"The Ill-fated Saber," A
Short Episode of the Crimean War.
Amongst the display cases in the Museum of the Red Banner Black Sea fleet
in Sevastopol, a saber shattered by a cannon ball mortally wounded one of the
organizers and commanders of the defense of the city--Vice-admiral V.A.
The story or more to the point, the legend connected with this saber, is
amazing. In 1856, lieutenant Fedor Titov told the story on the pages of the
"Russian Literary Page," as was related to him by his brother
Vladimir, who was killed in Sevastopol in the spring of 1855.
The Adjutant to V.A. Kornilov on the eve of the Crimean War was a lieutenant
Grigorii Ivanovich Zheleznov -- one of the most capable young officers of the
Black Sea Fleet. In the early Fall of 1853, Zheleznov, was dispatched as
courier to Tiflis (Tibilisi), and on the road from Tiflis to Sukhumi, he bought
an exquisite saber.
On his return to Sevastopol, he showed his acquisition to V. Titov. Examining
the wedge of Damask steel of superior workmanship, Titov wanted to know its
purchase price. Upon learning that the saber was had for a mere 13 rubles, he
exclaim in astonishment: "Why so cheap?" "Maybe, the saber was
worth more, but they let it go for this price, just so I would take it off
their hands: No one would buy it."
And so Grigorii Zheleznov told his friend of the legend: "They say, that
whomever takes the saber to war is sure to die or at least be mortally wounded.
Already several of its owners have left this world to the next."
Upon learning of the attributed story, Vladimir Titov commented to Zheleznov
that it wasn't worth owning such a saber, who received in reply: "I don't
believe in fortune telling."
Soon after this discussion, on 5 November, 1853, a battle was fought between
the steam-ship frigate "Vladimir" on board of which was the
Vice-admiral V.A. Kornilov, with the Turkish steam-ship
"Pervaz-Bakhri." From the moment of the start of the engagement,
Zheleznov, took out the saber in case of an abordage, but no sooner had he
stepped out on deck that he was mortally wounded by a rifle-shot.
After the dying lieutenant was taken into his cabin, did Midshipman Titov took
the saber that had fallen out of the hands of Zheleznov, and was going to throw
it overboard, but at the last second, he reconsidered, and kept it as a memory
of his comrade.