Luigi Palma di Cesnola : biography
Luigi Palma di Cesnola (July 29, 1832 – November 20, 1904), an Italian-American soldier and amateur archaeologist, was born in Rivarolo Canavese, near Turin. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the American Civil War.
Medal of Honor citation
Rank and organization: Colonel, 4th New York Cavalry. Place and date: At Aldie, Va., June 17, 1863. Entered service at: New York, N.Y. Born: June 29, 1832, Rivarola, Piedmont, Italy. Date of issue: Unknown.
At the start of the battle at Aldie, Cesnola was placed under arrest by his superior officer for protesting the promotion of a less experienced officer to brigadier general. He was stripped of his saber and sidearm. Without Cesnola the Fourth New York Cavalry balked repeatedly when asked to charge a hillside gun battery. The commanding general knew Cesnola was needed to rally the unit. He said, "Colonel, you are a brave man. You are released from arrest. Here is my own sword. Take it and bring it back to me covered in the enemy's blood." When he entered the battle "the regiment arrived on the scene of conflict, and by a gallant charge, turned apparent defeat into a glorious victory four our arms, completely routing the enemy and cutting off nearly 100 men, all of whom were captured." At the close of the battle Cesnola was found in a field lying under his own horse, wounded on the head by a saber and on the arm by a minie ball.
As the son of a count, he joined the Sardinian army at the age of 17, and served in the First Italian War of Independence, rising to the rank of second lieutenant. He was later dismissed for unknown reasons, and subsequently served with the British Army in the Crimean War. In 1860 he went to New York, where he taught Italian and French and founded a military school for officers. He took part in the American Civil War as colonel of a cavalry regiment, serving under the name Louis P. di Cesnola. At the Battle of Aldie (June 1863), Colonel di Cesnola was wounded and taken prisoner. He received a Medal of Honor for his efforts during the battle. He was released from Libby Prison early in 1864 when the Union Agent for Prisoner Exchange offered a personal friend of Jefferson Davis as barter. He served in the Wilderness and Petersburg campaigns (1864–65) as a commander of a cavalry brigade but was not promoted to brigadier general. Although he was nominated for appointment to the brevet grade of brigadier general to rank from March 13, 1865 after the end of the war, the U.S. Senate never confirmed his appointment (contrary to the inscription on his grave stone).Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3. p. 594Also, di Cesnola's name is not listed in Hunt, Roger D. and Jack R. Brown, Brevet Brigadier Generals in Blue. Gaithersburg, MD: Olde Soldier Books, Inc., 1990. ISBN 1-56013-002-4. After the war, he was appointed United States consul at Larnaca in Cyprus (1865–1877).
The burial location of Louis Palma Di CesnolaDuring his stay on Cyprus he carried out excavations (especially around the archaeological site of Kourion), which resulted in the discovery of a large number of antiquities. The collection was purchased by the newly expanded Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Cesnola became the first director in 1879. Doubt having been thrown by the art critic Clarence Cook,"Clarence Cook Dead", The New York Times, June 3, 1900 and by Gaston L. Feuardent,"Gaston L. Feuardent," The New York Times, June 13, 1893 in an article in the New York Herald (August 1880), upon the genuineness of his restorations, the matter was referred to a special committee, which pronounced in his favor. In Cyprus however, his actions are still considered to tantamount to looting.
The footstone of Louis Palma Di CesnolaHe is the author of Cyprus, its ancient Cities, Tombs and Temples (1877), a travel book of considerable service to the practical antiquary; and of a Descriptive Atlas of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriote Antiquities (3 volumes, 1884–1886). He died in New York and was interred at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, NY. He was a member of several learned societies in Europe and America.
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