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    Description

    Extraordinary Book of Signatures of Officers from Libby Prison compiled by Union General Louis Palma di Cesnola, Commanding Officer of the 4th New York Cavalry, Medal of Honor Winner, and later, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This truly unique book, compiled by one of the most colorful generals in the Union Army, contains 223 signatures of the estimated 1000 officers held captive at the notorious Confederate Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to the signatures are the ranks and units of almost every officer who signed the book. The signatures were obtained within two years of the end of the Civil War by General Louis Palma di Cesnola, Count of Cesnola who was held at Libby Prison for nine months. Among the many officers who signed the book were Colonel Federico Fernández Cavada, who belonged to the Hot Air Balloon Unit of the Union Army, captured during the Battle of Gettysburg and later published a book titled Libby Life: Experiences of A Prisoner of War in Richmond, VA, 1863-64, which told about the cruel treatment which he received in the Confederate prison. Also in the book are the signatures of Captains Henry W. Sawyer and John M. Flinn, officers sentenced to death while prisoners at Libby Prison in 1863 in retaliation for the execution of two southern captains charged with espionage. Sawyer and Flinn were freed from their sentence, however, after intervention by President Lincoln, and exchanged for Confederate General William H. F. Lee (son of Robert E. Lee) and another captured southern officer. This octavo book, with over 60 pages, is perhaps the most complete contemporary collection of Libby prisoner signatures ever to be offered. Sold with several related documents and newspaper articles. The spine is weak and the covers scuffed. The internal pages are loose, but in very fine condition.

    Louis Palma di Cesnola, Count of Cesnola was born in Piedmont, Italy in 1832. When only seventeen he joined the army and served with distinction in the Wars for Italian Independence receiving his commission as a Lieutenant on the battlefield of Novara for personal bravery in March, 1849. At the close of the war he completed his education at the Military Academy at Cherasea, after which he served in the Crimean War. Di Cesnola came to the United States in 1860, and after teaching French and Italian, entered the United States military service as an instructor in tactics and cavalry drill. He raised a company of Italians for service here and was appointed Major of the Eleventh New York Cavalry, serving afterward as its Lieutenant Colonel, and then receiving a commission as Colonel of the Fourth New York Cavalry.

    It was for the Battle of Aldie in Virginia, June 17, 1863, that di Cesnola would receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. He told the story of the action that day, "...our regiment was ordered to charge several times in succession a force of cavalry in front of us which outnumbered the Fourth New York Cavalry ten to one; it was a senseless order, and a foolhardy and reckless act, which cost our regiment many precious lives; but we obeyed it. At the fifth charge to which I led you on that memorable day, my horse was shot dead under me. I was wounded by a saber cut on the head and a rifle bullet in my left arm, and you thought me dead; but I was only stunned by the blow. The enemy picked me up and sent me to Libby Prison." He spent nine months as a prisoner-of-war in Libby Prison. It was while there that he planned an uprising of prisoners at Libby and Belle Isle, at about the time of the successful attempt at tunneling out of the prison. He ended the war as a Brevet Brigadier General.

    At the close of the war President Lincoln appointed di Cesnola Consul to Larnica, on the Island of Cyprus. It was while he served in that capacity from 1865 to 1877 that he undertook excavations of Cypriote antiquities and he formed an incredible personal collection. Leaving Cyprus he offered his collection for sale. Although the government of France and the British Museum wanted the collection, the funds were just not available. The Cesnola collection was purchased by the newly established Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It was the purchase of that collection that was the beginning of the present museums extensive holdings of antiquities.

    General di Cesnola became a Trustee of the museum and its Secretary on June 21, 1877, becoming its Director two years later. He served as the Director until his death in 1904. He received the degree of Doctor of Laws from both Columbia and Princeton. He was also the recipient of a gold medal and various knightly honors from King Victor Emmanuel of Italy.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2011
    25th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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