonaparte fainted in the duke’s presence, the duke refused to take advantage of the... (full context)
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Back in the drawing room, the conversation has shifted to Bonaparte. The viscount argues that, if Bonaparte remains on the French throne for another year, French... (full context)
Volume 1, Part 1: Chapters 7–11
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...count, for his part, obviously feels grief about his son’s imminent departure. He says that Bonaparte is turning all the young men’s heads. (full context)
Volume 1, Part 1: Chapters 12–13
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...cold toward him. When Boris comes in, he finds Pierre pacing his room, pretending he’s Napoleon in the act of conquering London. Pierre doesn’t recognize Boris at first and mistakes him... (full context)
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Pierre engages Boris in conversation about Napoleon’s Villeneuve expedition, but Boris isn’t familiar with the news. He tells Pierre that people in... (full context)
Volume 1, Part 1: Chapters 23–25
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...dinner. Cheerful after his nap, he greets his son with, “So you want to defeat Bonaparte?” Always critical of the modern military, he criticizes “this new science” called “strategy” that the... (full context)
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...the Prince’s architect Mikhail Ivanovich, whom he’s invited mainly to agree with his views on Bonaparte. Prince Nikolai is convinced that Bonaparte has gained power only because there’s no strong Russian... (full context)
Volume 1, Part 2: Chapters 1–3
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...he’ll be rewarded with epaulettes. The rest of the soldiers chatter spiritedly, exchanging rumors about Bonaparte, and the company soon breaks into marching songs. (full context)
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...difficult position and the role he might play. At the same time, he both fears Bonaparte and doesn’t want to see his hero defeated. On his way to write to his... (full context)
Volume 1, Part 2: Chapters 9–12
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...general, Schmidt, to be killed in battle, then showed up expecting congratulations. Meanwhile, he adds, Bonaparte is living in Schönbrunn. (full context)
Volume 1, Part 2: Chapters 13–20
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Fifteen miles away in Schönbrunn, Bonaparte receives word of the supposed truce and Kutuzov’s suggested conditions of surrender. He realizes Kutuzov... (full context)
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...in earnest. Prince Andrei rides in search of Prince Bagration. General Murat has just received Napoleon’s letter, and he moves his troops around both Russian flanks in hopes of crushing them... (full context)
Volume 1, Part 3: Chapters 6–9
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...that day, the younger generals decided that the allies should go on the offensive against Bonaparte (though Kutuzov disagrees). The younger generals are so euphoric (encouraged in part by the emperors’... (full context)
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...allies’ advantages, especially their “combination of Austrian clarity with Russian courage.” Furthermore, he believes that Bonaparte is at a loss—his letter today sounded as if he was simply stalling for time.... (full context)
Volume 1, Part 3: Chapters 10–13
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...he’s been told at headquarters, so he asks Dolgorukov, who’s been charged with negotiations with Napoleon, what’s going on. Dolgorukov tells Andrei that Kutuzov wants to drag his feet, but that... (full context)
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...degrees of absorption. When he’s done, others immediately begin making objections—like the fact that if Napoleon goes on the offensive, this whole plan will become useless. Weyrother remains confident, however, that... (full context)
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The Russians saw a commotion among the French troops because Napoleon was riding through the ranks while his orders were being read. Napoleon himself will direct... (full context)
Volume 1, Part 3: Chapters 14–19
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...can’t see what’s happening due to the fog, and orders are slow to come. Meanwhile, Napoleon sits on his gray horse on the heights, at the village of Schlapanitz. The French... (full context)
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...sees it’s still there— “the blue of infinity.” Gazing at it, he doesn’t realize that Napoleon has stopped beside him. “There’s a fine death,” Napoleon says of Bolkonsky. Andrei realizes it’s... (full context)
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...passes out and, the next time he’s aware of anything, he's resting in the hospital. Napoleon rides past and speaks kindly to the wounded Russians. But when he recognizes Andrei and... (full context)
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...into delirium, dreaming of a happy family life at Bald Hills, mixed with images of Napoleon and the peaceful sky. By morning, Napoleon’s doctor believes there’s no longer any hope for... (full context)
Volume 2, Part 1: Chapters 10–16
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...and begins spending a lot of time there. Meanwhile, people begin talking about war with Napoleon again. Nikolai decides to return to his regiment after the holidays, along with Denisov. (full context)
Volume 2, Part 2: Chapters 5–9
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...of Preussisch-Eylau, and Bilibin pours out his heart to Prince Andrei. He writes of how Bonaparte has “[beaten] the stuffing” out of their Prussian allies. As a result, the Russians are... (full context)
Volume 2, Part 2: Chapters 19–21
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...the regiment, Rostov rides to Tilsit with Denisov’s letter for the sovereign. On June 13th, Napoleon and Emperor Alexander are meeting at Tilsit. Boris Drubetskoy is also stationed there. Boris witnesses... (full context)
