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Biography of Santa Anna, General and President of Mexico


ANTONIO LÓPEZ DE SANTA ANNA (1794-1876)

Santa Anna was born in Jalapa, Veracruz, in 1794, the son of a wealthy Spanish colonial family. At an early age, Santa Anna showed no interest in schooln or working in the lucritive merchantile industry. When Santa Anna turned 16, he dropped out of the merchantile business and joined the Vera Cruz Infantry regiment. He soon realized this was his true passion. Almost immediately, Santa Anna was sent to action in the 1810 Mexican Revolution. Before long, Santa Anna was assigned to a calvary unit which was known for brutal charges, risk taking, and the execution of all prisoners. This early training would leave a lasting impression on Santa Anna and he essentially followed these same military tactics throughout his career.

TEXAS REBELLIAN AT COAHUILA

In 1813, Santa Anna's unit was sent to Coahuila-Texas to suppress a rebellion there. They brutally put down the rebellion and killed all prisoners. Word of the Mexican brutality spread throughout the Texas region. Over the coming years, Snata Anna continued to rise in power to the very top. By 1821, Santa Anna was promoted to Lt. Colonel and then Colonel by the Spanish Viceroy.

SANTA ANNA JOINS MEXICAN REBELLIAN

In 1821, Santa Anna switched sides and joined with the Mexicans in their revolution against the Spanish.

When Santa Anna defeated a Spanish general in battle, he was promoted him Chief of the Army's 11th Division.By 1822, Santa Anna was promoted to brigadier general and made commander of the Vera Cruz province.

GENERAL SANTA ANNA

By age 28, Santa Anna achieved the rank of General and started acquiring land (and eventually would own a large hacienda). He hung around gambling establishments and courted willing women.



In 1825, Santa Anna married a fourteen-year-old girl named Inés García , daughter of a prosperous Spaniard and sired four children. He acquired more land and became a prosperous gentleman farmer. However, he was soon bored with his marriage,and family and turned to wenching and gambling. He still missed the military life and he was no longer a national political factor.

By 1827, Santa Anna was back in the militaryhelping put down a conservative rebellion in 1827-28 led by vice president Nicolás Bravo and the Scottish rite Masonic lodges. as a reward, Santa Anna was named governor of Vera Cruz. In the 1828 elections, however, the states elected the conservative Manuel Pedraza as president and the liberal Vicente Guerrero, the incumbent government's candidate, as vice president. Santa Anna drove Pedraza from power. Guerrero became president with the conservative Anastatio Bustamante as vice president.

Santa Anna was promoted to division general, the highest available military rank in the Mexican army. In 1829, Santa Anna defeated an invading Spanish army at Tampico. The next month he returned to his home and, in early 1830, resigned his political and military assignments. Guerrero refused to discard his wartime emergency powers; his conservative vice president, Anastasio Bustamante overthrew him in 1830, imposed a dictatorship, and persecuted liberals. Guerrero, the old independence warhorse, was executed in 1831. The outburst following this barbarous act told Santa Anna which side would win.

EL PRESIDENTE

In 1832, Santa Anna raised an army and overthrew the government. Then, pretending he had an illness, Santa Anna returned home to Jalapa to wait for the 1833 presidential election. He knew that he was the logical choice to govern the troubled land, for he was the most popular and powerful man in the country. Santa Anna won the presidency in 1833 but he had little interest in governing. Once again, he pretended to be ill and dropped out of public view. Then in 1834, Santa Anna returned to the Presidency only to drop out again in 1835. At this time, he returned to Jalapa to lead an army into Zacatecas to suppress another revolt in May.

By 1835, Santa Anna once again established himself as a dictator in Mexico. His push for more power over the Anglo-American colonists and Tejanos alike, which resulted in the Texas revolution and cry for independence.

ANOTHER REVOLT IN TEXAS

In December of 1835, San Antonio de Bexar was under the control of Mexican General Perfecto de Cos with about 1200 soldiers from Mexico. For almost two months, Texas volunteers had camped near the town in a virtual standoff with Cos.



BEN MILAM LEADS THE CHARGE

The stalemate ended, however, when one of the Texas leaders, Ben Milam, returned from a brief absence to find that the Texans were about to retreat to Goliad.

Old Ben Milam was strongly opposed to the reteat and called out to the Texans with his now-famous words, "Who will go with old Ben Milam into San Antonio?" Some 300 volunteers responded.

Starting before daybreak on December 5, the Texans, led by Milam and Frank W. Johnson, began their siege. Against heavy odds in both men and artillery, the Texans skirmished for the next two days. On December 7, Milam was shot and killed. The death of their leader seemed to inspire the Texans as they engaged in house-to-house combat that continued for two more days.

