Did you know that the square of Solferino is at the origin of "the Red Cross" and the Geneva Convention! Jean-Henri Dunant, a Swiss trader came here in 1859 and saw the most horrifying images. 38 000 wounded lay on the square of Solferino. The day before, the Battle of Solferino took place here. It was June 24, 1859. The French army under Napoleon III and the Sardinian army under Victor Emmanuel II took on the Austrian army under the command of Emperor Franz Joseph I. More than 200,000 soldiers fought in this important battle. The battle was extremely gruesome. Reports of wounded or dying soldiers who were shot or speared with a bayonet on both sides added to the atrocities.
This battle would have a long-term effect on the future behavior of military actions. Dunant was so shocked that he himself took the initiative and called on the population, especially the women, to quickly give help to the wounded and the sick. He did all this with the statement "Tutti fratelli" or "We are all brothers". The population listened to Dunant and helped the soldiers, without worrying whether they were enemies or friends.
After Dunant left Solferino and returned to Geneva, he decided to write a book about his experiences in Solferino. This book, called "Un Souvenir de Solferino", was published in 1862 on Dunant's own expenses. In the book he described his experiences of the battle and the circumstances thereafter. He also described the idea of setting up a neutral organization in the future that would take care of the wounded if war took place. The president of the Geneva Society for Sociality and Prosperity made the book the theme at the meeting of the organization in 1863. After the successful reception of the Dunants suggestions, members set up a five-member committee, including Dunant, and they ensured that his ideas could be implemented. The first meeting was on 17 February 1863, which is now seen as the date on which the Red Cross was founded. The name and emblem were derived from the Swiss flag. In October 1863, fourteen countries took part in a meeting in Geneva organized by the committee. Here they talked about the care of wounded soldiers and how they could be improved. A year later, at a diplomatic conference organized by the Swiss Parliament, the first so-called Geneva Convention was signed by twelve states.