Civil War hero Luigi Palma di Cesnola

Jul 23, 2021 92

The first Italian American to earn the Medal of Honor, Luigi Palma di Cesnola was instrumental in establishing the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Cavalliere Emmanuele Pietro Paolo Maria Luigi Palma di Cesnola would never be mistaken for the “Modern Major General,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s satirical take on the overly educated officers of 19th-century England. While Cesnola didn’t know everything “vegetable, animal and mineral,” he knew enough about the martial, pedagogical and archeological to more than get by.

Cesnola led an amazing life, fighting wars on three continents, marrying an American blue blood and conducting groundbreaking archaeological digs in Cyprus. Born near Torino into a military family of lesser nobility in the Kingdom of Piedmont in 1832, he was the second son of a count and countess. Given the laws of primogeniture, which dictate the first son inherits the title, he had to make his own way in the world.

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