We have all made mistakes, but thankfully, most of them don’t end up costing people their lives. Nevertheless, there are few mistakes that can measure up to the Battle of Karansebes. In 1788, Austria was at war with Turkey, fighting over control of the Danube River. About 100,000 Austrian troops were camped near Karansebes, which is a village that is located in what is today Romania. Scouts were sent ahead to see if they could locate any Turkish soldiers. The scouts didn’t find any evidence of Turks, but they found gypsies…who as it turns out, had a lot of alcohol to sell, and the scouts bought it.
After returning to camp, with the alcohol, they started drinking, thinking that the next day they would be going into battle, so why not enjoy the evening before with a party, since the best thing to do the night before a big battle is get very, very drunk. As happens with a drunken party, the revelers got very loud and quite obnoxious. The noise attracted the attention of several foot soldiers who wanted to join in. The scouts were not interested in sharing the alcohol, and being very drunk, they weren’t careful in how that told the foot soldiers that they were not welcome.
Once the argument began, it quickly escalated into a fight. The alcohol was confiscated, more men joined in the fight, punches were thrown, and a shot rang out. In the middle of the chaos, someone shouted that the Turks had arrived. Most of the soldiers fled the scene immediately, because they were unprepared for battle. Others got into formation and charged at the supposed enemy. Shots were fired, cavalry was assembled, and the defecting soldiers were killing every man they saw without thinking. Needless to say, the Turkish army had not arrived. They wandered into Karansebes two days later and found 10,000 dead or wounded Austrian soldiers. A little confused by this turn of events, they were nonetheless delighted to take Karansebes without any effort.
If you ever feel like you’ve “made a huge mistake,” just remember…it’s probably not bigger than the Battle of Karansebes. When an army mistakes its own soldiers for the enemy, and mistakenly fights and kills 10,000 men…well, that is a huge mistake!! Some people say that the Battle of Karansebes never happened, because they can’t find any conclusive evidence to show that it happened. Seriously, if I were in charge of the Austrian Army, I might not want anyone to know of this mistake either. Still, those who believe in the battle said that the army could very easily have gotten confused. At the time, the Austrian army was made up of people who spoke German, Hungarian, Polish, and Czechoslovakian, among other languages. This resulted in a lot of confusion and miscommunication as many troops and officers weren’t able to understand each other. I can certainly see where that could bring the kind of confusion that could have cause the army to fight themselves, especially in a drunken state.