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Solferino(sōlfārē`nō), village, Lombardy, N Italy, near Mantua. There, on June 24, 1859, the French and Sardinians fought a bloody battle with the Austrians (see RisorgimentoRisorgimento
[Ital.,=resurgence], in 19th-century Italian history, period of cultural nationalism and of political activism, leading to unification of Italy. Roots of the Risorgimento
..... Click the link for more information. ). 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 VeronaVillafranca di Verona
, town (1991 pop. 27,036), Venetia, NE Italy. In 1859, Napoleon III and Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria met there after the Austrian defeats at Magenta and Solferino and signed a preliminary peace treaty, which was formalized the same year by the Treaty
..... Click the link for more information. , where a preliminary peace was arranged. By a coincidence, J. Henry DunantDunant, Jean Henri
, 1828–1910, Swiss philanthropist and founder of the International Red Cross, b. Geneva. In 1862 appeared his Un souvenir de Solférino (tr.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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).
a village southwest of Verona in Mantua Province.
On June 24,1859, a battle took place near Solferino during the War of Italian Liberation (Austro-Italo-French War of 1859). After a defeat at Magenta, the Austrian troops withdrew across the Mincio River. When the attacking Italian and French troops under the command of Emperor Napoleon III and King Victor Emmanuel II (169,000 men, of which 122,000 were involved in the battle) reached the Mincio, two Austrian armies under the command of Emperor Francis Joseph I (173,000 men, of which 120,000 were involved in the battle) advanced across the river. The battle consisted of frontal meeting engagements at three different points. It revealed the superiority of the French rifled artillery, which caused great losses to the Austrians, and the unsuita-bility of the column tactics used by both sides to meet new battle conditions. The French succeeded to some extent in confining the Austrian center, after which Francis Joseph issued the order to retreat. In the words of Engels: “This was random mutual destruction; there was no talk of tactical leadership from either the French or the Austrian side” (F. Engels in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 13, p. 599).
The Austrians lost a total of 22,000 men, and the French and Italians 17,000. The defeat of tue Austrian troops stimulated an upsurge in the national liberation movement in Italy, which frightened Napoleon III and moved him to conclude quickly the separate Treaty of Villafranca (1859) with Austria.