The Pastries That Cost Santa Anna His Leg

Illinois National Guard
Illinois National Guard / Illinois National Guard

In 1838, a French pastry chef living near Mexico City claimed that Mexican army officers had ransacked his bakery. He demanded reimbursement to the tune of 600,000 pesos. When his lofty request was ignored, the chef appealed to French King Louis-Phillipe, who was already irked at Mexico for defaulting on loans from France. To quote Ron Burgundy, the whole thing escalated rather quickly, resulting in Mexican general Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna’s return from retirement to fight for his country’s honor. His ankle was shattered by cannon fire during battle; consequently, most of his leg had to be amputated.

The leg was buried with full military honors at Santa Anna's request; he then constantly reminded everyone that his loss was a representation of his dedication and love for Mexico. He eventually rode the bad leg all the way back to the office of the Presidency (he had already served several times).

You can see Santa Anna’s cork replacement leg at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield, Illinois, by the way. During the Mexican War at the Battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847, soldiers from the 4th Illinois Infantry found Santa Anna’s abandoned carriage. Inside happened to be Santa Anna’s cork leg. They captured it, then brought it back home as a trophy. The U.S. has thus far ignored Mexico’s requests to return it, so lucky gawkers can still view the whole sordid affair in a somewhat lackluster re-enactment (pictured). The soldiers are fake, but the the leg is real. As real as a cork limb can be, anyway.