THE TEXANS ARE VICTORIOUS

At daybreak on December 9, after four days of fighting, Cos signalled a Mexican truce. In exchange for the parole and return of Cos and his men to Mexico, the Texans gained all of the public property, guns and ammunition in San Antonio.

When word of the victory by the rebelling anglos reached Santa Anna, he immediately organized an army and headed for San Antonio to put down the rebellious Texians.

THE RUNAWAY SCRAPE

Word that Santa Anna himself was leading an army to crush the Texas rebellion cause panic back in Texas as scores of Texans packed what they could into covered wagons and left their homes in terror fleeing the approaching army. This became known as the Runaway Scrape and occurred just prior to the fall of the Alamo.

THE SIEGE OF THE ALAMO

Santa Anna's army arrived in San Antonio about the 23rd of February in 1836. As news of Santa Anna’s approach spread, some 145 Texans in the area took refuge in the fortified grounds of an old mission known as the Alamo, under the joint command of William B. Travis (for the regular army) and Jim Bowie (for the volunteers).

Over the following two weeks, the Mexican forces lay siege to the Alamo while reenforcements strengthened the Mexican army to over 2000 troops. During the same period, a few reinforcements for the Texans answered Travis' famous Appeal for Aid and managed to penetrate enemy lines and enter the Alamo grounds, bringing the total strength of the Alamo defenders to about 189 men.

BATTLE OF THE ALAMO (March 6, 1836)

After heavy bombardment of the Alamo by cannon fire, the Mexicans under General Santa Anna stormed the Alamo on the morning of March 6, 1836. About 1,800 assault troops advanced into range but concentrated cannon and rifle fire,from the Alamo walls caused the Mexican soldiers to halt and reform. Then they continued to drive forward. Col. Travis, among the first to die in the Alamo. Under overwhelming odds, the Texians were forced back off the walls of the Alamo where they withdrew to the dim rooms of the Long Barracks. There some of the bloodiest hand-to-hand fighting occurred. The assault lasted a little over an hour and an estimated 7 Texians survived the battle. True to form, Santa Anna ordered their execution. Currently, 189 defenders appear on the official list, but ongoing research may increase the final tally to as many as 257.

SURVIVORS OF THE ALAMO

Susanna Dickenson, the wife of one of the defenders, her baby, and a servant of Travis were spared to help spread the word of how futile it was to resist against the powerful Mexican army. Though Santa Anna had his victory, the common Mexican soldiers paid the price with killed and wounded estimated at about 600.

GOLIAD MASSACRE

Santa Anna and his army then set out in Search of Sam Houston’s army but met with little success. On March 27, 1836, the Mexicans captured Goliad and over 300 unarmed Texan prisoners were massacred.

Sam Houston and his meager army of Texas of around 700 untrained soldiers retreated to east Texas in the spring of 1836. This tactic allowed more time for Houston to build up his army with volunteers that were arriving almost daily and to give the men time for much needed training.

However, Houston’s troops were becoming increasingly impatient as they made their way through the Big Thicket in east Texas under the skillful guide of the Alabama Caushadda Indians who knew the region like the back of their hands.

Meanwhile, Santa Anna with his large army and heavy cannon became bogged down in the wetlands of east texas. This led to a tactical mistake. He split his army up into several smaller armies and led a group of approximately a thousand men toward the coast to block any possible escape of Houston’s army by sea.

BATTLE OF SAN JACINTO

On the morning of April 19, 1836, Houston and his army reached Buffalo Bayou, a few miles southeast of present day Houston. The Texans crossed over and marched down the right bank of Buffalo Bayou to within half a mile of where the Bayou joined with the San Jacinto River. Here, the Texas army prepared their defenses on the edge of a grove of trees. Their rear was protected by timber and the bayou, while in front of them them was an open prairie.

On the following morning (April 20), Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna came marching across the prairie in battle array. Santa Anna was in no hurry as he had sent out runners to find some of his scattered armies and time to get more cannons in for the battle.

The Texans fired a volley from the "Twin Sisters" artillery which brought Santa Anna’s army to a sudden halt.The Mexicans fell back to a clump of trees a quarter of a mile away where Santa Anna formed a line of battle. Colonel Sidney Sherman, at the head of the Texas cavalry, charged the Mexican army, but accomplished little except to inspire the Texans with fresh enthusiasm for the following day.

Santa Anna was in no hurry as he had sent out runners to find some of his scattered armies and he needed time to get more cannons to arrive for the coming battle.



