Battle of Karánsebes
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|Battle of Karánsebes|
|Habsburg Monarchy||Habsburg Monarchy|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|Unknown; credible sources mention up to 1,200 dead and wounded|
The Battle of Karánsebes (Romanian: Caransebeș, Turkish: Şebeş Muharebesi) was a friendly fire incident in the Austrian army, recorded as having occurred during the night of 21–22 September 1788, during the Austro–Turkish War of 1787–1791.
Different portions of an Austrian army, which were scouting for forces of the Ottoman Empire, fired on each other by mistake, causing self-inflicted decimation. The battle took place on the night of 21–22 September 1788. The Ottomans took advantage and captured the city of Karánsebes (now Caransebeș, in modern Romania).
The army of Austria, approximately 100,000 strong, was setting up camp around the town. The army's vanguard, a contingent of hussars, crossed the Timiș River nearby to scout for the presence of the Ottoman Turks. There was no sign of the Ottoman army, but the hussars did run into a group of Tzigani, who offered to sell schnapps to the war-weary soldiers. The cavalrymen bought the schnapps and started to drink.
Soon afterwards, some infantry crossed the river. When they saw the party going on, the infantry demanded alcohol for themselves. The hussars refused to give them any of the schnapps, and while still drunk, they set up makeshift fortifications around the barrels. A heated argument ensued, and one soldier fired a shot.
Immediately, the hussars and infantry engaged in combat with one another. During the conflict, some infantry began shouting "Turci! Turci!" ("Turks! Turks!"). The hussars fled the scene, thinking that the Ottoman army’s attack was imminent. Most of the infantry also ran away; the army comprised Austrians, Serbs, Croats, and Italians from Lombardy, plus other minorities, many of whom could not understand each other. While it is not clear which one of these groups did so, they gave the false warning without telling the others, who promptly fled. The situation was made worse when officers, in an attempt to restore order, shouted "Halt! Halt!" which was misheard by soldiers with no knowledge of German as "Allah! Allah!".[dubious ]
As the cavalry ran through the camps, a corps commander[who?] reasoned that it was a cavalry charge by the Ottoman army, and ordered artillery fire. Meanwhile, the entire camp awoke to the sound of battle and, rather than waiting to see what the situation was, everyone fled. The troops fired at every shadow, thinking the Ottomans were everywhere; in reality they were shooting fellow Austrian soldiers. The incident escalated to the point where the whole army retreated from the imaginary enemy, and Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II was pushed off his horse into a small creek.
Two days later, the Ottoman army arrived. They discovered dead and wounded soldiers and easily took Karánsebes.
In determining losses, accounts of this incident do not distinguish between losses that were caused by friendly fire, those that were caused by the Turks, and those that resulted from pillaging by the Austrians or by the local Wallachians. One account states that the Austrian rear guard suffered 150 casualties. Another account states that in the days following the incident, 1,200 wounded men were taken to the fortress at Arad, 60 km (37 miles) north of Timișoara. Another source claims that 538 men, 24 jäger, and one officer went missing after the incident, but most returned to duty. Also lost were 3 cannons and the chest containing the army's payroll.
In his account of the incident, Paul Bernard claimed that the friendly fire incident caused 10,000 casualties; however, he provided no source for this claim. Neither the Austrian war archives' records nor those who have examined them corroborate Bernard's claim. Bernard's account of the war has been dismissed as inaccurate. Nevertheless, Bernard's claim of 10,000 casualties was repeated by Geoffrey Regan.
Tens of thousands of casualties did occur within the Austrians' ranks during their campaign of 1788 against the Turks; however, the vast majority of those casualties were the result of disease, particularly malaria and dysentery.
