History From America's Most Famous Valleys
The Orderly Book of Sir John Johnson
During the Oriskany Campaign
Annotated by Wm. L. Stone
With an Historical Introduction illustrating the Life of Johnson by J. Watts De Peyster, and Some Tracings from the Foot-Prints of the Tories, or Loyalists in America by T. R. Myers.
Joel Munsell, 1882
PANICS have occurred, not only among Militia and Irregulars, but in REGULAR Armies, subjected, in appearance, to the highest state of discipline and the most severe of military codes. These panics are not only incomprehensible, but infinitely more disgraceful than the worst which has been attributed to Militia-even American Militia, such as the KLOCK'S FIELD tohu-bohu in 1780; the Bladensburg Races in 1814 ; and the dissolution of the Union forces at Bull Run I., in 1861. Nothing, however, can approach what took place in the Austrian army under Joseph II., in 1788. It almost transcends belief, and it might be deemed incredible, if it was not recorded in the following language by the veteran French Marshal Marmont, Duke of Ragusa, in his "The- Present State of the Turkish Empire," translated by Lt.-Col. Sir Frederick Smith, K. H., Royal British Engineers, London, 1839, pp. xx.-xxiv., "Introduction."
"At Karansebes (on the Temes, 50 miles S. E. of Temesvar, just S. of the Iron Gates Pass) we are reminded of the lamentable catastrophe [Gust's Annals of the Wars," I., iv., 29-30] that befell the troops of Austria, in September, 1788, near this place, in the latter wars [1788-'90] between that power and Turkey.
"Joseph the Second afforded on this occasion a remarkable instance of the misfortunes which a monarch may bring upon his people by overrating his qualifications as a military commander ; for, though personally brave, he seemed, when the lives of others depended on his decision, to be deficient in that moral courage and presence of mind which are indispensable in a general; yet he evinced great resolution, as well as indefatigable industry in conducting the civil affairs of the state, and unquestionably possessed superior talent.* His political acts have been the subject of much discussion ; how far they may be deserving of praise or censure this is not the place to enquire ; but it is impossible to deny that the views of this monarch were directed to promoting the -welfare of his country. By moving in advance of public opinion, and by promptly effecting those changes in the national institutions which the circumstances of the times seemed to demand, he nipped in the bud, so far as his own dominions were concerned, the revolutions that threatened Austria as well as the rest of Europe.
"In 1789 [1788 ?], Joseph, having collected together 80,000 men, for the purpose of attacking the Turks, established his camp near Karansbes. The Turks were in a position opposite to the Austrian army, and so placed as to cover the province of Wallachia. All was prepared for the attack; the generals were assembled in the tent of the Emperor to receive their orders, and everything appeared to promise success to the Austrian army; but Joseph, feeling a degree of disquietude respecting the result, asked Marshal Lascy if he felt sure of beating the enemy. The Marshal replied, as any sensible [?1 man would have done, under similar circumstances, that he hoped for victory, but that he could not absolutely guarantee it. Unhappily this answer so discouraged Joseph [where were his own resolution and brains ?] that he immediately abandoned the intention of attacking the Turks, and resolved to retire behind the Temes.
"The plan of retreat was arranged, and the army was formed in parallel columns, the infantry being placed in the center, the cavalry on the flanks, and the baggage in the intervals. The Austrians commenced their march at midnight, but shortly afterwards Marshal Lascy, discovering that the order had not been issued for withdrawing the piquets of the left wing, supplied the omission, and suddenly halted the main body to wait for these detachments. [Something similar occurred on the night of 15th December, 1862, when the left wing of the Union army withdrew from before the Rebels, after the disastrous failure of the attack of the 13th, preceding. ] The word of command, to 'halt,' was given and repeated in the usual manner; but, being mistaken for the word 'Allah,' which the Turks are in the habit of shouting when about to fall upon their enemies, many of the Austrian troops believed that they were attacked. This was the case with the drivers of the tumbrils, who, seized with panic, put their horses into a trot, in the hope of escaping. The infantry, supposing the noise made by these carriages to be caused by the charge of the enemy, commenced firing in all directions. The havoc they thus created in their own ranks was so great, that no less than 10,000 men are said to have been killed or wounded during the darkness of the night. At daylight the mistake was discovered, and the Austrian army then retreated to the position the Emperor had intended to take up behind the Temes. If, instead of giving way to his alarm, Joseph had attacked the enemy, it is probable that he would have obtained possession of Wallachia without losing more than 8,000 or 4,000 men. As it was, he not only lost 10,000 by the disaster above mentioned, and 20,000 by sickness, which was the consequence of a prolonged occupation of an unhealthy tract of country, but he raised the courage of the Turks, and thereby deprived his own troops of the confidence they had previously reposed both in him and in themselves."
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