Book Fourteen begins with a discussion of how the Russians do not keep to the 'rules' of war in this period, and how Napoleon has complained about this. Guerilla warfare is considered to be a major tactic employed by the Russians. The spirit of the troops is also referred to and how this has added to the defeat of the French. The French are described as clinging together in their retreat from Moscow.
Denisov and Dolohov are involved in the small-scale warfare of partisan detachments. In Chapter VII and VIII, Petya Rostov asks Denisov if he can be involved with his men and Petya demonstrates his compassion in the sympathy he feels for the French drummer boy prisoner. This is highlighted all the more when Dolohov says he would rather have the prisoner killed. Petya and Dolohov then go on a reconnaissance mission to discover how many French soldiers there are in the vicinity. When the conflict erupts between these French and Russians, Petya is killed after charging into the fight even though he has been ordered to stay back. The Russian prisoners are rescued, however, and Pierre is liberated.
The narrative then moves back in time in Chapter XIV to explain how Pierre's friend, Platon, has been shot for not keeping up with the retreat and of how Pierre has mostly avoided him since he has been ill. This is followed by a return to criticisms of Napoleon and how he has deserted his men.
It is forwarded in Chapter XIX that there never was a plan to capture Napoleon; therefore, the historians are incorrect when accusing the Russians of incompetence. The narrative argues instead that there never was the aim to destroy the French: 'The people had but one object: to rid their land of invaders.'
This section is dominated by descriptions of the retreat of the French and the effectiveness of guerrilla warfare for the Russian army. Through the actions of Dolohov and Denisov these detachments have exacted punishment and defeat on the French. As is fitting with this novel which examines a variety of causes and reasons for an outcome, the spirit of the French in their retreat is also discussed as a factor in their continued downfall.
Human concern for others is also a central motif in this Book as Pierre is described as spending less time with his friend, Platon, once he becomes one of the stragglers (who are destined to be shot by the French). This desertion by Pierre is described alongside Napoleon's desertion of his embattled men. By including these two narratives in the same Book it is possible to see a condemnation of desertion, and also the point is reiterated that the small units of observation (Pierre and Platon) are also of relevance and interest in the recounting of history.
War and Peace: Novel Summary: Book Fourteen