Santa Anna’s Booty

If you explore museum collections you will notice that we have a lot of Santa Anna’s stuff.
How did we get it, and how did it end up in such diverse collections?

Mostly it is a result of the “booty auction” held April 26, 1836, where Texian officers and men bid on the spoils from the Battle of San Jacinto.

Most soldiers purchased practical things like saddles, mules, and muskets. But there were finer things to be had.

Here is an assortment of Santa Anna’s stuff, some from the booty auction, and some acquired by other means.

Santa Anna’s saddle. It was purchased at the booty auction by a group of Texian officers and presented to General Houston. It now resides at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum in Huntsville.

Santa Anna’s gold snuff box. Now at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. El Presidente had it on him when he was captured on April 22, 1836.

Santa Anna’s bed. This one has been hard to track down. It supposedly belongs to the Alamo collection, but is in storage. It would have featured a fancy canopy and a comfortable mattress. It’s unlikely his attendants left a chocolate on his pillow, but it’s thought that he enjoyed a Yellow Rose.
Santa Anna’s leg. And Santa Anna’s other leg. The Napoleon of the West lost his left leg below the knee in 1838, during the Pastry War with the French.

Yes, the Pastry War was a real thing, not some new show on the cooking channel. France used the supposed looting of a French pastry shop in Mexico City ten years earlier as an excuse to blockade Mexican ports and capture Vera Cruz.

The flesh and bone leg was buried with military honors, and Santa Anna, without missing a step, continued to plague the Mexican Republic on a leg made of cork.

The leg on the left was captured by the the Fourth Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry at the Battle of Cerro Gordo in 1848.

They surprised Santa Anna during lunch, and he made his escape on horseback, minus the leg. It is now at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield.

The leg on the right is displayed at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. I don’t know the back story on that one. 

Santa Anna’s sword. Santa Anna, of course, had many swords during his career, but this one is special: a cavalry saber presented to him when he first became President of Mexico in 1833.
At that time he was talking a good Federalist game and many in Texas thought he would be their savior. But Santa Anna could change with the wind and he soon became the Centralist’s Centralist.
The sword is inscribed “Lo de Sta Anna – Presidente – Mexico – 1833.
It has been in a private collection since the 1940s.

Santa Anna’s sterling silver soup tureen. Captured at San Jacinto, purchased at the booty auction, and given to General Houston.

It was donated to the Sam Houston Memorial Museum by Sam’s son, Andrew Jackson Houston.
But it’s not really a soup tureen.

According to Lonn Taylor in Texas Monthly a couple years ago, a letter in the museum’s files by one of Sam Houston’s grandsons reveals the truth.

A. J. Houston was embarrassed by his father’s trophy, and had a second handle added to disguise its true nature….It’s a chamber pot.

22 replies »

  1. Thanks for sharing. God pray we never lose the history of Santa Anna, Alamo Campaign, and birth of Texas.

    • Decorated AF Col told me of finding a strange statue on their farm near Lexington.
      An eagle eating a snake. Years later a guy drove up to their house and asked where they found it. He said it was a marker used to mark the payroll Santa Anna buried on the way to San Jacinto. Cut a deal with his father to look for it but never found anything but trinkets. They concluded the river had shifted since 1836. I suggested using GPR but could never get the project going.
      [email protected]

    • Santa Anna was responsible for making the map of Mexico what it is today. Lost Texas, and sold the Gadson Purchase. Congress shorted Mexico the payment, other wise Arizona would have ocean front property, well Sea of Cortes.

  2. Very interesting piece! I had no idea that they had a booty auction after San Jacinto. In all the reading of Texas history I’ve done this is the first time I’ve seen it mentioned. Good job of research to locate and identify these items.

  3. Yep — I describe the booty auction in the San Jacinto chapter of my forthcoming book, INSIDE THE TEXAS REVOLUTION: THE ENIGMATIC MEMOIR OF HERMAN EHRENBERG. It ought to be out by the end of May — we’re currently correcting the page proofs. One of the commentators on the booty auction was the Mexican Colonel Pedro Delgado, who saw his boots go up for sale “while my blistered feet were wrapped in rawhide.” The money that most Texas soldiers used to bid on the booty had just come from a load of Mexican silver coins that had been captured on the battlefield and distributed to the victorious troops. The book is being published by the Texas State Historical Association.

    • We have a couple of copies on pre-order and are anxiously been awaiting their arrival! When I put together our book of Goliad survivor narratives, I omitted Ehrenberg because previous translations were tainted and his claims seemed spurious…and because I was waiting on your book. Looking forward to it!

  4. Texas History is interesting and important to remember. If you don’t learn from history you will be destined to repeat it. Santa Anna was concerned there were too many illegal Americans coming into Mexico’s Texas but when he found out how many it was to late. It may be too late for Texas today. Just saying!

  5. My Sister was in The Daughters Of The Republic Of Texas. We had one relitive fight in the battle she looked up. I will get his name and post it.

    • My ancestor ( James George) died at the Alamo. He and 31 volunteers from Gonzales caring the flag COME and TAKE IT into the Alamo. Check outThe Immortal 32.

  6. I love Texas History! It needs to be taught everyday in the Texas classroom not a few minutes here and there. EVERYDAY
    Texas Texas Sam Houston’s last words!

  7. Mr. Crisp,
    I look forward to seeing your book and would enjoy the opportunity to talk with you at some point. The auction in my understanding was held at my third great grandfather’s place, Deep Water, where the entire Texian Army moved to after a few days of smelling all the dead bodies at the Battleground. He was Dr. George Moffitt Patrick. It was at his house that the Treaty with Mexico was initiated.

  8. I neglected to mention that a Gold pocket watch previously belonging to General Cos my 3rd great grandfather Patrick had is on display at the San Jacinto Monument Museum. Family legend has always held that Cos gave the watch to grandpa after receiving medical attention . I believe now that it is something Dr Patrick purchased at the auction. He also had a walking stick belonging to Santa Anna and that is on display at the Washington on the Brazos Museum.

  9. I don’t understand how SA lost his leg in The Pastry War of 1838, but his prosthesis was auctioned off in 1836. What actually happened?

  10. Thank you for the wonderful pictures and info. I didn’t know that they had an auction with all the stuff from the battle of San Jacinto.

  11. My 4th greatgrandfather, John Crockett Dunlap was David Crockett’s neighbor. He came to Texas in 1834 to train with B. F. Harding as a Tennessee Volunteer. On April 7, 1836 Austin formed The Washington County Guard from Harding’s 2nd Brigade, 2nd Regiment, of the Tennessee Volunteers of which 80 fought at San Jacinto. My grandfather was one of The Texas Rangers at San Jacinto.

  12. My maternal great grandmother ‘s uncle Jesse Billingsley was credited by J. Frank Dobie in “Coronado’s Children” for the famous battle cry “Remember the Alamo”. He is pictured in the famous painting of the capture of Santa Anna. I love Texas history!