SOLFERINO, THE RIDGE OF THE BATTLE

Solferino is famous for the battle of 1859 that carried its name in the Second Italian war of Independence. The Italians in fact, were seeking a unified country, free of the Austrians and they found a strong ally in the French. The official statistics of the victims of the battle, up until a short time ago numbered 40,000 persons.

Today recent studies lead the experts to believe that between the fallen and the wounded, the number of 112,000 men is more accurate. The ridge of that battle must have been warm from the blood that was shed there. But it is from there and from the consequences of that bloody battle that the idea for a great humanitarian project was born. The example of solidarity of the Italians who, without distinguishing between nationalities, rescued and treated the wounded, profoundly struck a certain Henry Dunant (1828-1910), from Geneva, who was in Castiglione for his personal reasons, which today we would define as “business”, he was in search of Napoleon. The evening of the battle, from the window of the Bondoni Pastorio building in Castiglione delle Stiviere (a few km from Solferino) where he was a guest, he saw a multitude of wounded men who were brought there, some of them on the hay strewn over naked earth, which was everywhere in the town. Dunant participated in the rescue effort and after 3 years, published the famous “Souvenir of Solferino”. The book printed in 600 copies at his own expense tells of the battle, the difficulties of the rescue of the wounded and the generosity of the Italians who did all that was possible to alleviate the suffering of the wounded, whether allies or enemies. The women did not hold back either, donating their own chests of wedding linen to make the bandages to utilise on the severely injured bodies. He was able to raise the awareness of the powerful of the world. Bringing forward his project of a world organisation to treat the wounded and provide solidarity became Dunant’s mission. Later he received the Nobel Peace Prize.  

Solferino in 4 steps

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Questions and Answers

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The report of Solferino