The Austrian Battle Of Karansebes in 1788 has to go down in history as one of the dumbest battles in history, ever. The battle resulted in the Austrians inflicting defeat on themselves, and it wasn’t a civil war either, they were at war with the Ottoman Turkish Empire.
We are often amused with bizarre news stories that are sometimes almost too weird to be true. This is one such story.
Between 1787 and 1791, the Austro – Turkish war was taking place. It took place at the same time as the Russo – Turkish war, as the Austrians were allies with the Russians at the time. During this war, in September 1788, the Austrian army inflicted a devastating defeat on itself. Had the loss of life not been so great it would be laughable.
On the 17 September 1788, the Austrian army, force of about 100,000, had split into two searching for Turkish forces. That evening the Austrians set up camp on the outskirts of Karansebes, known today as Caransebeş, in modern Romania. A contingent of hussars, who were the army’s vanguard, crossed the Timis River nearby to look for enemy Turks. But they did not find any. What they did find were some Gypsies, with schnapps. The soldiers bought the schnapps and started drinking.
Not long after, some infantrymen crossed the river and found the hussars in full party mode. They demanded some schnapps themselves, but the hussars refused, and actually setup fortifications around the barrels. The argument soon escalated and a shot was fired.
The 1788 Austrian Battle Of Karansebes begins
With that single shot the Austrians begin the Battle of Karansebes, against themselves, and half drunk. Things soon became worse, if that’s even possible. Some infantrymen shouted ”Turks! Turks!” and the hussars fled the scene thinking a Turkish attack was imminent. Most of the infantry also fled, but as the Austrian army consisted of many people from different language backgrounds, they could not fully understand each other. In an attempt to restore order, the officers made things worse still. The officers began shouting ”Halt! Halt!”, which was misheard from the soldiers who didn’t speak German as ”Allah! Allah!”
Okay. Things seem pretty confusing right about now, so they can’t possibly get any worse, or can they? Of course they can.
As the cavalry was fleeing through the camp, a corps commander thought it was a cavalry charge by the Ottoman Empire, and he ordered artillery fire. Soon the entire camp woke to a battle, and instead of waiting to see what was actually happening, they ran away. The Austrian troops fired on everything, thinking that the Turks were everywhere, but in reality they were shooting their own men. The battle of Karansebes escalated to a point where the entire army retreated from an imaginary enemy and the Emperor was knocked off his horse into a river.
The death toll of the Austrian Battle Of Karansebes in 1788
When the Ottoman army arrived two day later they discovered 10,000 dead and wounded soldiers, and easily took the town.