Contemporary sources that attest to the incident include:
- "Zur Kriegsgeschichte" (On the history of the war), Real Zeitung (Erlangen, Bavaria, (Germany)), 7 October 1788, no. 80, pp. 723–729 ; see especially pp. 726–728.[note 1] (in German)
- "Aus dem Feldlager der Hauptarmee, bey Sakul, vom 23. Septr." (From the encampment of the main army, near Sacu, 23 September), Bayreuther Zeitungen (Bayreuth, Bavaria, (Germany)), no. 120, pp. 847–848 (7 October 1788). (in German)
- "VI. Türkische Angriffe auf das Kaiserliche Lager. Action bey Slatina. Rückzug der Kaiserlichen Armee. Einnahme der Festung Choczim. Anderweitige Begebenheiten des Türkenkriegs." (VI. Turkish attacks against the Emperor's camp. Action near Slatina. Retreat of the Emperor's army. Taking of the fortress at Khotyn. Other events of the Turkish war.), Politisches Journal: nebst Anzeige von gelehrten und andern Sachen (Political Journal, including notices of scholarly and other works), 2 : 1052–1070 (1788) ; see especially pp. 1058–1059.[note 2] (in German)
- "Foreign Intelligence," The European Magazine and London Review, 14 : 308 (October 1788).[note 3]
- "Du Quartier-Général de l’Armée principale, près de Sakul, le 23. Septembre." (From the encampment of the main army, near Sacu, 23 September), Supplement aux Nouvelles Extraordinaires de Divers Endroits [Supplement to: Extraordinary News from Various Places] (Leiden, Netherlands), no. 83, (14 October 1788). (in French)
- "Da Trieste 3. Ottobre. N.LVIII Supplemento Straodinario della Gazzetta di Vienna del 1. Ottobre" (From Trieste 3 October. no. 58 Special supplement to the Vienna Newspaper of 1 October), Notizie del mondo (Florence and Venice, (Italy)), no. 82, p. 654 (11 October 1788). (in Italian)
The incident was subsequently recounted in:
- "III. Geschichte des Feldzugs 1788 der k.k. Hauptarmee gegen die Türken (Fortsetzung)" (III. History of the 1788 campaign of the imperial main army against the Turks (continuation)), Oestreichische militärische Zeitschrift (Austrian military journal), 4 : 58–70 (1831) ; see especially pp. 58–65.[note 4] (in German)
- Criste, Oskar, Kriege unter Kaiser Josef II. Nach den Feldakten und anderen authentischen Quellen bearbeitet in der kriegsgeschichtlichen Abteilung des k. und k. Kriegsarchivs [Wars under Emperor Joseph II. According to the campaign documents and other authentic sources, edited in the War History Department of the Imperial and Royal War Archives] (Vienna, Austria: L. W. Seidel & Sohn, 1904),"IX. Rückzug des kaiserlichen Heeres nach Lugos, September 1788." (IX. Retreat of the imperial army to Lugoj, September 1788.), pp. 301–308. (in German)
The incident was also discussed in a master's thesis and in a doctoral thesis:
- Mayer, Matthew Z., "Joseph II and the campaign of 1788 against the Ottoman Turks," Master's thesis: McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1997 ; see especially pp. 61–62. Available at: McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
- Gramm, Ernst Rainer, "Der unglückliche Mack: Aufsteig und Fall des Karl Mack von Leiberich" (The misfortunate Mack: Rise and fall of Karl Mack von Leiberich), Doctoral thesis: Vienna University, 2008 ; see especially pp. 82–84.[note 5] (in German) Available at: University of Vienna, Austria
The incident is also mentioned in:
- Schlosser, F.C. with Davison, D., trans., History of the Eighteenth Century and of the Nineteenth Century till the Overthrow of the French Empire. … (London, England: Chapman and Hall, 1845), vol. 6, p. 162.
- Gross-Hoffinger, Anton Johann, Geschichte Josephs des Zweiten [History of Joseph the Second] (Leipzig, (Germany): Carl B. Lorck, 1847), pp. 292–294. (in German)
- Austro–Turkish War (1787–1791)
- Gideon, who led the Israelites to cause a similar friendly-fire incident in the Midianites camp, according to the Book of Judges
- (Real Zeitung, 1788), p. 728.
- (Politisches Journal, 1788), p. 1059.
- (Gramm, 2008), p. 83.
- Bernard, Paul, Joseph II (New York, New York: Twayne, 1968), p. 137.
- (Mayer, 1997), p. 61 footnote 65.
