Kutuzov leads the Russian troops back toward Moscow, restraining them from attacking the vestiges of the French army. Napoleon writes an arrogant letter to Kutuzov from Moscow, which Kutuzov interprets as asking for settlements. The Russian army is rested and stronger than before, and is superior to the French forces in Moscow.
Kutuzov, with his characteristic genius of profiting from randomness, is aware that he cannot restrain his troops, so he orders an advance. Furious to discover that his orders are not received, he is forced to wait an extra day. During the battle, the Russian regiments are divided and confused as usual, and many men are killed pointlessly. One regiment fights well, however. Kutuzov, who is able to restrain his column from attacking, is decorated for the battle.
Napoleon inexplicably withdraws from Moscow, avoiding further battle engagements. Napoleon issues proclamations to the Muscovites assuring them that churches, theaters, and marketplaces are operating again, and that tranquility is returning to city life. None of these proclamations have any real effect, and the French loot the city as they depart.
Pierre spends a month ragged and barefoot in prison, respected by his captors and on friendly terms with a nameless dog. His fellow inmate Platon Karataev sews a shirt for a French officer and is forced to hand over the leftover scraps of cloth. The officer then feels guilty and gives the scraps back to Platon, who wants to use them as leg bandages. Surprisingly, in prison Pierre feels happy for the first time in his life, appreciating simple pleasures like food and sleep. He remembers Andrew’s bitter comment that happiness is merely the absence of suffering. Pierre now agrees with Andrew’s words—without the bitterness.
The French release the Russian prisoners and force them to march with the French troops in the evacuation of Moscow. During the march, Pierre and the soldiers are happy despite cruelty and privations on the part of the French. Pierre is aware of a mysterious force that protects him from physical suffering. He knows that the French cannot touch his immortal soul, regardless of what they do to his body.
The Russian officers Dokhturov and Konovnitsyn receive word that Napoleon is in Forminsk, and they pass this information on to Kutuzov. Kutuzov, still wondering whether Borodino has dealt a mortal wound to the French, receives the news gratefully, understanding that Napoleon has left Moscow and that Russia is saved. As the French forces retreat back to Smolensk on their way to France, Kutuzov is unable to prevent Russian troops from attacking them.