Having descended the hill the general
after whom Pierre was galloping turned sharply to
the left, and Pierre, losing sight of him, galloped
in among some ranks of infantry marching ahead of him.
He tried to pass either in front of them or to the
right or left, but there were soldiers everywhere,
all with the same preoccupied expression and busy with
some unseen but evidently important task. They
all gazed with the same dissatisfied and inquiring
expression at this stout man in a white hat, who for
some unknown reason threatened to trample them under
his horse’s hoofs.
“Why ride into the middle of
the battalion?” one of them shouted at him.
Another prodded his horse with the
butt end of a musket, and Pierre, bending over his
saddlebow and hardly able to control his shying horse,
galloped ahead of the soldiers where there was a free
There was a bridge ahead of him, where
other soldiers stood firing. Pierre rode up to
them. Without being aware of it he had come to
the bridge across the Kolocha between Gorki and Borodino,
which the French (having occupied Borodino) were attacking
in the first phase of the battle. Pierre saw
that there was a bridge in front of him and that soldiers
were doing something on both sides of it and in the
meadow, among the rows of new-mown hay which he had
taken no notice of amid the smoke of the campfires
the day before; but despite the incessant firing going
on there he had no idea that this was the field of
battle. He did not notice the sound of the bullets
whistling from every side, or the projectiles that
flew over him, did not see the enemy on the other side
of the river, and for a long time did not notice the
killed and wounded, though many fell near him.
He looked about him with a smile which did not leave
“Why’s that fellow in
front of the line?” shouted somebody at him again.
“To the left!... Keep to
the right!” the men shouted to him.
Pierre went to the right, and unexpectedly
encountered one of Raevski’s adjutants whom
he knew. The adjutant looked angrily at him, evidently
also intending to shout at him, but on recognizing
him he nodded.
“How have you got here?” he said, and
Pierre, feeling out of place there,
having nothing to do, and afraid of getting in someone’s
way again, galloped after the adjutant.
“What’s happening here? May I come
with you?” he asked.
“One moment, one moment!”
replied the adjutant, and riding up to a stout colonel
who was standing in the meadow, he gave him some message
and then addressed Pierre.
“Why have you come here, Count?”
he asked with a smile. “Still inquisitive?”
“Yes, yes,” assented Pierre.
But the adjutant turned his horse about and rode on.
“Here it’s tolerable,”
said he, “but with Bagration on the left flank
they’re getting it frightfully hot.”
“Really?” said Pierre. “Where
“Come along with me to our knoll.
We can get a view from there and in our battery it
is still bearable,” said the adjutant. “Will
“Yes, I’ll come with you,” replied
Pierre, looking round for his groom.
It was only now that he noticed wounded
men staggering along or being carried on stretchers.
On that very meadow he had ridden over the day before,
a soldier was lying athwart the rows of scented hay,
with his head thrown awkwardly back and his shako
“Why haven’t they carried
him away?” Pierre was about to ask, but seeing
the stern expression of the adjutant who was also looking
that way, he checked himself.
Pierre did not find his groom and
rode along the hollow with the adjutant to Raevski’s
Redoubt. His horse lagged behind the adjutant’s
and jolted him at every step.
“You don’t seem to be
used to riding, Count?” remarked the adjutant.
“No it’s not that, but
her action seems so jerky,” said Pierre in a
“Why... she’s wounded!”
said the adjutant. “In the off foreleg above
the knee. A bullet, no doubt. I congratulate
you, Count, on your baptism of fire!”
Having ridden in the smoke past the
Sixth Corps, behind the artillery which had been moved
forward and was in action, deafening them with the
noise of firing, they came to a small wood. There
it was cool and quiet, with a scent of autumn.
Pierre and the adjutant dismounted and walked up the
hill on foot.
“Is the general here?”
asked the adjutant on reaching the knoll.
“He was here a minute ago but
has just gone that way,” someone told him, pointing
to the right.
The adjutant looked at Pierre as if
puzzled what to do with him now.
“Don’t trouble about me,”
said Pierre. “I’ll go up onto the
knoll if I may?”
“Yes, do. You’ll
see everything from there and it’s less dangerous,
and I’ll come for you.”
Pierre went to the battery and the
adjutant rode on. They did not meet again, and
only much later did Pierre learn that he lost an arm
The knoll to which Pierre ascended
was that famous one afterwards known to the Russians
as the Knoll Battery or Raevski’s Redoubt, and
to the French as la grande redoute,
la fatale redoute, la redoute
du centre, around which tens of thousands
fell, and which the French regarded as the key to
the whole position.
This redoubt consisted of a knoll,
on three sides of which trenches had been dug.
Within the entrenchment stood ten guns that were being
fired through openings in the earthwork.
In line with the knoll on both sides
stood other guns which also fired incessantly.
