We are in Volume III, Part One, Chapter II. This is a tragic scene. Napoleon is marching his troops towards Moscow, crossing the Niemen. I learned through reading this book that Napoleon's troops were not only Frenchmen as I would have assumed, but many other nationalities as well. Napoleon stops beside a regiment of Polish uhlans who are on the side of the river. He ordered one of them to ford the river. The colonel of the Polish uhlans begged to swim across so that Napoleon could witness his zeal. For whatever reason, the colonel was followed by hundreds of his men, all on horseback. Forty men drowned!
"... they were proud to swim and even drown in this river before the eyes of the man who sat on a log and was not even looking at what they were doing." Napoleon was not impressed with this extreme sacrifice; in fact, it annoyed and distracted him because he was in the midst of giving orders.
It's hard to imagine, right? It makes me wonder about his charisma. Throughout history there are endless examples of people willing to die who are under the sway of a charismatic leader. Is that what this is about? -- Lola
from page 11-12, Volume II
collage, acrylic paint
page 608-609 Pevear/Volokhonsky translation