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...culture. Boris and Zhilinsky host frequent gatherings for French officers. One of these dinners includes Napoleon’s adjutant and page; that same night, Rostov arrives and visits Boris’s apartment in civilian clothes.... (full context)
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...hands and bestow honors on soldiers in the town square; he can’t help noticing that Napoleon’s smile looks fake and that he’s a poor horseman. (full context)
Volume 2, Part 3: Chapters 1–6
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Two years later, in 1808, Emperor Alexander meets with Napoleon at Erfurt, and the event is the talk of Petersburg society. In 1809, when France... (full context)
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...admiration for the bright and aloof Speransky reminds him of what he once felt for Bonaparte. Besides his work on military regulations, Andrei also becomes head, at Speransky’s direction, of a... (full context)
Volume 2, Part 3: Chapters 7–10
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Hélène is part of a Petersburg social circle which supports the Napoleonic alliance. Present at the emperors’ Erfurt meeting, Hélène made many French connections and even attracted... (full context)
Volume 2, Part 5: Chapters 1–4
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...As the evening goes on, however, Prince Nikolai grows more animated on the subject of Bonaparte. He says there’s no need to meddle in European politics, but simply to maintain armed... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 1: Chapters 1–7
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...name several causes—the offense against the duke of Oldenburg, the failure of the Continental System, Napoleon’s power hunger, and more. Therefore, from historians’ perspective, a subtle difference—more skillful diplomacy, perhaps—could have... (full context)
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That’s also how it seemed to the people of the time, and even to Napoleon himself. Depending on who you asked—Prince Oldenburg, the English Parliament, merchants, or diplomats—everyone would have... (full context)
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On May 29th, 1812, Napoleon leaves Dresden and progresses through Poland, met by enthusiastic crowds at every stop. When he... (full context)
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...the opinions of other important people. The next day, Emperor Alexander sends a letter to Napoleon disputing that there’s any pretext for French aggression, and that the burden is on Napoleon... (full context)
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Emperor Alexander sends Balashov to Napoleon with his letter. He instructs Balashov to personally convey his declaration that he will not... (full context)
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Balashov assumes he’ll see Napoleon next, but instead, he’s taken to Marshal Davout in the next village. Davout is a... (full context)
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At last, Napoleon—short and stout, majestically uniformed, with a springy step—enters the reception room where Balashov waits. Glancing... (full context)
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Balashov remembers what the Emperor had ordered—he’s to tell Napoleon that Alexander will not make peace while a single armed enemy remains on his soil.... (full context)
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Napoleon continues to insult Alexander, the Russian army, and Russia’s allies. Balashov keeps trying to speak... (full context)
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To Balashov’s surprise, he’s invited to dine at Napoleon’s table later that day, and Napoleon greets him cheerfully, apparently unembarrassed by his outburst earlier.... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 1: Chapters 8–11
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...also a big difference from 1805. Now, every voice contains a hint of panic about Napoleon’s military genius. For his part, Prince Andrei finds it increasingly obvious that there can be... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 1: Chapters 19–23
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...shows Pierre a verse in the Book of Revelation, explaining that it’s a prophecy of Napoleon. He derives this prophecy by assigning numerical values to the French letters of this verse.... (full context)
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...suggesting to him that, in some mysterious way, he’s bound up in the events surrounding Napoleon. He feels that all these events—his love for Natasha, the comet, the war—will somehow connect... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 2: Chapters 1–5
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Napoleon goes to war with Russia because he can’t help himself—can’t help being overwhelmed by honors,... (full context)
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...the very things that would ultimately destroy them. Today, French historians like to say that Napoleon understood he was overextending his army. Russian historians, meanwhile, claim that the Russians knowingly lured... (full context)
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By August, Napoleon reaches Smolensk and plans to advance toward Moscow, though this will doom him. Luring Napoleon... (full context)
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...goes outside, the inn’s windows shake from cannon fire, and shells fall on the city. Napoleon’s army is bombarding Smolensk. Everybody stands on the street, curiously watching the flying shells overhead.... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 2: Chapters 6–12
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The outward life of Petersburg salons never changes. The people in Anna Pavlovna’s salon watch Napoleon nervously, believing that European sovereigns indulge him in order to cause anxiety in the court... (full context)
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...next battle takes place at Borodino, a mere 75 miles from Moscow. On the march, Napoleon’s chief of staff interrogates a Russian prisoner and tells Napoleon what he’s learned—that Platov’s corps... (full context)
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Napoleon questions Lavrushka about the Russian army’s status and morale. When the interpreter translates Lavrushka’s words... (full context)