A little behind the guns stood infantry. When
ascending that knoll Pierre had no notion that this
spot, on which small trenches had been dug and from
which a few guns were firing, was the most important
point of the battle.
On the contrary, just because he happened
to be there he thought it one of the least significant
parts of the field.
Having reached the knoll, Pierre sat
down at one end of a trench surrounding the battery
and gazed at what was going on around him with an
unconsciously happy smile. Occasionally he rose
and walked about the battery still with that same
smile, trying not to obstruct the soldiers who were
loading, hauling the guns, and continually running
past him with bags and charges. The guns of that
battery were being fired continually one after another
with a deafening roar, enveloping the whole neighborhood
in powder smoke.
In contrast with the dread felt by
the infantrymen placed in support, here in the battery
where a small number of men busy at their work were
separated from the rest by a trench, everyone experienced
a common and as it were family feeling of animation.
The intrusion of Pierre’s nonmilitary
figure in a white hat made an unpleasant impression
at first. The soldiers looked askance at him with
surprise and even alarm as they went past him.
The senior artillery officer, a tall, long-legged,
pockmarked man, moved over to Pierre as if to see
the action of the farthest gun and looked at him with
A young round-faced officer, quite
a boy still and evidently only just out of the Cadet
College, who was zealously commanding the two guns
entrusted to him, addressed Pierre sternly.
“Sir,” he said, “permit
me to ask you to stand aside. You must not be
The soldiers shook their heads disapprovingly
as they looked at Pierre. But when they had convinced
themselves that this man in the white hat was doing
no harm, but either sat quietly on the slope of the
trench with a shy smile or, politely making way for
the soldiers, paced up and down the battery under
fire as calmly as if he were on a boulevard, their
feeling of hostile distrust gradually began to change
into a kindly and bantering sympathy, such as soldiers
feel for their dogs, cocks, goats, and in general
for the animals that live with the regiment.
The men soon accepted Pierre into their family, adopted
him, gave him a nickname ("our gentleman"), and made
kindly fun of him among themselves.
A shell tore up the earth two paces
from Pierre and he looked around with a smile as he
brushed from his clothes some earth it had thrown up.
“And how’s it you’re
not afraid, sir, really now?” a red-faced, broad-shouldered
soldier asked Pierre, with a grin that disclosed a
set of sound, white teeth.
“Are you afraid, then?” said Pierre.
“What else do you expect?”
answered the soldier. “She has no mercy,
you know! When she comes spluttering down, out
go your innards. One can’t help being afraid,”
he said laughing.
Several of the men, with bright kindly
faces, stopped beside Pierre. They seemed not
to have expected him to talk like anybody else, and
the discovery that he did so delighted them.
“It’s the business of
us soldiers. But in a gentleman it’s wonderful!
There’s a gentleman for you!”
“To your places!” cried
the young officer to the men gathered round Pierre.
The young officer was evidently exercising
his duties for the first or second time and therefore
treated both his superiors and the men with great
precision and formality.
The booming cannonade and the fusillade
of musketry were growing more intense over the whole
field, especially to the left where Bagration’s
flèches were, but where Pierre was the smoke of
the firing made it almost impossible to distinguish
anything. Moreover, his whole attention was engrossed
by watching the family circle separated
from all else formed by the men in the
battery. His first unconscious feeling of joyful
animation produced by the sights and sounds of the
battlefield was now replaced by another, especially
since he had seen that soldier lying alone in the
hayfield. Now, seated on the slope of the trench,
he observed the faces of those around him.
By ten o’clock some twenty men
had already been carried away from the battery; two
guns were smashed and cannon balls fell more and more
frequently on the battery and spent bullets buzzed
and whistled around. But the men in the battery
seemed not to notice this, and merry voices and jokes
were heard on all sides.
“A live one!” shouted
a man as a whistling shell approached.
“Not this way! To the infantry!”
added another with loud laughter, seeing the shell
fly past and fall into the ranks of the supports.
“Are you bowing to a friend,
eh?” remarked another, chaffing a peasant who
ducked low as a cannon ball flew over.
Several soldiers gathered by the wall
of the trench, looking out to see what was happening
“They’ve withdrawn the
front line, it has retired,” said they, pointing
over the earthwork.
“Mind your own business,”
an old sergeant shouted at them. “If they’ve
retired it’s because there’s work for them
to do farther back.”
And the sergeant, taking one of the
men by the shoulders, gave him a shove with his knee.
This was followed by a burst of laughter.
“To the fifth gun, wheel it
up!” came shouts from one side.
“Now then, all together, like
bargees!” rose the merry voices of those who
were moving the gun.
“Oh, she nearly knocked our
gentleman’s hat off!” cried the red-faced
humorist, showing his teeth chaffing Pierre. “Awkward
baggage!” he added reproachfully to a cannon
ball that struck a cannon wheel and a man’s
“Now then, you foxes!”
said another, laughing at some militiamen who, stooping
low, entered the battery to carry away the wounded
“So this gruel isn’t to
your taste? Oh, you crows! You’re scared!”
they shouted at the militiamen who stood hesitating
before the man whose leg had been torn off.
“There, lads... oh, oh!”
they mimicked the peasants, “they don’t
like it at all!”
Pierre noticed that after every ball
that hit the redoubt, and after every loss, the liveliness
increased more and more.
As the flames of the fire hidden within
come more and more vividly and rapidly from an approaching
thundercloud, so, as if in opposition to what was
taking place, the lightning of hidden fire growing
more and more intense glowed in the faces of these
Pierre did not look out at the battlefield
and was not concerned to know what was happening there;
he was entirely absorbed in watching this fire which
burned ever more brightly and which he felt was flaming
up in the same way in his own soul.
At ten o’clock the infantry
that had been among the bushes in front of the battery
and along the Kamenka streamlet retreated. From
the battery they could be seen running back past it
carrying their wounded on their muskets. A general
with his suite came to the battery, and after speaking
to the colonel gave Pierre an angry look and went away
again having ordered the infantry supports behind
the battery to lie down, so as to be less exposed
to fire. After this from amid the ranks of infantry
to the right of the battery came the sound of a drum
and shouts of command, and from the battery one saw
how those ranks of infantry moved forward.
Pierre looked over the wall of the
trench and was particularly struck by a pale young
officer who, letting his sword hang down, was walking
backwards and kept glancing uneasily around.
The ranks of the infantry disappeared
amid the smoke but their long-drawn shout and rapid
musketry firing could still be heard. A few minutes
later crowds of wounded men and stretcher-bearers came
back from that direction. Projectiles began to
fall still more frequently in the battery. Several
men were lying about who had not been removed.
Around the cannon the men moved still more briskly
and busily. No one any longer took notice of
Pierre. Once or twice he was shouted at for being
in the way. The senior officer moved with big,
rapid strides from one gun to another with a frowning
face. The young officer, with his face still
more flushed, commanded the men more scrupulously than
ever. The soldiers handed up the charges, turned,
loaded, and did their business with strained smartness.
They gave little jumps as they walked, as though they
were on springs.
The stormcloud had come upon them,
and in every face the fire which Pierre had watched
kindle burned up brightly. Pierre standing beside
the commanding officer. The young officer, his
hand to his shako, ran up to his superior.
“I have the honor to report,
sir, that only eight rounds are left. Are we
to continue firing?” he asked.
“Grapeshot!” the senior
shouted, without answering the question, looking over
the wall of the trench.
Suddenly something happened:
the young officer gave a gasp and bending double sat
down on the ground like a bird shot on the wing.
Everything became strange, confused, and misty in
One cannon ball after another whistled
by and struck the earthwork, a soldier, or a gun.
Pierre, who had not noticed these sounds before, now
heard nothing else. On the right of the battery
soldiers shouting “Hurrah!” were running
not forwards but backwards, it seemed to Pierre.
A cannon ball struck the very end
of the earth work by which he was standing, crumbling
down the earth; a black ball flashed before his eyes
and at the same instant plumped into something.
Some militiamen who were entering the battery ran
“All with grapeshot!” shouted the officer.
The sergeant ran up to the officer
and in a frightened whisper informed him (as a butler
at dinner informs his master that there is no more
of some wine asked for) that there were no more charges.
“The scoundrels! What are
they doing?” shouted the officer, turning to
The officer’s face was red and
perspiring and his eyes glittered under his frowning
“Run to the reserves and bring
up the ammunition boxes!” he yelled, angrily
avoiding Pierre with his eyes and speaking to his men.
“I’ll go,” said Pierre.
The officer, without answering him, strode across
to the opposite side.
“Don’t fire.... Wait!” he shouted.
The man who had been ordered to go
for ammunition stumbled against Pierre.
“Eh, sir, this is no place for you,” said
he, and ran down the slope.
Pierre ran after him, avoiding the
spot where the young officer was sitting.
One cannon ball, another, and a third
flew over him, falling in front, beside, and behind
him. Pierre ran down the slope. “Where
am I going?” he suddenly asked himself when
he was already near the green ammunition wagons.
He halted irresolutely, not knowing whether to return
or go on. Suddenly a terrible concussion threw
him backwards to the ground. At the same instant
he was dazzled by a great flash of flame, and immediately
a deafening roar, crackling, and whistling made his
When he came to himself he was sitting
on the ground leaning on his hands; the ammunition
wagons he had been approaching no longer existed,
only charred green boards and rags littered the scorched
grass, and a horse, dangling fragments of its shaft
behind it, galloped past, while another horse lay,
like Pierre, on the ground, uttering prolonged and