TEXANS VICTORIOUS IN BATTLE FOR INDEPENDENCE AT SAN JACINTO

On the morning of April 21, 1836, the Texas army numbering about 750 men were about to be engaged by 1500 of Santa Anna’s finest troups. Santa Anna was over confident because of the relatively easy successes he had enjoyed at the Alamo and Goliad missions where he had vast superiority in manpower and cannons and he failed to take into account the strategy that Sam Houston put into play.

Without waiting for Mexican reenforcements to arrive , Houston sent Deaf Smith, the celebrated Texas spy, with two or three men, to destroy Vince's bridge over which the Mexican army had passed, which cut off any escape for the Mexicans. When Houston's long awaited order to advance was given, the Texans did not hesitate. When within seventy yards the word "fire" was given, the Texan shouts of "Remember the Alamo" and "Remember Goliad" rang along the entire line.

Within 18 minutes, 700 Mexicans were slain, with another 730 taken as prisoners. The battle for Texas was won. They attacked Santa Anna's army while it was sleeping, and, in a battle lasting only 18 minutes, routed the Mexican army and captured Santa Anna. To obtain his release, he signed two treaties, recognizing Texas independence and promising never to fight Texas again.

DEFEATED, GENERAL SANTA ANNA RETURNS TO MEXICO

The defeat at San Jacinto and the subsequent loss of Texas cost Santa Anna the presidency, for he returned to Mexico in disgrace. His assertions that the treaties meant nothing because he had signed under duress and only as a private citizen carried little weight. Mexico repudiated the treaties but the U.S. recognized Texas independence in 1837; Mexico refused to do so.

DOWN BUT NOT OUT

Santa Anna was down but not out. In 1838 a ludicrous skirmish took place which became known as the Pastry War. A French baker in Mexico City claimed his shop had been looted and demanded compensation from the Mexican government. He was backed up by the French government, which was trying to pressure Mexico into a trade agreement, and a bombardment of Veracruz ensued. Santa Anna, who was among the defenders, lost his right leg below the knee in the engagement. Though a body part may have been lost, honor was regained. Employing his skills at self-promotion to the hilt, Santa Anna became the "hero of Veracruz" and the San Jacinto debacle was forgotten.

SANTA ANNA REGAINS DICTATORSHIP

On October 6, 1841, Santa Anna rode into Mexico City in a luxurious carriage drawn by four white horses and assumed power as dictator. This time he ruled in person, with his greed equaled only by his extravagance. To raise money, he exponentially raised taxes and sold phony mining shares to foreign investors. But the increased revenues were frittered away by such extravagances as outfitting a uniformed private army and giving an endless round of fiestas, most of them in his own honor. The comedy came to end in 1842 when the treasury dried up and the army was unable to collect its pay. Forced out by a rebellion, Santa Anna went into hiding in the rugged mountains of his native state. Apprehended by government troops in 1845, he was exiled to Cuba and forbidden from reentering Mexico for ten years.

US-MEXICAN WAR(1846)

Santa Anna began corresponding with U. S. President James K. Polk and in 1846 persuaded him that he was the only man who could solve the dispute over Texas. Polk, taking the bait, ordered American warships to allow safe passage for Santa Anna to land at Veracruz. No sooner had he set foot on shore than Santa Anna double crossed Polk and began to organize resistance against the U. S.

When war began, the president of Mexico was Santa Anna's former vice president, Valentín Gómez Farías. Gómez Farías promptly named Santa Anna generalissimo of Mexico's armed forces. During the war, Santa Anna remained true to form. Using his superb organizing ability, he raised an army of 18,000 despite a depleted treasury and came within a whisker of defeating General Zachary Taylor at Buena Vista. Yet his vanity resulted in a crucial defeat against the army of Winfield Scott marching on Mexico City. Wanting to hog all the glory, Santa Anna pulled his forces out so another general would not get credit for a successful defense of the capital.

Santa Anna was again exiled but returned to Mexico in 1866 and tried to ingratiate himself with Maximilian by proclaiming himself a monarchist. But Maximilian, more liberal than he has been given credit for, sent him packing. He returned again in 1867, when Juárez was in power. Juárez, who had once been jailed by Santa Anna, returned the favor before again sending Santa Anna into exile.

DEATH OF SANTA ANNA, July 20, 1876

Though Santa Anna never again regained power, he was allowed to return to Mexico in 1874. The first thing he did was to demand a large pension on grounds of "past services to the nation." In refusing the petition, the government must have felt like that mythical judge who hears the appeal of the "orphan" who has killed his parents. Santa Anna spent his last three years living on the bounty of his son-in-law. He died on July 20, 1876.











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