The confrontation was between the Austrians, then engaged in an incursion into northern Italy, and the French and Sardinian forces who opposed their advance. The battle was a particularly gruelling one, lasting over nine hours and resulting in over 40,000 casualties and 6,000 deaths. In the end, the Austrian forces were forced to yield their positions.
This battle would have a long-term effect on the future conduct of military actions. Henri Dunant, who witnessed the battle in person, was motivated by the horrific suffering of wounded soldiers left on the battlefield to begin a campaign that would eventually result in the Geneva Conventions.