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.