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...“steppe folk.” They are hardworking but wilder than the peasants of Bald Hills. News of Napoleon’s war is all mixed up in their minds with rumors of the Antichrist and the... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 2: Chapters 13–14
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...Bogucharovo, but they hope to find some pretty girls there. Lavrushka tells them stories about Napoleon, and they race each other on their horses, joking around. Nikolai has no idea that... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 2: Chapters 19–23
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...sun, overlooking the village of Borodino and the winding road that leads to Valuevo, where Napoleon is currently based. A forest sits on the horizon, a monastery bell tower visible in... (full context)
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...Pierre sees horsemen on the redoubt and tries to guess which of them might be Napoleon. (full context)
Volume 3, Part 2: Chapters 26–29
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That same evening, the 25th of August, ministers from Paris and Madrid visit Napoleon at his camp in Valuevo. In his bedroom, the emperor is being vigorously scrubbed and... (full context)
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...and is not fortified, it seems obvious that the French ought to attack it. But Napoleon doesn’t think so at the time. After studying the terrain, he returns to headquarters and... (full context)
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Napoleon’s historians later suggest that he lost the battle because he had a cold. But this... (full context)
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Furthermore, Napoleon’s instructions during this battle were really no worse than those given in any previous battle;... (full context)
After returning from another ride along the line, Napoleon drinks punch and chats with Beausset about changes he intends to make in the empress’s... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 2: Chapters 30–35
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...From his position on the Shevardino redoubt, peering through field glasses at the billowing smoke, Napoleon can’t determine what’s happening. Though many adjutants gallop to Napoleon with news, their reports are... (full context)
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This battle is different from all Napoleon’s previous battles. Instead of putting the enemy to flight, French troops straggle back from the... (full context)
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...suggests that they ride along the line to get a better sense of the situation. Napoleon shakes himself out of his daze. As they ride, he sees heaps of dead men... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 2: Chapters 36–39
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Normally, Napoleon enjoys surveying the field after battle in order to test his mettle. Today, however, he... (full context)
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Yet, in his memoirs written on St. Helena, Napoleon later recalled the Russian war as a sensible and “pacific” one, fought in the interests... (full context)
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For their part, the French have spent the last 15 years believing in Napoleon’s invincibility. In retrospect, some historians claimed that, if only Napoleon had sent his old guard... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 3: Chapters 1–4
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...identify the French “revolution” (really the actions of a few dozen men in Paris), tell Napoleon’s biography, name his supporters and detractors, and call this the origin of what happened in... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 3: Chapters 18–22
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...to retreat through Moscow. By mid-morning the next day, most have passed through the city. Napoleon stands on Poklonnaya Hill, overlooking the spectacle of Moscow in the brilliant autumn weather. He... (full context)
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...sent into Moscow had discovered that the city is practically vacant. How will they tell Napoleon? Should they gather a deputation of the few drunken men who remain? They fear putting... (full context)
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...burned down when the beekeeper finds the time. This is what Moscow is like as Napoleon paces restlessly on the outskirts. When he learns that the city is empty, he glares... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 3: Chapters 23–26
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...ordered brought to him. He tells the crowd that this man, having gone over to Bonaparte, is responsible for Moscow’s fall. The ragged young man smiles sadly at the silent crowd.... (full context)
Volume 3, Part 3: Chapters 27–29
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...the Three Hills doesn’t amount to anything, Pierre decides it is his job to kill Napoleon, even if he dies in the attempt. Two feelings motivate him—a desire for sacrifice, despite... (full context)
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As the French enter Moscow, Pierre pictures his heroism in killing Napoleon and images what he’ll say as he strikes the fatal blow. Then Makar Alexeevich comes... (full context)
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...he’s aware of his own weakness. After one meal with Ramballe, Pierre’s resolve to kill Napoleon has faded. He now feels disgust toward the French officer, though he softens as Ramballe... (full context)
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...deep sense of wellbeing. But just as suddenly, he remembers his earlier intention to kill Napoleon and feels sick. He falls dizzily into bed. (full context)
Volume 3, Part 3: Chapters 33–34
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...feeling ashamed. He remembers his conversation with Ramballe the night before. He also recalls that Napoleon is due to enter Moscow that day. He dresses quickly and tries to figure out... (full context)