- There is no mention of 10,000 casualties in (Oestreichische militärische Zeitschrift, 1831), (Criste, 1904), (Mayer, 1997), or (Gramm, 2008).
- Szabo, Franz A., "Paul Kaunitz and the Hungarian Diet of 1790-91," in: Kastner, Georg; Mindler-Steiner, Ursala; Wohnout, Helmut, ed.s, Auf der Suche nach Identität: Festschrift für Dieter Anton Binder (Vienna, Austria: Lit Verlag, 2015), p. 284, endnote 33: "Paul P. Bernard, "Austria's last Turkish War," Austrian History Yearbook, 19–20 (1983–1984), pp. 15-31, contains major errors and is unreliable."
- (Gramm, 2008), p. 83 footnote 309.
- Regan, Geoffrey, The Brassey's Book of Military Blunders (Washington, DC: Brassey's, 2000), p. 48.
- In "Geschichte des Feldzugs 1788 der k.k. Hauptarmee gegen die Türken. Zweiter Abschnitt." [History of the campaign in 1788 of the imperial and royal main army against the Turks. Second part.], Oestreichische militärische Zeitschrift (in German), 3: 3–18 (1831), there are monthly reports of the number of men on sick leave during the campaign: by the end of May, 55 officers and 5,306 non-commissioned officers and enlisted men had been stricken with malaria (German: Wechselfieber) (see p. 7); by the end of June, 12,000 men had developed malaria or dysentery (German: Ruhr) (see p. 12); by the end of July, 20,000 men had been stricken with dysentery (see p. 18).
- Regan, Geoffrey (2000). The Brassey's Book of Military Blunders. Washington, D.C.: Brassey's. ISBN 1-57488-252-X.Relevant excerpt] on Google Books.
- Durschmied, Erik (2000). The Hinge Factor: How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History. Arcade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-55970-515-8.Relevant excerpt] on Google Books.
- From pp. 726–728 of: "Zur Kriegsgeschichte," Real Zeitung (Erlangen, (Germany)), 7 October 1788, no. 80, starting at: " — Seit vorgestern, sagt ein Schreiben aus Temeswar von 25sten Sept., … " : "Since the day before yesterday, says a letter from Timișoara of the 25th of September, the office of supplies, the paymaster, the field war office, and the field post office have been here; headquarters is 3 hours away. The pavement has already been dug up in various areas, and all preparations made to be able to withstand a siege. Whether one believes with reason that the Grand Vizier is too clever to still undertake in this season the besieging of a place like Timișoara, yet the confusion and fear is very great because incidents occur which one would have regarded as impossible a little while ago. On the 21st during the night, the following scene occurred near Lugoj. In and nearby this place stood the baggage and about 1,000 wagons. Around midnight came many Wallachians with loud shouts: "The Turks! The Turks!" Frightened by this false alarm, all awoke with a start and thought to save themselves. A few houses that were set afire by just these Wallachians multiplied the fear. Thus many hundreds of wagons, riders, and pedestrians [continued onto p. 727] caused in their confusion a risk of death with every step. Now the Wallachians began to rob, there was shooting, and this was the signal for the Turks, who attacked the [baggage] train. On our way in the darkness, our men came upon another regiment. The officers of the first cried: "Halt! Halt!" Those of the second believed that they'd heard the Turkish call, "Allah!", fired, and shot many of their comrades. During this night, it was supposed that Emperor Joseph was in danger of being captured by the enemy. Finally the Hungarian grenadiers and cavalry regiments were compelled to repel the enemy. The Prince of Würtemberg received a contusion from a cuirassier's horse that came rushing down from a height. On the 22nd, 8 Wallachians were hanged. The Emperor's adjutant, Prince Philipp von Liechtenstein, brother of reigning prince, shall be taken prisoner. General Brechainville must withdraw as far as Denta. General Aspremont was dismissed, and Major Orelly transferred to a garrison regiment. The Turks advance ever farther; the Grand Vizier shall have destroyed the bridges on which he passed over the Danube, so that his Asiatics cannot run away. Thus our private report from the Banat! In the court report from the field camp of the main army near Sacu on the 23rd of the month, it reads: On the 21st the army left its camp near Ilova in 2 columns [and headed] for Caransebeș. When the rear guard of the 2nd column fell back, there arose a false alarm, and when the pickets fired, such confusion gripped the army's baggage train that had been sent ahead towards Caransebeș that the teamsters, packers, and grooms hurriedly fled, the lashings of the pack horses slipped off, loads and baggage were thrown, and other such disorder began. Because some wagons had become lost [and were] out of sight of the column, not all of the lost baggage could be collected, but order was re-established and the march resumed. Meanwhile, the other column had traveled as far as Caransebeș in complete order, and its rear guard had held off the advancing enemy with every step. The cavalry, supported by the infantry, often attacked [the enemy] and always drove it back with losses. Near Caransebeș the Turks attacked a hussar regiment, and as this [regiment] fell back, [the Turks] reached Caransebeș. Their infantry crept up to the first houses, [continued onto p. 728] began to set them afire, but our infantry drove them [back], whereupon the Turks returned to Armeniș. Our losses among the rear guard may amount to 150 men, dead and wounded. The enemy's losses are considerable. Our cavalry captured 3 banners. On the 22nd, our army moved into camp near Sacu, without seeing the enemy."
