StMU Research Scholars

Featuring Scholarly Research, Writing, and Media at St. Mary’s University

December 2, 2016

General Santa Anna’s Early Military Life

Young Santa Anna in the Military | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Santa Anna is one of the foremost figures in Mexico’s national history. His long life spanning eighty years was filled with important events and persons who influenced the history of Mexico for nearly a half of a century. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was born on February 21, 1794, in the province of Vera Cruz in eastern New Spain, now modern day Mexico.1 The last decade of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century was full of chaos and dynamic changes in the relationship between Spain and its colonies. During the independence movements from 1810 to 1824, many colonies revolted against the mother country. These uprisings in Spain’s colonies aided Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. Santa Anna was born into this era of chaos, revolution, and almost continual warfare.2

General Santa Anna is in the Presidency | Courtesy of WIkipedia

Santa Anna intermittently became the president of Mexico. He headed the nation on eleven occasions. It is important to understand his transition from the army to the presidency. Santa Anna developed an early interest in the military life. His keen interest in the military can be easily seen in his writings from one of his early journals; he wrote in his journal thoughts he had as a child, that the army was for him “the glorious carrier of arms, feeling in a true vocation.”3 His long journey in serving his nation began at the age of sixteen, on June 9, 1810, when he joined the Spanish army. He started as an infantry soldier, and transferred to the cavalry unit eventually. The cavalry units required more experienced and skilled soldiers. His commanders could easily see his talent for warfare and strategy. After a year of training, his first military mission took place in 1811, against rebels in Nuevo Santander. Santa Anna’s first direct action was capturing and executing the bandit leader. His commanders applauded him for his courageous action. Moreover, his most distinguished activity during his early military life occurred on May 10, 1812; while fighting with insurgents, he fought ferociously and his commander lauded Santa Anna’s courageousness and called him “dignified.”4 During his battles with rebels, he suffered several wounds, specifically a severe wound on his left arm. However, his wounds did not stop him. Santa Anna fought against rebels throughout his career in the military. His service in the army was even recognized by the Spanish King, and he was promoted to second-lieutenant.5 Young Santa Anna was being promoted rapidly. In a short amount of time, he became a captain. To the experienced eye, his heroism and sagacious leadership made him a promising candidate for the General position in the Army.

Santa Anna gained much prestige in 1829 when he fought against Spain’s attempt to reconquer Mexico. During this battle, he defeated the 2,700 Spanish soldiers under command of General Barradas. After this victory, Santa Anna became known as the Hero of Tampico. This glory significantly helped him to become the President in 1831. His turbulent political life started after these promotions in the army, in which he intermittently came to power eleven times.

Santa Anna became one of the foremost figures in Mexico’s history through his courage in the military and the feeling of serving for his nation.

  1.  Oakah Jones, Santa Anna (New York, Twayne Publishers 1968), 67.
  2. Jones, Santa Anna, 67.
  3. Jones, Santa Anna, 49.
  4. Wilfrid Hardy Callcott, Santa Anna: The Story of an Enigma Who Once Was Mexico (University of Oklahoma Press, 1936), 365.
  5. Skipper Steely, Santa Anna: prisoner of war in Texas (Wright Press, 1986), 73.

Tags from the story


Santa Anna


Recent Comments

Raymond Davila

This article was interesting because when i learned about Santa Anna and like most Texans, especially people from San Antonio, we learn about the Alamo and later his defeat that lead to Texas’ independence from Mexico. We never really learned about his exceptional and somewhat heroic early military service that allowed him to be well respected in Mexico which later helped become President in 1831.



7:55 am

Edgar Ramon

This definitely could have used some more storytelling and information, the story of Santa Ana is a good one. Of course this man was more of a leader of men at arms, than he was a stabilizing politician. His central power was not enough to keep the whole of Mexico content, and not necessarily under control. Having had to go to war was partly his fault for having such restrictive policies for business. He did have Mexico’s best interest at heart, just not the head to govern effectively.



7:55 am

Didier Cadena

I was not familiar with Santa Anna’s early life, so this was an interesting article to read. I am only familiar with his life during the Texan revolution, so it was engaging to see that he had always wanted to be a general. I do wish that the article was a bit longer, but what was here did have a good amount of information. The article does a great job of telling his early life in a way that is interesting to read.



7:55 am

Suvesh Vasal

I never liked Santa Ana because of what he did at the Alamo. However, after reading this article I have no choice but to respect him. It is amazing to me how fast he progressed through the army at such a young and inexperienced age. And the article did a good job of explaining how he did so with immense detail. The quotes were also very helpful and gave a personal touch to the article.



7:55 am

Engelbert Madrid

Many Texans recognize Santa Anna as the Mexican general that defeated the Alamo, but I’m glad this article focused on the positive highlights of his heroic acts for the Mexican and Spanish people. For what I understood from the article was that Santa Anna was courageous and he demonstrated that he could be a leader. I enjoyed reading this article.



7:55 am

Danielle Slaughter

Obviously, as a Texan, I’ve never been exactly fond of Santa Anna. However, I must respect his military prowess and patriotism to his own nation. Although somewhat of a dictator around the time of the Texas Revolution, he still managed to hold Mexico together both through that and the Spaniards’ attempts to reconquer the land. Lovely but short article summarizing Santa Anna’s military history.



7:55 am

Matthew Swaykus

For most of my life, I was told that General Santa Ana was a vile and brutal man who we, Texans, proudly fought against in order to win our independence. This, I realize, was only part of the whole story. The author did a good thing here, conveying the bravery and honor of a man often scorned, disrespected, or misrepresented by much of the history I had to learn. General Santa Ana was much more than his actions in the Battle of the Alamo, so we should honor him for his bravery and resilience as a soldier simply doing what he felt was right.



7:55 am

Charli Delmonico

Wow, this article was fantastic! I loved reading about Santa Anna’s passion for the military. It is unbelievable that he joined the army when he was only 16 years old! I knew that he was a very successful militaristic man who also served as the president of Mexico, but this article shed some light on other unknown facts that fill in the gaps in the story of his life for sure. His accomplishments are very impressive.



7:55 am

Francisco Cruzado

Santa Anna seems to me like a great depiction of the prestige that the military had in the minds of the literate and the populace, a figure of war and heroism, of honor and strategy. His relation with Mexico, however, and as many other military figures from Latin-American, was, I think, a controversial one. It is interesting how the article describes with great detail the military glory of Santa Anna, it is a good and enjoyable focus. The character reminds me of Ramon Castilla in Peru or General Arguedas in Bolivia.



7:55 am

Eugenio Gonzalez

The author did a great job of presenting the virtues and talents of General Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna. It was interesting that Santa Anna would fight against the nation that gave him recognization and preferred to defend his country. Before reading this article, I knew about his participation in the Spanish army, but I never knew about his accolades and accomplishments.



7:55 am

1 2 3

Leave a Reply