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Chapter 15

  • In the early days of October another envoy came to Kutuzov with a letter fro_apoleon proposing peace and falsely dated from Moscow, though Napoleon wa_lready not far from Kutuzov on the old Kaluga road. Kutuzov replied to thi_etter as he had done to the one formerly brought by Lauriston, saying tha_here could be no question of peace.
  • Soon after that a report was received from Dorokhov's guerrilla detachmen_perating to the left of Tarutino that troops of Broussier's division had bee_een at Forminsk and that being separated from the rest of the French arm_hey might easily be destroyed. The soldiers and officers again demande_ction. Generals on the staff, excited by the memory of the easy victory a_arutino, urged Kutuzov to carry out Dorokhov's suggestion. Kutuzov did no_onsider any offensive necessary. The result was a compromise which wa_nevitable: a small detachment was sent to Forminsk to attack Broussier.
  • By a strange coincidence, this task, which turned out to be a most difficul_nd important one, was entrusted to Dokhturov—that same modest littl_okhturov whom no one had described to us as drawing up plans of battles,
  • dashing about in front of regiments, showering crosses on batteries, and s_n, and who was thought to be and was spoken of as undecided an_ndiscerning—but whom we find commanding wherever the position was mos_ifficult all through the Russo-French wars from Austerlitz to the year 1813.
  • At Austerlitz he remained last at the Augezd dam, rallying the regiments,
  • saving what was possible when all were flying and perishing and not a singl_eneral was left in the rear guard. Ill with fever he went to Smolensk wit_wenty thousand men to defend the town against Napoleon's whole army. I_molensk, at the Malakhov Gate, he had hardly dozed off in a paroxysm of feve_efore he was awakened by the bombardment of the town—and Smolensk held ou_ll day long. At the battle of Borodino, when Bagration was killed and nin_enths of the men of our left flank had fallen and the full force of th_rench artillery fire was directed against it, the man sent there was thi_ame irresolute and undiscerning Dokhturov—Kutuzov hastening to rectify _istake he had made by sending someone else there first. And the quiet littl_okhturov rode thither, and Borodino became the greatest glory of the Russia_rmy. Many heroes have been described to us in verse and prose, but o_okhturov scarcely a word has been said.
  • It was Dokhturov again whom they sent to Forminsk and from there to Malo-
  • Yaroslavets, the place where the last battle with the French was fought an_here the obvious disintegration of the French army began; and we are told o_any geniuses and heroes of that period of the campaign, but of Dokhturo_othing or very little is said and that dubiously. And this silence abou_okhturov is the clearest testimony to his merit.
  • It is natural for a man who does not understand the workings of a machine t_magine that a shaving that has fallen into it by chance and is interferin_ith its action and tossing about in it is its most important part. The ma_ho does not understand the construction of the machine cannot conceive tha_he small connecting cogwheel which revolves quietly is one of the mos_ssential parts of the machine, and not the shaving which merely harms an_inders the working.
  • On the tenth of October when Dokhturov had gone halfway to Forminsk an_topped at the village of Aristovo, preparing faithfully to execute the order_e had received, the whole French army having, in its convulsive movement,
  • reached Murat's position apparently in order to give battle—suddenly withou_ny reason turned off to the left onto the new Kaluga road and began to ente_orminsk, where only Broussier had been till then. At that time Dokhturov ha_nder his command, besides Dorokhov's detachment, the two small guerrill_etachments of Figner and Seslavin.
  • On the evening of October 11 Seslavin came to the Aristovo headquarters with _rench guardsman he had captured. The prisoner said that the troops that ha_ntered Forminsk that day were the vanguard of the whole army, that Napoleo_as there and the whole army had left Moscow four days previously. That sam_vening a house serf who had come from Borovsk said he had seen an immens_rmy entering the town. Some Cossacks of Dokhturov's detachment reporte_aving sighted the French Guards marching along the road to Borovsk. From al_hese reports it was evident that where they had expected to meet a singl_ivision there was now the whole French army marching from Moscow in a_nexpected direction—along the Kaluga road. Dokhturov was unwilling t_ndertake any action, as it was not clear to him now what he ought to do. H_ad been ordered to attack Forminsk. But only Broussier had been there at tha_ime and now the whole French army was there. Ermolov wished to act on his ow_udgment, but Dokhturov insisted that he must have Kutuzov's instructions. S_t was decided to send a dispatch to the staff.
  • For this purpose a capable officer, Bolkhovitinov, was chosen, who was t_xplain the whole affair by word of mouth, besides delivering a writte_eport. Toward midnight Bolkhovitinov, having received the dispatch and verba_nstructions, galloped off to the General Staff accompanied by a Cossack wit_pare horses.