Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What Happened to General Santa Anna?

By Celia Yeary

"Captured in Silk Underdrawers" might have been a newspaper headline on April 22, 1836, when Santa Anna and his army had been defeated at the Battle of San Jacinto the day before.

A few weeks earlier, General Santa Anna had taken command of the Mexican army that invaded Texas in 1836. His forces defeated all rebels at the Alamo, and then he had personally ordered the execution of 400 Texan prisoners after the Battle of Goliad.

These two victories planted the seeds for Santa Anna's defeat.

"Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember Goliad!" became the call for the Texan army to re-group and march to San Jacinto.

Gen. Santa Anna brought before Sam Houston
After the San Jacinto defeat, Sam Houston, the leader of the Texas army, had been injured with a musket ball to the ankle. He was reclining under a tree, when two soldiers hauled a Mexican to him and reported that his own men addressed him as "El Presidente, Excelencio Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna y Perez de LeBron, Presidente de laRepublica y Comandante del Ejercitio de Mejico."
It is said that Santa Anna had been hiding in the bulrushes in his silk underdrawers.

Now Sam Houston had a problem. What should he do with the Mexican general?
Hang him? The army of Texans and the citizens wanted him to swing from the nearest tree. Sam Houston might have been the only man to recognize just how stupid that act would be.

Houston is reported to have said, "Santa Anna alive is the President of Mexico, and we've got him. Santa Anna dead is just another dead Mexican."

The small General Santa Anna found himself alone amidst the very people he'd been bullying, and they were very angry. If the Texans hung the general, Sam Houston knew Mexico would regard the execution as a mortal insult.

Texas won San Jacinto by a fluke, and nobody knew that better than Sam Houston himself. If the Mexican army had been ready for battle instead of being taken by surprise, Houston's small undisciplined "Texas army" would have been decimated.

The execution of Santa Anna also would probably unite all of Mexico, even though Santa Anna was generally disliked. If that happened, Mexico might have waged a vengeful national war against the exhausted, disorganized, undisciplined, and underarmed Texans.

In the end, Santa Anna signed the Treaty of Velasco that gave Texas freedom from Mexico.

Santa Anna was released in Texas and returned to Mexico a powerless man.

However, during the next twenty years, Santa Anna schemed with groups in Mexico to gain, lose, and regain dictatorial power a total of eleven times.

He was a brilliant man with a lust for power, but ultimately Santa Anna was loyal only to himself.
How Santa Anna really looked.
Trivia about Santa Anna:

~*~Upon his return to Mexico, he engaged the French in Veracruz. During the Mexican retreat after a failed assault, Santa Anna was hit in the hand and leg by cannon fire. Much of his leg required amputation. He ordered that his leg be buried with full military honors.

~*~Some say Santa Anna was in his tent on the morning of the San Jacinto battle with a "high yellow" Negress named Emily West aka. Emily Morgan, and that in seducing him, helped facilitate the Texan victory.

~*~Santa Anna lived in exile in Cuba, Staten Island NY, Colombia, and St. Thomas.

~*~He had two nicknames: The Napoleon of the West, and The Eagle.

~*~ He was married twice.

~*~He had four legitimate children, and at least seven illegitimate children.

~*~He died in poverty at age 82 in Mexico City

Thank you for reading.
Celia Yeary

Wikimedia Commons
Handbook of Texas History On-line.
Texas Tales Your Teacher Never Told You, by C. F. Eckhardt
Some statements about Santa Anna may or may not be true. Historians have written some events differently.


  1. Fascinating analysis of a seminal moment in history, Celia! I've always thought Sam Houston demonstrated true brilliance in resisting his gut impulse in this case. His quote always makes me smile. The words seem snarky and a little un-PC today, but at the time he said them, I'm sure Houston was deadly earnest.

  2. He didn't have a leg to stand on! http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/18808

  3. Did you know that Santa Anna (inadvertently) was also responsible for the development a a real American favorite, chewing gum?

  4. Amazing factoids about Santa Anna. I see him in such a different light now. What an arrogant little jerk. I see restraint gave Sam Houston just the edge he needed. Pretty smart move.
    Loved your blog.

  5. Kathleen--I think Sam Houston was ridiculed for attacking at dawn when all the Mexican Army was asleep or had just awakened. But what would you do? But his foresight...as you say, brilliance...in resisting the impulse to hang him was truly the right thing to do.
    Sam Houston's quote? Definitely, it is politically incorrect today, but...true in this case.

  6. Troy--you're too funny. Of course. The man was so arrogant he had his leg buried with full military honors. Really, isn't that funny?

  7. Kit-Even though I answered on the loop, I answer it here, too. Yes, isn't that the weirdest thing? Remember Chiclets, the little squares of chewing gum the little Mexican children sell on the streets of Mexico? How interesting.

  8. Sarah--I love that! Yes, he was little, and he was arrogant, and he was a jerk. He craved power his entire life. His portrait looks like a handsome virile man...didn't even look like him as a young man. But you see the real SA--a chubby short man.
    But he was vicious.
    Thanks for you comment--loved it!

  9. Interesting trivia about Santa Anna. Houston undoubtedly did the right thing for Texas by letting him live, just too bad the murdering egomaniac lived to inflict more misery on his own countrymen.

  10. Interesting post, Celia. I don't think I'd ever heard the silk Under drawers part. He certainly was a handsome man in his younger years. Not too good looking as he aged.

  11. Great post, Celia. Very interesting to find out how he fell from grace and ended up. I love Sam Houston's quote.

  12. I hadn't heard about the silk undies either. Fascinating. And I love all these posts for refreshing my limited knowledge of Texas History. It's been awhile since I had to study it. LOL.

  13. I hadn't heard about the silk undies either. Fascinating. And I love all these posts for refreshing my limited knowledge of Texas History. It's been awhile since I had to study it. LOL.

  14. Lyn--it seemed that Santa Anna was born to wage war. It was all about power. Because they called him the Napoleon of the West tells you that he was a small man in stature, and he tried to make up for it by wielding an iron fist. He was brilliant, it is said, which gave him a big advantage.

  15. Linda--there were different stories about what he wore when he was captured. The idea was that he'd been in bed just like all the other soldiers. I found the "silk underdrawers" in a Texana book titled "Things About Texas Your Teacher Never Told You." Dac Crossley, our adopted Sweetheart, sent it to me.
    Thanks for the comment!

  16. Cheryl--We couldn't talk like Sam Houston did today--we'd be ticketed by the Politically Correct officers. But ol' Sam, he talked however he wanted.

  17. Ciara--oh, I love Texas trivia. There are countless stories to draw from, aren't there? I've been asked why all my books are set in Texas--my answer--I can find story material as long as I live!

  18. Hey Celia,

    I read your post about Santa Anna with interest. Isn't it interesting how the fate of battles often depends on a little thing here or there. In much of our Civil War history, if one side or anther had come at a different angle or a different time, it would have been all-she-wrote.

    I have a question for you. Are the Santa Ana winds any relation to General Santa Anna?

  19. Maggie--It's true about Civil War battles, I'm sure. You'd know more about those than I do. Funny, I say the CW is not of great interest to Texans, but I've learned the interest depends on which part of Texas you live in--Central Texas--nothing, really. North Texas--I think it's mentioned more in memorials and monuments. I knew little about the CW until we toured one of the major CW cemeteries in Mississippi.

    As to the name of the Santa Ana Winds, I was so interested, I researched the idea they were named after General Santa Anna.. no, but some think that. There are several theories about the winds. The best theory is that early settlers named the winds after the Santa Ana Canyon in California, from which they supposedly originated.
    Good question.

  20. I admire your use of illustrations.


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