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.