General Santa Anna’s Early Military Life

General Santa Anna | Courtesy of Wikipedia
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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

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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.
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39 Comments

  • I enjoyed learning from this article. I had never heard of Sir, Santa Anna. It was nice to learn of a person who has had such an influence of a country and culture. It was inspiring to read of his dream of joining the army and fulfilling that dream of his. His ambition and hard work, worked the best for him.

  • Very well written, short and informative article. Santa Anna was an amazing leader! I can only imagine commanding troops against the U.S. During his time of being in command of Mexican troops is very interesting to me because he fought in the Mexican American war when the U.S. was pushing to gain more land such as Texas. It’s crazy how enlisted soldiers could become Lieutenants like that. Being a 2ND lieutenant in the Army, I find much interest in great leaders during war. Santa Anna is one of them!

  • During my middle school and high school tenure, I remember learning about the courageous Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. I mostly enjoyed how this article went into depth about Santa Anna’s early life and interest in the Mexican Army. I was aware of Santa Anna being a successful leader throughout the war, but I was unaware of his political success and becoming a president.

  • Since the third grade, I have always heard Santa Anna’s name when learning the story of the Alamo that every child who grows up in San Antonio hears several times after many field trips to the Alamo. Given that, I have only ever known that slice of his history, his participation in the Battle of San Jacinto and how the Texans defeated his army. I was completely blind to his extensive military career and achievements leading up to his presidency. Always great to revisit past topics that you thought you knew well, thanks for this piece,

  • Interesting topic! Whenever I would hear the name Santa Maria  I always thought of the later years of his career not the beginning. This article gives the reader a good insight into the Santa Ana’s beginning years of his career. I never knew about his successes. I found it interesting how in the article tells that he had an interest in the military since a young age. Great descriptive article!!

  • Although your article seems like it stopped a little short, the information described is quite unique. For instance, most people in the U.S. grow up learning and painting Santa Anna as a “bad guy,” but he really wasn’t, and if he did what he did for Mexico, but for the U.S. instead, it’d be a completely different story. I enjoyed how you were fairly unbiased and really conveyed him as a man of many accomplishments. Again, I think you could have detailed his life a little more and built on your article.

  • Great job!! I love reading on Santana since in one of my other classes we are doing a project on him and about where his leg ended up at! Your article was very well written and to the point! You did a very good job in highlighting his trajectory in how he became who he was and how hard it took him to get there!! He was a great man who loved his country and knew what he wanted and so he went for it!! I really enjoyed your article! 🙂

  • Wow, very good article. i love how the article was short and to the point, all the while it showed the true importance of his military life. I find it truly amazing how he knew he wanted to fight even at such a young age. I have a lot of respect for Santa Ann because he was not given anything, he worked for it. Overall very interesting article.

  • I feel like this article was incomplete; the part that you did have was interesting and well-written, but the ending felt a little rushed. It would have been nice to hear some more detailed information regarding his role in defending Royalist New Spain, his involvement in the Mexican revolution, and his many stints in the Mexican government. Anyway, on its own merits, you did a very solid job writing this article. Well done.

  • This is a very inspiring story. I think you did a good job in describing his upward mobility in rank. As a Political Science major my interest was naturally drawn towards the end of the article when you write about his being elected president. I think adding a chunk of information about his term would have also benefited this article.

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