Different portions of an Austrian army, were scouting for forces of the Ottoman Empire, when they came across a band of gypsies near Karansebes…a small town in modern-day Romania. The gypsies were had been sitting around enjoying schnapps. The soldiers bought out their entire supply, and proceeded to get drunk. Now, as we all know, liquor is legendary for causing stupid fights, but this was about to become the most stupid fight of them all. On that September 19, 1788 night, the group of Austrian cavalrymen were in the woods looking for the enemy…Turkish forces in the area of Karansebes.
After buying the schnapps the soldiers began their booze-fest. A few hours later, which would be an eternity in “drunk time.” As we all know, that means they were very drunk. At this point, another group of foot soldiers came along and wanted to join the booze-fest. But the cavalrymen refused to share. Then they decided to build a makeshift wall around their booze…not the best idea. The second group of soldiers got angry and things gt heated. Before long the groups were fighting. The soldiers who had joined them tried to fool the cavalry into retreating, by telling them they saw Turkish soldiers. That plan backfired as everyone…soldier and cavalry alike…turned the violent stampede back towards camp.
As the Austrian officers tried to calm the men, the army’s mixed forces of Italians, Slovaks, and Hungarians, all of whom didn’t speak German very well, would have none of it. As they tried yelling stop…which is “Halt!” in German, the Italians, Slovaks, and Hungarians thought they were saying, “Allah!” which only intensified the brutal, confused madness. The rest of the camp woke up, and had no idea what was going on, so 100,000 men, who thought they heard a battle going on, they assumed they were under attack by Ottoman forces. They immediately jumped into combat and things got so out of hand, that the army literally brought out the big guns, fighting against their own men. The resulting confusion caused a great mix-up in the regiments, who became so terrified, literally of themselves, that they abandoned Karansebes altogether. The troops razed and pillaged towns for nearly 30 miles before the army recollected itself under new leadership.
Two days after the battle, the Ottoman Empire troops finally arrived at Karansebes to find 10,000 dead and wounded Austrian soldiers. The Ottoman troops couldn’t believe their eyes. Their battle had already been won. The Austrian army, as well as the Italians, Slovaks, and Hungarians had handed the victory to the Ottomans, by almost entirely taking our their own people. The Ottoman troops laughed at their foolish enemies, after which they executed the survivors, and took the city without a fight. Chaos really never brings good results, and often in a riot situation, the very people they are supposedly trying to save are the ones who are hurt by the riots, often losing their own lives.
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.