- From p. 1055 and pp. 1058–1059 of: Politisches Journal: nebst Anzeige von gelehrten und andern Sachen (Political Journal, including notices of scholarly and other works), 2 : 1052–1070 (1788). The Austrian army had encamped in a valley between Ilova and Slatina-Timiș, where they were subject to attack, from the surrounding hills and mountains, by the Turks, who were armed with small arms and light artillery and who were aided by the Wallachians. From p. 1055: "The Wallachians were the most brutal helpers of the Turks, and showed them all of the paths, which they knew exactly, over the mountains, and initiated all sorts of treachery." In response to these constant attacks, the Austrians withdrew northwards, along the valley towards Caransebeș, while they were repeatedly attacked by the Turks. From pp. 1058–1059: "Of this retreat one has read many private letters in the Austrian newspapers, according to all of them [the retreat] was accompanied by many adversities and losses among the Emperor's army. Especially the rapacious Wallachians, who roamed around and did more damage than the Turks themselves, caused a great confusion and calamity on the 21st of September at Lugoj, where the vanguard and the baggage of the army were. They spread, before the break of day, the cry [that] the Turks were there. All who were in Lugoj thought, in the confusion, of nothing [other] than saving themselves ; the roads were filled with several thousand wagons, cavalrymen, and pedestrians ; each shoved the others in order to get away, and the confusion was so great that many people lost their lives. In this confusion and darkness, two imperial regiments collided with each other, regarded each other as Turks, and shot at each other for a while, so that many were killed and wounded among each party. Meanwhile, the Turks actually attacked, but withdrew, satisfied with the great booty that was lost in the confusion. In all, much went missing during this retreat, of which one has no entirely reliable news. Among other things [that were lost] are claimed 15 cannons, and 64 munitions wagons, besides a large part of the baggage, the regiments' treasure chest [i.e., chest containing the soldiers' pay], and so forth. To the fortress at Arad 1,200 wounded soldiers were brought in those days."
- From p. 308 of: "Foreign Intelligence," The European Magazine and London Review, 14 : 308 (October 1788): "Vienna, Oct. 4. The last accounts received here from the Imperial army mention, that in their march for Illova [i.e., Ilova], in the evening of the 21st of September, two columns crossing each other in the dark, and a false alarm of the approach of the enemy, gave rise to a confusion, in which some corps of Austrian infantry fired at each other, and the bat men and servants were struck with such panic, that, throwing off the loads from their horses, and out of the carriages, they fled precipitately, so that many officers lost their baggage, and some regiments their field equipage. The Turks harassed the rear guard, but were vigorously repulsed in the attacks they made upon it, and obliged to abandon three of their standards. A smart skirmish however took place near Caransebeș, in which the Austrians had 150 men killed and wounded; and some houses in that town were burnt by the Turks. The Emperor continued his march on the 23rd to Zakul [i.e., Sacu], and on the 24th to Lugosch [i.e., Lugoj], where he remained on the 28th, the heavy baggage being sent on to Temeswar [i.e., Timișoara], without meeting any further interruption from the enemy. On the day preceding the arrival of the army at Caransebeș, a considerable number of lawless Wallachians inhabiting the neighborhood of Lugosch, ran into the town, spreading a false alarm that the enemy were close at their heels. This had the effect they wished for. The army baggage (then at Lugosch) was immediately sent off to Temeswar, when the Wallachians proceeded to pillage whatever they found unguarded, and even many of the houses. A military force however soon put an end to these enormities, and several of the plunderers were taken, and immediately broken on the wheel."
