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Solferino (sōlfārēˈnō) [key], village, Lombardy, N Italy, near Mantua. There, on June 24, 1859, the French and Sardinians fought a bloody battle with the Austrians (see Risorgimento). Although the battle resulted in no clear decision, the Austrians withdrew to their strategic fortresses. Napoleon III, shocked by the huge losses and aware of the difficulties of continuing the war, soon afterward met Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria at Villafranca di Verona, where a preliminary peace was arranged. By a coincidence, J. Henry Dunant, the Swiss philanthropist, was present at the battle, which he described in Un Souvenir de Solférino. His experience in witnessing the battle later inspired him to promote the Red Cross (founded 1864).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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