International Scope of the Work Dates from the Geneva Convention
The following history of the Red Cross Society published in the Renville Star Farmer of last week will be of interest to local people who are greatly interested in the work at present:
“The Red Cross, now recognized by all the civilized nations of the world, is the one organization that carries comfort and mercy to every battlefield and every scene of suffering.
“Nations that meet with swords in their hands ground arms before its stations. The flag with the red cross on the white field gives protection and swift aid to the wounded of both sides. It does not inquire into the reason of the quarrel that stretched the wounded soldier on the field. It knows no foe, no nation, no race in its work of mercy. It is the emblem of all peoples and it ministers to all alike.
“The international character of the work of the Red Cross dates from the Geneva convention of 1864. Previous to that the ministrations to the wounded in war fell separately upon each nation. Generally, such aid as the wounded received was given by the medical service of the armies engaged. It was never equal to the task.
“In the American Civil War the United States Sanitary Commission undertook the work of relief and aided by numerous independent organizations which raised money and furnished supplies, it accomplished much. It was the work of this commission that largely gave direction to the efforts of the Geneva convention and furnished it with the emblem now known as the Red Cross. But the Commission was a make-shift and unsatisfactory. It was temporary and something permanent was needed.
“The two great European wars immediately preceding the American struggle–the war in the Crimea and the Franco-Austrian conflict–first opened the eyes of the world to the necessity of supplementing the work of the army surgeons in the field. Florence Nightingale had gone into the hospitals of the Crimea and what she saw and communicated to the world there, as well as her how heroic work for the summer, shocked England and the work into a sense of responsibility for such conditions. This was the first awakening and the humanity thus stirred was kept alive by the work of Henri Dunant in the Austrian war that followed.
“Dunant was a Swiss traveler in Italy when in 1859, the French, Austrians, and Sardinians met in the terrible battle of Solferino. He came upon the field where 50,000 dead and wounded soldiers lay uncared for, and the scenes he beheld there led him to dedicate his life to the work of bringing about an international agreement whereby the horrors of war might be somehow lessened. He began his work upon that field. He organized the women of the neighborhood for service. “A wounded enemy is an enemy no longer,” he told them.
“After the war, Dunant began a systematic campaign among the governments of Europe to win them over to his idea of an international compact whereby the hospital and ambulance services on the battlefields should be neutralized. The Geneva treaty was the result and from that seed sprang the worldwide organization now known as the Red Cross.”