Having served in the Austrian and Crimean Wars, in 1860 he went to New York, where he taught Italian and Frenh 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, served in the Wilderness and Petersburg campaigns (1864-65) as a brigadier of cavalry, and at the close of the war was breveted brigadier-general. He was then appointed United States consul at Larnaca in Cyprus (1865-1877).
During 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, and by Gaston L. Feuerdant, 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.
He 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. He was a member of several learned societies in Europe and America.
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Hiram Hitchcock. The explorations of Di Cesnola in Cyprus