In A Memory of Solferino, the father of the Red Cross, Henry Dunant, gives a vivid description of the Battle of Solferino and the subsequent care that was provided for the wounded. I enjoyed this passage wholeheartedly. It was interesting that Algerian soldiers were fueled by vengeance in battle, yet after the battle ended, many volunteers were urging against the policy of revenge; they did not want to deny enemy soldiers care just because they were on the opposite side. This passage was very emotional and I often felt heartbreak and sadness for the wounded soldiers, especially for the patient who underwent amputation without chloroform. Dunant used emotional stories to his advantage in order to gain the sympathies of his readers, which would lead to the creation of the Red Cross.
I liked that the author included many different stories about people who were involved because it emphasized how many people were impacted and the length of time it took to treat the wounded. The compassion that people shared for each other after the battle was my favorite part about this. Dunant’s statement that he was “craving to relieve as many” as possible made me recognize the impact that helping those in need can have, not just for the wounded and sick but also for the volunteers doing the work (Dunant, pg. 20). The way that Dunant was able to transform a story of brutality, sorrow, and death into a plan for action against war’s negative effects was compelling. The compassion that kept showing up again and again throughout this reading, in which conflict was put to the side in order to heal others, makes me wonder why war even takes place. This passage was by far my most favorite that we have read in class up to this point. Instead of focusing on death and violence, Dunant’s experiences focus on positivity and selflessness.
The final part of this reading focused on the long-lasting effects that Dunant’s work had on the world, which goes to show how stepping up in a crisis can turn into a lifelong pursuit of healing. I was glad that the author did not leave out any details regarding pain, sorrow, and injury because telling the truth of what war does to people was one big step for changing 19th century thinking that war should be romanticized. It is clearly not something to be revered.
1. Did Dunant’s account of the Battle of Solferino impact the way people thought about war in the mid-19th century?
2. What drove the people of Italy to forget about the conflict with their enemy in order to help enemy soldiers?
3. Would the compassion exhibited by the people of the Italian cities that took in enemy soldiers be found on a battlefield today? Has warfare changed to the extent that we no longer have the same compassion for our wounded enemies?