Sending a nation’s finest young men and women to war and risking their lives should be of a cause worth dying for, for sure. It could be to end slavery, defend homelands from conquerors, maybe to demand equality(Like our own Revolution). Whatever the reason may be, let’s hope it’s not for reasons as ridiculous as the three of history’s stupidest wars ever fought.

The Battle of Karansebes

Battle of Karansebes. ©Craciun Cristiana via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a reason why drinking is prohibited at work, and this war proves just why.

On the night of September 1788, the Austrian army was scouting the countryside of what is now called Romania to check if the area was clear of Turkish forces because the one-hundred- thousand strong Austrian army were setting up camps around the town. A group of Austrian Hussars (light cavalry) crossed the Timis River. They didn’t find any Turk soldiers but instead came across some Romani gypsies selling schnapps. Weary as they were, the Hussars couldn’t say no. They started to party. When some of their allied infantry arrived and saw them chugging the drinks, they expectedly wanted to join in. The drunk hussars said no, set up makeshift fortifications around the barrels and a standoff occurred. Then one of the still sober infantrymen feeling deeply offended fired a shot.

That touched off a major firefight. In the middle of it, some of the infantry got confused and started shouting that it was the Turks that were attacking them. This in turn confused the drunk Hussars, who now believed that they too were being attacked by the Turkish army. 

In a panic, some of the scouts lit out back to camp to report that the Turks were attacking. 

Then things took another ridiculous twist when one of the officers attempting to restore order to his infantry began shouting, “Halt! Halt!” but since the Austrian army was composed of Austrians, as well as Serbs, Croats, and Italians, the non-Austrians misheard him as shouting, “Allah! Allah!”

Corps Commander General of Artillery Colloredo, got word of the attack by the Turks, and mistaking Hussars fleeing the fight with the Austrian infantry as the Turks ordered artillery fire into them. This awoke up the entire Austrian camp and thinking now that the Turks were also attacking under the cover of darkness. They scattered and fled in all directions while firing wildly. The last straw of stupidity here was the Holy Roman Emperor himself,  Joseph II fell off his horse into a small creek while retreating and was injured. While precise numbers are not known the number of casualties is estimated to be between one-hundred and fifty to twelve hundred killed and wounded

 The Turks would arrive two days later in Karansebes and find dead and wounded Austrians still on the field. 

The Pastry War

A pastry shop at the corner of Plessis and Sainte-Catherine in Montreal.

The Mexican republic in 1828 was a lawless place for mobsters who looted and vandalized businesses and private properties. A French baker named Remontel was, unfortunately, one of their victims. His pastry shop was destroyed, so he asked the Mexican government for compensation of 60,000 pesos. His request was ignored, so he tried asking the French government. The request yet again fell on deaf ears.

Ten years later, prime minister Loius-Mathieu Mole demanded Mexico pay Remontel 600,000 pesos in damages. Bear in mind that the average daily wage at that time was one peso, so 600,000 pesos was a considerable amount of money. Of course, then-president Anastasio Bustamante didn’t pay, and the King of France took offense to this. He ordered a blockade of all Mexican ports on the Gulf of Mexico and the French Navy commenced a bombardment of the fortress of San Juan de Ulua in Veracruz. Mexico responded by declaring war on France. After more than three months of fighting which killed hundreds,  the French forces withdrew in 1839 after Mexico offered to pay the 600,000 Pesos.

Remontel the baker never saw a single franc or pesos as Mexico never paid and France pretended not to notice it, until thirteen years later in 1861 when the non-payment of the 600,000 pesos formed part of the pretext of France and Mexico going to war again.

The Bucket War

Replica of the bucket displayed in Modenese City Hall. Logan Craine / Medium

The story happened in Northern Italy. There were factions centered in cities that had divided loyalties between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor. The people of Modena were loyal to the Holy Roman Emperor, while the folks living in Bologna followed the Pope.

There were borders between the two cities that were not being respected very well which led to armed clashed between the inhabitants of these two cities.  This went on for decades until one late afternoon on December 15th, 1325 both sides decided to have it out.

The fact that this battle was fought in the late afternoon suggests they really didn’t want it to be an all or nothing fight since it would be dark in a few hours.  Maybe they just wanted to try and intimidate each other with a show of strength.

The Bolognese showed up in force with some 32,000 troops and cavalry to the utter astonishment of Modena who could only muster 5,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry.  Incredibly, the badly outnumbered Modenese attacked the Bolognese who promply routed in mass when the Modena Cavalry swept around their flank.  The rabble made tracks trying to get back to their fortified city with Modena hot on their heels destroying five castles belonging to Bolognese nobles along the way. They also demolished the water works that provided river water to the city.

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The Bolognese now safely behind their walls were subjected to taunts and insults from the Modenese who set up an insulting memorial to the dead at the foot of the main gate to the city.  Lacking any siege equipment they couldn’t take the city outright but were determined to leave with some form of plunder that would give honor to the battle. Pickings were pretty slim outside the walls so the Modenese settled on a bucket found in a well at the western most gate.

This oak bucket was paraded at the head Modena’s army as it marched back home.   As late as 1911, the Bucket Of Bologna was safely stored in the basement of the cathedral in Modena as a cherished trophy of war.  Today, a replica of the bucket(painstakingly recreated no doubt) is on display at Modena’s city hall.

 

 

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