Day 190 of A Year of War and Peace

Battle of Smolensk, by Peter von Hess

This chapter puts the war into War and Peace. It’s a deeply visceral triumph of transportive storytelling. We are truly with Alpatych as he negotiates war-torn Smolensk. We’re with him as he first enters town, marveling at soldiers mowing down a perfectly good oatfield for fodder as enemy cannon fire cracks in the distance. We’re with him in the darkness of night as marching soldiers beat a foreboding clangor just outside his window. We’re with him later as the whistling roar and booming thuds of cannon shelling rains down upon the town filling the fleeing streets with ghostly smoke, demon fire, and the terrified wailing of women and children. And then the panic of fearful uncertainty as Prince Andrei’s wraithlike apparition emerges on horseback, illuminated by the greedy flames of wrack and ruin.

And, yet, despite the danger Alpatych fulfills his duty. He executes the old Prince’s orders and he delivers Dessalles’ message to the Provincial Governor. It’s a tough order to fill but he does so with grace and grit. He even takes tea with an old friend as the war closes in on Smolensk.

There’s something profoundly honorable in his service to the old Prince here. His unflinching courage and dedication to the task at hand, even while under attack from an invading foreign army, provides a forceful example of endurance of spirit in the face of adversity.

So remember Alpatych and his taking of tea amid the battle of Smolensk the next time you encounter hardship.


Fire tests gold, misfortune brave men.

Seneca, De Providentia

This is the one hundred and ninetieth installment in a daily, yearlong, chapter-by-chapter reading devotional and meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. For more information on this project please read the introduction to the series here.

If you’re enjoying A Year of War and Peace please share on your favorite social media and recommend here on Medium.

You can also become A Year of War and Peace patron. I’m currently at work producing a high-quality eBook version of the project, complete with matching Tolstoy chapters for your reading convenience! All patrons who sign up this year will receive a free copy when it comes out.

I’m also very interested in hearing what you have to say about the novel. So leave a comment and let me know.

Follow me on twitter and visit my webpage at Thank you.

For my friends and family, love. For my enemies, durian fruit.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store