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.

2 replies »

  1. 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.

Speak Your Piece: