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Interesting History: How the Austrian Army Defeated Itself at Karánsebes

Updated on November 16, 2015
Medvekoma profile image

Medvekoma has been a lover to history ever since he first sat down for a lesson, and has been debating it ever since.

This painting depicts the battle of Leipzig 25 years after the supposed battle of Karánsebes. The Napleonic wars were ridden with friendly fire as well, with whole platoons reportedly slaughtered by their fellow countrymen.
This painting depicts the battle of Leipzig 25 years after the supposed battle of Karánsebes. The Napleonic wars were ridden with friendly fire as well, with whole platoons reportedly slaughtered by their fellow countrymen. | Source

Introduction

Our history is latticed with failures of all kinds, but some still stand out, often reaching ridiculous heights. One of these events was the battle of Karánsebes, a central-European myth that has yet to be properly verified.

The only sources currently available are documents from different historians decades after the battle, thus this battle is not considered "canon" when it comes to European history. However, it's still an entertaining read that raises some questions.

Location of Karánsebes today

A markerKaránsebes / Caransebeș -
Caransebeș 325400, Romania
get directions

The battle itself

The battle started in the evening, on the 17th of September, 1788. According to the historians, a detachment of hussars left the 100,000 strong Austrian main force to scout the surroundings for Ottoman forces, they however met a group of gypsies who sold the cavalrymen alcohol.

After a while some infantrymen decided to cross the river and ended up stumbling into the hussar detachment, entering an argument about the drinks, with one of the footmen firing a shot.

In the midst of the brawl, some of the participants started shouting "Turks!", to which most of the party fled in different directions. Officers trying to stop the retreat kept shouting "Halt!", but they only made things worse. Those hearing them allegedly thought they were Ottomans shouting "Allah!".

Meanwhile, the whole camp awoke to the sound of battle and set up the artillery to shell the suspected enemy, however in all the surprise the Austrian forces started fleeing from the "battle". With the dark evening and the dense gunpowder smoke, the infantrymen started shooting at any shadow they spotted, reputedly injuring or shooting their own forces dead.

The sources claim that the whole army fled that night, with Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. pushed into a creek in the midst of the retreat. The Ottoman army arrived the next day and took the town of Karánsebes without any resistance.

Numerous weird stories are connected to Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II., including the kettle war and the re-usable coffins as well as this battle where his army allegedly defeated itself.
Numerous weird stories are connected to Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II., including the kettle war and the re-usable coffins as well as this battle where his army allegedly defeated itself. | Source

The interesting part

As ridiculous as this story is, sadly there have been numerous confirmed reports of friendly fire on this scale from modern history. In 1758, during the seven years war, a group of French light infantrymen managed to confuse two columns of British infantry who ended up fighting each other for the whole day. (The Epic Battles for Ticonderoga, William R. Nester).





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