- From pp. 58–65 of: "III. Geschichte des Feldzugs 1788 der k.k. Hauptarmee gegen die Türken (Fortsetzung)" (III. History of the 1788 campaign of the imperial main army against the Turks (continuation)), Oestreichische Militärische Zeitschrift (Austrian military journal), 4 : 58–70 (1831): "In the evening of the 20th of September, after the evening gun [sounded], the chevals de frise [i.e., obstacles against cavalry] were hoisted, the tents dismantled, the reserve artillery harnessed, and [the army] marched in two lines towards Caransebeș. To them were joined the wagons with the chevals de frise, horses with the tents, and the pack horses. In front, hussars and jägers rode in a line in order to prevent deserters from informing the enemy about the time of the army's departure. A detachment of hussars with an officer were further assigned, after the army's departure, to maintain the campfires in order to conceal the march from the enemy for as long as possible. Several hours before midnight, the infantry of the main army marched in two columns, each of 6 battalions. Behind the first of the two columns marched, as a rear guard, a corps which was composed of 7 grenadier battalions and 4 fusilier battalions, then 30 squadrons, and which was under the command of the Cavalry General Count Kinsky. The corps of the Lieutenant Field Marshal Count Wartensleben, which now bore the name of "reserve corps" and consisted of 12 battalions and 12 squadrons, followed as a rear guard of the second column. [p. 59] Since the departures from the camp of the reserve corps were arduous on account of the steepness of the Gornitz mountains, its march thus had to occur more slowly, and [since] it had encamped farthest forward, it was thus ordered that the two infantry columns should halt in column as soon as the [columns'] heads reached the Ilova stream, until the two rear guards had joined [them], whereupon all would then march and continue towards Caransebeș in two lines beside each other. Initially the march departed in best order during the most beautiful moonlit night. The two infantry columns halted at the right time; the reserve corps had already arrived by road at the Slatina post office; only the small detachments which were used for the chains [Note: each "chain" was formed by a detachment of cavalry riding in a single row abreast in front of each infantry column and in single file along both sides of each column; the purpose of the "chain" was to prevent soldiers from defecting to the Turks and betraying the army's movement], were still back at the Slatina bridge, and the two infantry columns had just resumed marching, when all at once an event, trivial in itself, occurred which transformed the most beautiful moonlit night into a night of terror and confusion, and [which] brought the horrors of devastation to many of the most beautiful villages and places. Despite the strictest orders, the desire to make a profit caused a Wallachian farmer to haul brandy with a two-horse wagon onto the bridge, over which the remaining hussars had to march. Some of these hussars had [some brandy] poured [for them], and had perhaps too much of the goods, when several soldiers of the free corps likewise stepped forward and demanded their share. The hussars, for whom this wasn't opportune, began a brawl with them, and [p. 60] chased them from there. These [free corps soldiers], prompted by vindictiveness, natural to common people [but] neglecting any other consideration, moved back a stretch, fired their guns at the hussars, and shouted repeatedly and loudly, "Turks! Turks!" Upon this cry and shooting, the hussars also fired their guns and raced with hanging reins over the bridge between the two hussar divisions waiting there, to which they belonged. This haste and the cry "Turks, Turks", which they let resound, brought these two divisions into disorder; so that the units themselves began to fire on each other, and rode forwards towards the columns. The cry of "Halt! Halt!" by which one wanted to bring these hussars to a standstill, was taken for the battle cry of the Turks, "Allah! Allah!", and multiplied the confusion, because it seemed to give confirmation that the Turks were in the vicinity. This disorder would soon have dispersed, if, unfortunately (against given orders) a group of grooms with teams of draft and pack horses, which should have been far ahead, had not halted between the columns of infantry; which now, seized by panic-fueled fears, fled in the greatest haste and amid continuous uproar. The two columns of infantry rested on the road. Many of the men had taken off their knapsacks and were sleeping. These [soldiers] believed — awakened by the shooting from this first [chance to] sleep — that they saw the enemy among the noises of the grooms and packers racing by them, [and] [p. 61] some of them fired their guns at the supposed enemy, [while] some escaped into the adjoining fields. But here order was soon restored through the efforts of Field Marshal Lacy and the other generals and staff officers, while the two corps (the Kinsky and reserve corps) which formed the rear guards had remained, en masse, calm on the road and had formed battle lines towards the commotion. As soon as people were convinced that no enemy was pursuing the column so far, the march to Caransebeș continued, where the first units arrived in the morning. His Majesty the Emperor found himself, at the beginning of the march, among the wagons of the marching column on the left, in the vicinity of Wartensleben's battalion. So as the shooting and alarm arose, he mounted his horse and tried to maintain order by shouting and drawing attention to his person. However, since in the first moments no one heeded him, bullets crossed from all sides, so the Emperor rode towards Caransebeș — despite the belief that the Turks had broken through the lines of the columns — accompanied by only a single person, since his entourage had lost sight of him amid the turmoil. In order to defend it against the advancing enemy, [the Emperor] had cannons brought up to the double bridge which was located an hour away from Caransebeș [and which] had been built across the stream coming from the village of Bolvașnița, where this [stream] crosses the road. Then he went to Caransebeș, where Field Marshal Lacy [p. 62] and General of Artillery Colloredo soon followed, in order to report to His Majesty about the actual course of events of the incident, and [to inform him] that order had been restored among the troops. During that night His Royal Highness the Archduke Franz was on horseback with the corps of Cavalry General Count Kinsky, which was positioned behind the right-hand column of infantry. Immediately upon the raising of the alarm and the skirmishing, Count Kinsky had the first battalion of Nadasdy close a square around the prince, for the safety of his person, where he remained on the road until order was restored. The battalion later received a present of 150 ducats from His Majesty the Emperor. We've seen that the brief disorder, which had prevailed among the troops largely as a result of surprise, was soon dispelled by the presence of mind of generals and officers. However, this disorder was not the greatest evil which arose from that incident on the bridge at Slatina. If older, veteran troops who were accustomed to order and discipline could be excited by the fear of surprise for [some] moments, then it's easy to estimate what its spread among the advancing grooms and packers, horses carrying tents and packs, and the luggage must have caused in the way of trouble. Here the disorder and confusion knew no bounds. The drivers of the horses carrying packs, tents, and cooking gear cut off the girdles of the saddles, threw the loads in the middle of the road, mounted the horses bareback, and raced amid the cry, "The Turks are here! Save yourself! All is lost!" [p. 63] — in long gallops from there. The teamsters of the reserve artillery, like the other haulers, cut the traces [i.e., harnesses], and likewise hurried away. The individual soldiers around there fired their guns here and there, without knowing why or at whom, and thereby increased the fear and commotion among the baggage train. Soon the entire road was covered with people running around as if [they were] crazy — on foot, on horseback, on wagons — yelling, fleeing, weeping — throwing anything that got in their way. It [i.e., the road] was sown with saddles, saddle bags, tents, cauldrons, gear, trunks, etc. The disorder in this baggage train was limitless, beyond all words, beyond all description. However, the consequences of this for the local residents of this stretch [of road] were even sadder. That mob of servants, once [set] in motion, couldn't be stopped by anything, and when they finally believed themselves to be safe, they used their momentary independence to rob and plunder, which then spread to all who encountered them. The first victim of it was the beautiful town of Caransebeș. From here the blind uproar, as a forerunner of the real disorder, worked its way to Lugoj, which, like all of the little places along the road, [having been] abandoned by its residents, fell as easy booty into the hands of the unbridled [mob]. — But let us turn our view from these horrors, after which the harshest punishments followed very soon, without always reaching the truly guilty and without making good again the smallest part of the ruin that this night brought to so many innocents. Let us return [p. 64] to the troops who had long been completely restored to order and who were on the march. It was quite certain that the reserve corps should have served as the rear guard of the entire army. However, during the night, this corps probably had started moving earlier after the disorder, and during the night [it] had moved ahead of the corps of Cavalry General Count Kinsky, to whom the duty of rear guard now fell. The Turks had then been alerted by the shooting — for there had also occurred some cannon shots — and [by] the tumult, and [so the Turks] followed [the Austrian army] closely with numerous cavalry as soon as [the Turks] had convinced themselves of the [Austrian] army's retreat. By the gray dawn [the Turks] had reached, near the pass of Caransebeș, the cavalry of Cavalry General Count Kinsky and attacked repeatedly, but [the Turks] were repeatedly driven back with losses. The two infantry columns as well as the reserve corps had already passed the pass. The former [i.e., the infantry columns] already stood behind the town on the heights there encamped in two squares. In order to give time to the cavalry of his corps to break through the pass, General Kinsky had his 4 fusilier battalions form squares in front of them, which, with their well directed cannon and small arms fire and their awe-inspiring resolve, held back the enemy cavalry. The grenadiers passed first through the narrow pass; the cavalry followed them. However, after going through [the pass], [the cavalry] — instead going down that path which would have led them to the camp appointed for them (without making contact with the town) — followed the grenadiers [p. 65], whereby a sort of confusion arose. This made it possible for the Turks to gain time to spread around the town from both sides and to use the houses and garden walls in order to make their fire more steady. Yet the fire from the squares behind the town soon drove them from their hide-outs. The cavalry strongly repelled the attacks of the spahis [i.e., Turkish cavalry], and reached, without great loss, their camp on the other side of the Timiș [river]. The Turks left many dead and wounded on the site and 2 large banners in our hands. However, the town of Caransebeș went up in flames as a result of the battle and in large part fell to ashes. [The remainder of] the night passed quietly."
- From pp. 82–84 of: Gramm, Ernst Rainer, "Der unglückliche Mack: Aufsteig und Fall des Karl Mack von Leiberich" (The misfortunate Mack: Rise and fall of Karl Mack von Leiberich), Doctoral thesis: Vienna University, 2008: "Emperor Joseph decided to abandon the [Austrian army's] position near Ilova and start the retreat to Caransebeș. The planning provided that the entire baggage train, baggage and munitions reserves be sent to the front, in stages during the march. At nightfall, the tents were dismantled and the chevals de frise hauled in, loaded onto wagons, and likewise sent away. In front, a line of jägers and hussars rode in order to prevent desertions. In the camps, troops were left, who maintained campfires in order to conceal the Austrians' departure from the Turks. As soon as the wagons had enough of a head start, the infantry, in two columns of six battalions each, set into motion. The columns were so deployed that they could form squares if necessary. The left column marched on the main road; the right, parallel and not too far from it. The rearguard behind the left-hand column was composed of eleven battalions and twelve squadrons under lieutenant field marshal Wartensleben; behind the right-hand column, eleven battalions and thirty squadrons under Cavalry General Kinsky. Lacy and his staff rode with the left-hand column. The retreat of the Austrians led to the notorious "Battle of Caransebeș", which gained Emperor Joseph an entry in the book of military blunders. [Here Gramm adds in footnote 303: "Regan, Military Blunders, pp. 48 ff. Here it's not a matter of a profound work ; the account is, just like that contained in the above-named work about Mack, verifiable only in broad outline. Both accounts, however, are of interest because the present awareness of the events is reflected in them."] The infantry left at about nine o'clock. Cavalry General Kinsky was ordered only to depart with his rear guard when Wartensleben, whose unit had advanced farther, was abreast of Kinsky's rearguard, which was marching behind the left column. The maneuver succeeded in the best order ; only the cavalry guards standing on the other side of the Timiș [river] still had to catch up over the bridge. They consisted of some men of the Wallachian freikorps and four squadrons, which were detailed for backup, two each of Württemberg dragoons and of Graeve hussars. In order to let the rear guard close up and restore the march order, Lacy had the column halt. With