The Battle of Karansebes

In what is most likely one of the strangest military battles ever fought, in 1788, the Austrian army lost 10,000 soldiers in battle without even facing an enemy.

Joseph II and his soldiers in 1787

Joseph II and his soldiers in 1787

While scouting for signs of the Ottoman Empire’s soldiers, the Austrian Army led by Joseph II split into 2 divisions to broaden their search, most notably the infantry and the Romanian vanguard (Hussars). Several of the vanguard had procured some Schnapps’ from some gypsies and refused to share it with the infantry, so much so they put up barricades around the Schnapps so the infantry couldn’t drink it. This caused a stir, so much so a shot was fired.

Joseph II, by Joseph Hickel

Joseph II, by Joseph Hickel

While half drunk, this shot started an all-out altercation between the divisions of the Army. In the drunken confusion some infantrymen yelled out ‘Turks!” (Even though the Turks were not there), which caused the infantry to flee. Even stranger yet, an Austrian Corps commander, seeing the fleeing infantry, mistook them for the Turkish Army and ordered artillery fire on the fleeing infantry. This then woke the rest of the camp who decided to flee thinking all the fighting was due to the Turks, the Army then proceeded to simply fire at everything assuming the Turks were everywhere, but they were in fact firing on their own soldiers.

When the Turkish army actually tuned up 2 days later, they found 10,000 dead and wounded Austrian army soldiers and easily took the town. And to think – it all started over Schnapps!