This project was persisted with, until on the 18th Murat was himself attacked and severely handled (action of Tarutino or Vinkovo).
The historians consider that, next to the battle of Borodino and the occupation of Moscow by the enemy and its destruction by fire, the most important episode of the war of 1812 was the movement of the Russian army from the Ryazana to the Kaluga road and to the Tarutino camp--the so-called flank march across the Krasnaya Pakhra River.
What would have happened if on approaching Tarutino, Napoleon had attacked the Russians with but a tenth of the energy he had shown when he attacked them at Smolensk?
Having crossed over, by a forced march, to the Tula road beyond the Pakhra, the Russian commanders intended to remain at Podolsk and had no thought of the Tarutino position; but innumerable circumstances and the reappearance of French troops who had for a time lost touch with the Russians, and projects of giving battle, and above all the abundance of provisions in Kaluga province, obliged our army to turn still more to the south and to cross from the Tula to the Kaluga road and go to Tarutino, which was between the roads along which those supplies lay.
At Tarutino Kutuzov received what was almost a reprimand from the Emperor for having moved his army along the Ryazan road, and the Emperor's letter indicated to him the very position he had already occupied near Kaluga.
During the month that the French troops were pillaging in Moscow and the Russian troops were quietly encamped at Tarutino, a change had taken place in the relative strength of the two armies--both in spirit and in number--as a result of which the superiority had passed to the Russian side.
These signs were: Lauriston's mission; the abundance of provisions at Tarutino; the reports coming in from all sides of the inactivity and disorder of the French; the flow of recruits to our regiments; the fine weather; the long rest the Russian soldiers had enjoyed, and the impatience to do what they had been assembled for, which usually shows itself in an army that has been resting; curiosity as to what the French army, so long lost sight of, was doing; the boldness with which our outposts now scouted close up to the French stationed at Tarutino; the news of easy successes gained by peasants and guerrilla troops over the French, the envy aroused by this; the desire for revenge that lay in the heart of every Russian as long as the French were in Moscow, and (above all) a dim consciousness in every soldier's mind that the relative strength of the armies had changed and that the advantage was now on our side.
Prince Michael Ilarionovich! (wrote the Emperor on the second of October in a letter that reached Kutuzov after the battle at Tarutino) Since September 2 Moscow has been in the hands of the enemy.
Next day the decrepit Kutuzov, having given orders to be called early, said his prayers, dressed, and, with an unpleasant consciousness of having to direct a battle he did not approve of, got into his caleche and drove from Letashovka (a village three and a half miles from Tarutino) to the place where the attacking columns were to meet.
On approaching Tarutino Kutuzov noticed cavalrymen leading their horses to water across the road along which he was driving.
"That's how everything is done with us, all topsy-turvy!" said the Russian officers and generals after the Tarutino battle, letting it be understood that some fool there is doing things all wrong but that we ourselves should not have done so, just as people speak today.
No battle--Tarutino, Borodino, or Austerlitz--takes place as those who planned it anticipated.
The battle of Tarutino obviously did not attain the aim Toll had in view--to lead the troops into action in the order prescribed by the dispositions; nor that which Count Orlov-Denisov may have had in view-- to take Murat prisoner; nor the result of immediately destroying the whole corps, which Bennigsen and others may have had in view; nor the aim of the officer who wished to go into action to distinguish himself; nor that of the Cossack who wanted more booty than he got, and so on.
But if the aim of the battle was what actually resulted and what all the Russians of that day desired--to drive the French out of Russia and destroy their army--it is quite clear that the battle of Tarutino, just because of its incongruities, was exactly what was wanted at that stage of the campaign.
The news of that battle of Tarutino, unexpectedly received by Napoleon at a review, evoked in him a desire to punish the Russians (Thiers says), and he issued the order for departure which the whole army was demanding.
The rustle of the battle of Tarutino frightened the beast, and it rushed forward onto the hunter's gun, reached him, turned back, and finally--like any wild beast--ran back along the most disadvantageous and dangerous path, where the old scent was familiar.
Soon after that a report was received from Dorokhov's guerrilla detachment operating to the left of Tarutino that troops of Broussier's division had been seen at Forminsk and that being separated from the rest of the French army they might easily be destroyed.
Generals on the staff, excited by the memory of the easy victory at Tarutino, urged Kutuzov to carry out Dorokhov's suggestion.
Coming out of the hut into the damp, dark night Konovnitsyn frowned-- partly from an increased pain in his head and partly at the unpleasant thought that occurred to him, of how all that nest of influential men on the staff would be stirred up by this news, especially Bennigsen, who ever since Tarutino had been at daggers drawn with Kutuzov; and how they would make suggestions, quarrel, issue orders, and rescind them.
The lesson of the Tarutino battle and of the day before it, which Kutuzov remembered with pain, must, he thought, have some effect on others too.
To such customary routine belonged his conversations with the staff, the letters he wrote from Tarutino to Madame de Stael, the reading of novels, the distribution of awards, his correspondence with Petersburg, and so on.
Napoleon's historians describe to us his skilled maneuvers at Tarutino and Malo-Yaroslavets, and make conjectures as to what would have happened had Napoleon been in time to penetrate into the rich southern provinces.
Here as at Tarutino they went after plunder, leaving the men.
During the movement of the Russian army from Tarutino to Krasnoe it lost fifty thousand sick or stragglers, that is a number equal to the population of a large provincial town.
To realize the degree of exhaustion of the Russian army it is only necessary to grasp clearly the meaning of the fact that, while not losing more than five thousand killed and wounded after Tarutino and less than a hundred prisoners, the Russian army which left that place a hundred thousand strong reached Krasnoe with only fifty thousand.
Kutuzov as far as was in his power, instead of trying to check the movement of the French as was desired in Petersburg and by the Russian army generals, directed his whole activity here, as he had done at Tarutino and Vyazma, to hastening it on while easing the movement of our army.