Henry Dunant, son of a Geneva francophone upper class bourgeoisie family, works for a Swiss exploitation company in French Algeria; when the colonists are thirsty, he returns determined to convince the firm and emperor Napoleon III to build a dam for them. After his Uncle, Dr. Hubert Dunant, diagnoses him not with Algerian typhus, just malaria, also his first meeting -dropping drawers in hospital for a shot- with nurse Cécile Thuillier, and meeting his careerist brother Daniel's fiancée, Léonie Bourg-Thibourg, daughter of the firm's boss, the board approves his plan. On his way to the emperor, who didn't even concede to receive him, Henry gets stuck in Castiglione, part of the Austrian province Lombardy which French troops came to 'liberate'; his Geneva friend Dr. Louis Appia saves his life by presenting him to suspicious Austrian troops as his medical assistant, and he soon gets passionate about senseless cruelties of war while helping out with what he learned from grandpa. Cécile, part of a godsend shipment of Swis staff and supplies, becomes his right hand and true love. After French troops take the village and reinstate senseless abuses, his letters home, published in Geneva by family friend journalist Samuel Lowenthal, whose newspaper gets attacked too, the unprecedented shocking first-hand truth about war cruelty, start enough public commotion to make his plans eventual turn true in the form of the now worldwide indispensable, strictly neutral humanitarian last resort for all in need, the International Red Cross, named after the symbol Dunant devised by painting in blood the Christian symbol French and Austrians had in common as Catholic nations to safely evacuate from Castiglione.