184 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 2 MARCH 2020
ing to death. This was a hot Italian summer’s day. As the men rushed at the
enemy, they had all dumped their knapsacks, the better to be free to fight
unencumbered by equipment and water bottles. As a result wounded men,
unable to reach a source of water, suffered unremitting thirst under the blistering
Italian sun. Of course, they had no food either, so they were tortured
by thirst and hunger as well as by the wounds they had suffered. Dunant
concluded that had there been an organized body, equipped to transport
and care for the wounded immediately, many lives would have been saved.
As it was the wounded lay for up to three days without food and, more
important, without water and bereft of medical care.
Dunant devoted several days helping to collect up the wounded, tending
them in hospitals, improvised out of churches, barns and monasteries.
There was a desperate shortage of doctors. In the Chiesa Maggiore, Dunant
found 500 wounded who had been carried there and then forgotten. He
rounded up the women of the village to come and tend them.
Dunant spent until 1862 writing his book. He assembled a mass of material,
studied the official reports from all the combatants and wheedled maps
out of the possession of senior officers. He shut himself away in his apartment
close by Notre Dame. In October 1862 the book was finished and
printed “in fine type on handsome paper”. Dunant distributed the 1,600
copies to those of prominence whom he hoped he could influence: to
crowned heads and princes, ministers of war and of foreign affairs and others
in positions of importance and influence.
The book contained a plea for the establishment of societies in all countries,
to be inactive in time of peace, but ready to act in time of war. He envisioned
that they would be staffed by medical personnel, who would be
neutral. This was a central theme of Dunant’s crusade: the neutrality of the
societies and their objective, to care for all military personnel, regardless of
which side in the particular conflict they had been fighting for. The combatants
would be required to leave these medical personnel unharmed and
The book was an immediate success. It electrified all those who read it in
the capitals of Europe. The first edition was soon exhausted, so a second edition
was published in December. Dunant received messages from a collection
of influential people including Victor Hugo, Ferdinand de Lesseps (still
wrestling with his canal in Egypt) and the emperor himself.
But there was opposition. The French high command, all professional
warriors, dismissed the book as a menace. Marshall Vaillant was provoked
to comment that “the game has lost some of its zest since captured cities
were no longer burned and the garrisons slaughtered to the last man”.