The Battle of Karansebes

bataille-karansebesThey say that ultimately someone can be their own worst enemy.  This is definitely the case for the Austrians in this battle.

It was 1788 and Austria was at war with the Ottoman Empire.  At stake was control of the Danube River.  At the same time, the Ottoman Empire was fighting the Russians the same time.  All these people that hated the Ottoman Empire got together and became allies.  Great, right?  Well, no.  It was kind of Tower of Babel situation as the allied army had Austrians, Czechs, Germans, French, Serbs, Croats and Polish soldiers and commanders.  It was a communications nightmare and a disaster waiting to happen.  This even makes reports of the battles suspect as they were not set down until 1831, 50 years later and translated and retranslated.

So what happened?  We’re not exactly sure, but it goes something like this.  The Austrians were on a night patrol around the town of Kanransebes in present day Romania.  On their rounds, the found a camp of Romani across the river.  The beckoned the weary soldiers over and offered them some delicious Schnapps.  Well, it would have been rude to say no….   So the Romani and the soldiers are boozing it up, and another contingent of soldiers, this time infantrymen, found the party.  Because it was the 1700s, class was very much a thing and the cavalry was not about to share their alcohol with some infantrymen.  So they kicked them out, starting a fist fight.

Amidst all the drinking and punching, someone yelled “The Turks are here”.  A shot was fired from across the river at the big fight, and everyone high tailed it back to their side of the river.  In the confusion, the German speaking officers began shouting “Halt! Halt!”.  The non-German speaking soldiers thought it was “Allah” and the Turks had definitely infiltrated.  They turned their guns on the Germans, the Germans shot back.  Then there was a full on free for all in the ranks of the Austrian army.  They were even shooting at shadows, convinced it was spies coming across the river from the enemy.  Things got very serious when an Austrian corps commander ordered artillery fire….on his own men.  The Turkish Army supposedly arrived two days later and found the enter town without defenses and it was taken over easily.  When the smoke cleared, there were 10,000 Austrian soldiers dead and wounded.

But is it true?  As I said above, the first accounts of the battle were not put down until fifty years later.  Some arguments are made that because this was so ridiculous is why it wasn’t written down.  Others say there isn’t enough evidence to support the claim and this goes down into legend.

ER