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...aware of the dread he carries inside. Unbeknownst to him, he’s too late to encounter Napoleon. Napoleon has entered the city and now sits in the tsar’s office in the Kremlin,... (full context)
Volume 4, Part 1: Chapters 1–3
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...is in a celebratory mood. Prince Vassily boasts that he always knew Kutuzov could beat Napoleon. But when the following day brings no update, everyone grows anxious, and Vassily no longer... (full context)
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...would sooner eat potatoes with the peasants than surrender. Furthermore, he won’t be deceived by Napoleon again. (full context)
Volume 4, Part 2: Chapters 1–3
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...maintain that Borodino was a Russian victory, and avoids useless battles as much as possible. Napoleon, on the other hand, thinks that whatever’s most recently come into his head is good.... (full context)
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...since Moscow was taken, and in fact, the army has retreated further back. Given that Napoleon is still in Moscow and the French army has broken up into several regiments, perhaps... (full context)
Volume 4, Part 2: Chapters 8–14
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...the French occupy Moscow, they’re in a brilliant position. To hold onto this position, all Napoleon must do is make sure his army is adequately provisioned and doesn’t loot. Yet that... (full context)
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As soon as he arrives in Moscow, Napoleon orders Murat to find Kutuzov, fortifies the Kremlin, and draws up a plan for his... (full context)
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Nothing goes as Napoleon plans. His army loses track of the Russian army. Alexander refuses to receive his diplomats.... (full context)
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...into proper perspective. He no longer thinks about politics or the war, much less killing Napoleon. He doesn’t worry about his marriage to Hélène, either. (full context)
Volume 4, Part 2: Chapters 15–19
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In early October, Napoleon sends Kutuzov another peace offer. The letter is addressed from Moscow, even though Napoleon is... (full context)
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...reason. In other words, where Dokhturov had expected to meet one division, he now faces Napoleon’s full force. Refusing to act on his own orders, Dokhturov sends an officer galloping to... (full context)
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From now on, Kutuzov leads his army on retreat, while Napoleon’s army retreats in the opposite direction. The army already contains the seeds of its own... (full context)
Volume 4, Part 3: Chapters 1–4
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...in relation to other nations. But it’s always been true, ever since ancient times, and Napoleon’s earlier wars further confirm this. (full context)
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...form of warfare. In late August, he began forming partisan detachments. These detachments begin destroying Napoleon’s grand army in a piecemeal fashion. By October, there were hundreds of detachments. These ranged... (full context)
Volume 4, Part 3: Chapters 16–19
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...proportion is lost during each of the march’s subsequent legs. From Smolensk, Berthier writes to Napoleon, explaining that the army has virtually disbanded. He urges that the men be granted rest... (full context)
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...the French, it seems impossible that historians would credit the retreat to the genius of Napoleon or his marshals, but they do exactly that. They justify even Napoleon’s base actions on... (full context)
Volume 4, Part 4: Chapters 10–11
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Pfuel had drawn up a plan (far away in Petersburg) for the capture of Napoleon, but the battle of Berezina turned into a tragic spectacle. When the Berezina bridges were... (full context)
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...European significance. Kutuzov is unable to understand this significance—the balance of powers in Europe and Napoleon’s role in them. As far as he’s concerned, the enemy has been destroyed, so as... (full context)
Epilogue, Part 1: Chapters 1–4
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When a modern thinker condemns Alexander or Napoleon, they do so because the man did not act according to their modern notion of... (full context)
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After dodging destruction in both France and Italy, Napoleon sought so-called glory by invading Africa. This idea of “glory” consists of considering one’s actions... (full context)
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As Napoleon gained more victories, Europe—which once condemned Napoleon’s “crimes”—began to recognize not only his power but... (full context)
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...by his moral superiority, his concern for all of Europe, and his personal grievance against Napoleon, Alexander has reached the height of human power by 1815. But instead of seizing the... (full context)
Epilogue, Part 2: Chapters 1–5
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If modern historians still held to ancient views, they would say that Napoleon was a divinely ordained ruler. Instead, they look back to the rule of Louis XIV... (full context)
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Around the same time, Napoleon, a genius, rose to power by killing lots of people. He killed more people across... (full context)
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...still not clear how ideas and the masses are connected. It’s plausible to think that Napoleon’s power somehow led to an event; it’s much less clear how the book The Social... (full context)
Epilogue, Part 2: Chapters 6–12
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...representing a whole chain of events that have gone before it. For example, saying that Napoleon ordered the army to go to war actually reflects a long series of consecutive events... (full context)