I suppose it fits that Henry Dunant was born in Geneva, Switzerland, considering he created the Red Cross and helped establish the Geneva Conventions. Dunant begins his tale with the battle of Solferino. He depicts the carnage and chaos that happened during the battle. You become transplanted into the middle of the battle; the reading itself felt chaotic and difficult to follow, which was how the soldiers themselves would have felt amid the fighting.
What really got to me was what happened afterwards. How whole towns were transformed into medical sights, normal civilians rushed to aid the wounded and dying. Although Castiglione was in worse condition for treatment than Brescia, I felt that they had often done a better job, relatively. The people at Castiglione showed no distinction between French and Austrian soldiers. Yes, Brescia still treated the enemy soldiers, but they showed them no compassion or kindness; one doctor even remarked on giving them the bare necessities, and if they died then “good residence.” This angered me, even though I know that it’s hard for people to put aside their differences and forgive others. I was saddened by the thought of many soldiers being left to die; I know that nothing could have been done to help them, they were brought in too late and there weren’t enough hands to help, but I wish that there was someone to help ease their suffering, even if it was just to sit down with them and talk. One man asked repeatedly for his mail, to read letters from home on his dying days and there were enough people to help even for that small thing.
Even when someone was there to help, they weren’t qualified and didn’t know what to do. In Brescia, people weren’t allowed to help, possibly because they would have “gotten underfoot,” but couldn’t those people have been used to help the wounded soldiers morally? It doesn’t take any training to sit and talk to someone for an hour or two.
I do believe Dunant is right about one thing; payed helpers were not what we needed at that time. The payed hospital staff were shown to become lazy and harsh, not caring for those who were dying, with no way for them to be fixed, and generally had terrible bedside manners. If it wasn’t for the townspeople in all the cities that Dunant visited and that the soldiers ended up in, things could have gone a lot worse and thousands more people could have died.
This made me extremely sad, so here is a picture of a cat: