Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

I Am Not Making This Up – Santa Anna Was A Leg Man

Written By: Tracy - Sep• 12•16

Most know General Antonio López de Santa Anna as the man who ordered the slaughter of Texas Defenders (including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie) at the Battle of the Alamo, lost at the battle of San Jacinto, served as president of Mexico 11 times, and eventually became known as “the Napoleon of the West.”

But less well known, is Santa Anna’s obsession with his own leg. 

Two years after the battle of San Jacinto, during the “pastry war” of 1838 (which was not a giant pie fight, as awesome as that sounds), the French and Mexico were at war. Santa Anna had to have his leg amputated after being wounded while defending Vera Cruz from the invading French.

Four years later, (in between his sixth and seventh time serving as president of Mexico) Santa Anna held a state funeral for his leg, complete with cannonade salutes, speeches, prayers and poems dedicated to himself. He then buried the leg in a fancy vessel beneath a monument to his own awesome.

Santa Anna then used the publicity from his state funeral to win another term as president. During parades, he would hold his prosthetic leg up so that people could see that he’d made sacrifices on behalf of Mexico. (He had three prosthetics made. One was a simple peg leg. The other two were expensive, custom cork prosthetics with a foot on a ball bearing. Each fitted with a square-toed boot.)

Two years after burying his leg, Santa Anna would lose two of the prosthetics (one of the custom legs, and the peg) to the Americans (because the entire southwest was not enough). During a battle, he was eating lunch when the 4th Illinois infantry surprised him. The president general jumped on a horse and rode away, leaving his lunch, his gold and his legs behind. 

The custom prosthetic leg is the centerpiece of a diorama at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield. The display shows Illinois troops seizing Santa Anna’s camp. 

Only the leg is authentic here.

The peg leg was used as a baseball bat and is on display at the Oglesby Manor in Decatur Illinois. 

Mexico and Texas have both asked that Illinois give up the prosthetic legs (and have been turned down). The story of the leg has been featured on the tv show “King of the Hill.”

Santa Anna’s interred actual leg was dug up by an angry mob, dragged through the streets and thrown onto a garbage heap. 

He served as President of Mexico 11 times, lived in and out of exile, died in 1876 and was buried with full military honors. Unlike his leg, he was not dug up and thrown on a trash pile. 

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