Sunday, January 3, 2010

Illinois State Military Museum

When I travel around the country I try to find unusual sites or those which have an interesting story behind them. During my trip several years ago through the city of Springfield in Illinois, I chanced upon a Mexican generals leg.

Many history buffs will recall the Mexican general known in both counties as Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. That’s right this is the same Mexican army general who had ordered his troops to attack the Alamo and ultimately killed the legendary Davy Crockett and the brave defenders of the Alamo.

Unknown to many people is the fact that the general had a fake leg installed as a result of a war related injury. Santa Anna had his real leg amputated due to an accident resulting from cannon ball fire during his fight with the French in 1838. It wasn’t until 1847 that the 4th Illinois Infantry division solders captured the general’s leg.

During an episode of the King of the Hill cartoon series mention was made of the general’s artificial leg and how it was captured by the Americans. During the cartoon it was shown that the Mexican government was secretly plotting to re-capture the general’s leg and return it to its rightful place in Mexico, although there is actually no truth to this part of the cartoon. The kidnapping story was merely something created to spice up the King of the Hill cartoon.

After the cartoon appeared it seemed like everyone in the country wanted to take a look at the general’s wooden leg but few people realized at the time that it was sitting in central Illinois.

The famous leg is now a part of the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield. The legend states that Santa Anna was having lunch while his troops were busy battling American soldiers and as he was indulging in his food he was promptly surrounded and surprised by the members of the 4th Infantry. In order to save his life he hopped away on one leg leaving behind his wooden leg as a remembrance. Initially the soldier who grabbed the leg showed it off at various fairs around Illinois charging a dime per peek for people to see it but in 1922 it was entrusted to the care of the Illinois National Guard.

Many people inquire as to why there has been no attempt by the Mexicans to retrieve the general’s leg and the answer is simple – the people hated him. The man died friendless and alone while in exile. His people disliked him so much that upon his death he was given a pauper's burial.

You can not tie up a complete day at the museum but it is certainly worth a stop while on your way just to take a glance at the general’s famous leg.

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Unknown said...

Great story! I have been through Springfield, IL while I was still truckin' all over the place, but I never made a stop at that museum. I really wish I had now.

Unknown said...

Thank you for a great bit of advice and information about Mexican History. Museums are totally underrated in so many minds :)

~Cheers to a new year and new chance to do it right~

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this nice info. Its really a magnificent information.

Aiden Thomas
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Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing a very good point and information about Mexican History. Museums are totally underrated in so many minds :)

Unknown said...

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