A Spur With a Story: Santa Anna's Spur

lelliott19

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the spur.jpg

https://www.virginiahistory.org/collections-and-resources/learn/story-virginia-digital-timeline/virginia-new-south-1876-–-1924

This is no ordinary spur.....this one has a history. And Oh! What a history! It starts in 1836 and ends forty years later, in 1876. This is Santa Anna's spur, also known as the Huger spur, and, if this spur could talk, what a story it could tell!

painting.jpg

https://www.thestoryoftexas.com/discover/artifacts/the-surrender-of-santa-anna

On April 21, 1836, in a fight lasting less than 20 minutes, Gen. Sam Houston, leading the Texian Army, defeated Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto. It was the decisive battle that ended the Texas Revolution. The next day, General Santa Anna appeared before General Winfield Scott, and surrendered his sword. In a gesture of good-will, Scott returned the sword. Not to be outdone, Santa Anna insisted that Scott accept his ornate spurs. Crafted of steel, with an intricate gold-inlaid band and engraved with trailing vines, these were no ordinary spurs. But that is only the beginning of the story!

Benjamin Huger.JPG

Benjamin Huger http://modoc1873.stores.yahoo.net/ramewarimofc.html

General Winfield Scott, in turn, presented the prized spurs to Captain Benjamin Huger, his chief of ordnance and artillery, for heroism during the campaign. Benjamin Huger pictured above.

When Benjamin's son, Francis Kinloch "Frank" Huger, graduated from West Point in 1860, the spurs became an heirloom - given, father to son. Frank is pictured below.
FrankHuger.jpg
The Photographic History of The Civil War in Ten Volumes: Volume Five, Forts and Artillery. The Review of Reviews Co., New York. 1911. p. 73., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9750574

After graduation, Frank Huger was assigned as a 2nd Lieut 10th US Infantry, but, on May 21, 1861, he resigned his commission and cast his lot with the Confederacy. Young Huger was commissioned Captain of the Norfolk Light Artillery and was quickly promoted through the ranks. Col Edward Porter Alexander, commanding Huger and his battalion, said of Frank that he "....never shirked a care or danger or grumbled over a hardship in his life..." When E P Alexander was promoted to chief of artillery, Frank was promoted to Lt Col and took over command of the battalion. On Feb 18, 1865, Frank Huger was promoted to Colonel.
SailorsCreek960x640.jpg
LOC

On April 6, 1865, at the Battle of Sailor's Creek, Frank Huger surrendered the remains of his battalion to his old friend and West Point classmate, George Armstrong Custer. Custer, ever chivalrous, asked his captured friend, "Frank, is there anything that I can do for you?" Huger made two requests: 1.) to keep his horse and 2.) that Custer hold, for safe keeping, the spurs given to him by his father - