Seven Blunders That Changed The Course Of History

1812 portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte . Britannica

Throughout the course of history, the smallest details have shifted the outcome of major events — a gate not shut, an unusually warm winter, a turn down the wrong street, and other gaffes have played a part in the ruin of many nations.

Bonaparte at the Siege of Toulon

Napoleon Bonaparte Was Almost Italian

Napoleon was born on the island of Corsica. Historically, the island was ruled mostly by Italy, which was true for centuries, with a few exceptions. Italy is also from where the Bonaparte family arrived during the 16th century — they trekked from the Tuscan hills and eventually ended up in Corsica. Just months before Napoleon’s birth, the island changed hands and altered Napoleon’s nationality, while at the same time amend the course of history, and in no small way. What events had to unfold for this to happen?

To get the full picture, you have to go back in time. The Corsicans fought for much of the 18th century to liberate their island from the rule of Genoa. The Republic of Genoa was one of the world’s most prosperous. It was the world’s biggest bank. As it was a time of expansion and exploration, countries such as Spain were sending their merchant ships on massively long journeys to the Americas. They were returning with the ships filled by silver. The silver was dropped off in Genoa. There, bankers would lend it to a wide array of empires, both vast and small. Genoa’s reach expanded so much the republic was regularly sending ships as far away as Sicily and North Africa for trade purposes.

As one might imagine, The Republic of Genoa was incredibly stable economically. It had forged a clear identity for itself as a money-lender and in doing so made itself useful to a number of territories, most of whom had no motive to see it fall. Thus, it may have remained happy in its prosperity for years to come. At that time, no one could have guessed the grim road that lay ahead. It took one year to kill half of Genoa’s residents. Between 1656 and 1657 the Black Plague swept through the city. It marked the beginning of the end. The Republic was attacked by the French in 1684. The decline continued slowly over the next century. By 1768, just one year before Napoleon’s birth, Italy was forced to sign over the Island of Corsica to the French.

The other important factor that influenced history was Napoleon’s father; he was a member of the Corsican nobility. Being nobility worked in Napoleon’s favor when his father was offered a position in the French administration making it easy to secure a good education in France for the two eldest sons — Napoleon was the second of two boys in a large family. The young Corsican was aware early of the advantages of being fully French offered. He changed the spelling of his name to the more French-seeming Bonaparte. By 1796 he was educated at a military academy at Brienne-le-Château. At the age of sixteen, in 1785, he became a second lieutenant in an artillery regiment. He continued climbing and eventually ruled France.

Battle of Karánsebes, Austrian soldiers opened fire on each other killing and wounding over 1000,000
Battle of Karánsebes.

Drunk Austrian soldiers mistake one another for the enemy, and all hell breaks loose.

If the Austrian Battle Of Karansebes in 1788 has not gone down in the books as one of the most bizarre battles in history, it should. The campaign resulted in the Austrians inflicting defeat on themselves — and it was not the outcome of a civil war, not intentionally. They were at war with the Ottoman Turkish Empire. Between 1787 and 1791, the Austro – Turkish War was taking place. It was happening at the same time as the Russo – Turkish war — the Austrians were allied with the Russians at the time.

The Austrians split their forces into two sections. On a September evening, one of the sections set up camp on the outskirts of Karansebes, known today as Caransebeş, in modern Romania. The second section, a contingent of hussars, who were the army’s vanguard, crossed the Timis River to look for enemy Turks. But they did not find any. What they did find were some Gypsies selling schnapps. The elite unit of soldiers bought the schnapps. Then preceded to consume what must have been copious amounts. Later, the same evening, some infantrymen from the first section crossed the river and found the hussars having a grand time. They demanded some schnapps themselves, but the soldiers refused and to show they were serious, set up fortifications around the barrels. An argument soon began and escalated, and a shot was fired. Hence, the 1788 Austrian Battle Of Karansebes began. Things soon became worse.

Some of the soldiers shouted ”Turks! Turks!” and the hussars fled the scene thinking a Turkish attack was imminent. Most of the infantry also fled, but as the Austrian army consisted of many people from different language backgrounds, they could not fully understand each other. In an attempt to restore order, officers began shouting ”Halt! Halt!”. This was misheard by the soldiers who did not speak German as, ”Allah! Allah!” The cavalry began fleeing through the camp. A corps commander thought it was a cavalry charge by the Ottoman Empire, and he ordered artillery fire.

Soon the entire camp woke to a battle, and instead of waiting to see what was happening, they ran away. The Austrian troops fired on everything, thinking that the Turks were everywhere. Of course, in reality, they were shooting their men. The Battle of Karansebes escalated to a point where the entire army retreated from an imaginary enemy, and the Emperor was knocked off his horse into a river. When the Ottoman army arrived two days later, they discovered 10,000 dead and wounded soldiers.