that, some soldiers laid down their knapsacks, [and] the soldiers laid down to sleep. When the hussars arrived at the bridge, they came upon a Wallachian farmer there, [p. 83] who had loaded his cart with brandy. The hussars served themselves generously, but [they] didn't let the infantry of the freikorps, who were gradually arriving at the bridge, have a share. Thereupon the Wallachians began to shoot at the hussars and to cry "Turks, Turks" at the same time. The already rather drunk cavalrymen threw themselves on their horses and galloped off, taking up the cry of "Turks, Turks". That unleashed a mass panic. The shooting and the wild shouts gave the impression to the soldiers who were startled from their sleep, that the Turks were actually attacking. A wild shoot-out began, which escalated all the more when individual units, in the dark, regarded their neighbors as the enemy and shot at them. The frightened teamsters unlimbered the cannons and took flight on the draft horses. Also the packers followed, cutting the horses loose from the wagons and speeding away. The post road was soon littered with saddles, baggage, chairs, tents, and baskets ; the entire left column was seized by complete disorganization. In the middle of this chaos one finds Lacy, with Mack at his side. The archduke Franz, who was likewise stuck in the uproar, was brought safety inside the square of the 39th Hungarian infantry regiment by Lieutenant Field Marshal Kinsky, who had been assigned [to the archduke] as an escort ; the archduke remained in the regiment's protection until [it reached] Caransebeș. By personal action, Lacy and the members of his staff restored order. Around thirty guns were unlimbered, the harnesses were nowhere to be seen. Lacy had the cannons pulled by the soldiers, whereby almost all could be salvaged. After the order of march was re-established, the two infantry columns resumed marching and by dawn reached camp, which had been located on the near side of the Timiș [river] near Caransebeș. Besides large quantities of equipment and many horses, two three-pounders and a six-pounder were lost, as well as fourteen carts of munitions and twenty air rifles. The value of the lost goods, including the wages, amounted to 136,717 guilders, 43 kreuzer. Twenty four jäger as well as one officer and a further 538 men were missing ; however many were present again later. As a result of the aimlessly fired shots, officers and men of different regiments were killed or wounded. [Here, Gramm adds in footnote 309: "Regarding this, extremely exaggerated figures of losses are found in the secondary literature, so that in Regan, Military Blunders, p. 49: "At the first light of dawn it became clear how great was the disaster that the Austrians had suffered: More than ten thousand men had been killed or wounded by their own comrades." "] [p. 84] Meanwhile, the Turks had also noticed that the Austrians were in the process of clearing out and [so the Turks] began the pursuit. Both rear guards had strict orders to remain abreast in order to support each other. Nevertheless, Wartensleben pulled away with the rear guard that was detailed to the rear of the left column and moved into position behind both infantry columns as far [back] as the last hussar in camp. Thus Kinsky's rear guard, which was marching behind the right column, had to ward off the attacking Turks alone. Lacy had just ridden back in order to see where Kinsky was. When he'd gotten an overview of the situation and noticed that Kinsky was under attack, he looked for the other rear guard and must have made the unpleasant discovery that Wartensleben was already engaged. He could force only the Graeve hussar regiment to deploy in order to cover the left flank. Furthermore, one had neglected to occupy the houses on the edge of town. Thus the advancing Turks succeeded in entering the place and starting fires. The Austrians, of whom several used the opportunity for much plundering, could withdraw from the Turks, but had to abandon Caransebeș and retreat behind the Timiș [river]. Since this position also wasn't tenable, the retreat continued the next day to Sacu and on 24 September, to Lugoj. During the Turk's advance, the German inhabitants of the mountain towns were frightened and fled, whereupon the Romanian population completely pillaged and laid waste their homes. Large bands of robbers formed, until a cavalry unit was finally dispatched in order to restore order. Around a hundred members of the robber bands were killed, the rest were taken prisoner. Of the prisoners, fifty-five were hanged in Denta, among them two priests and two women. The Turks stayed in Caransebeș and just made some raids, but [they] didn't attack the Austrians. Finally they withdrew on 10 October from Caransebeș."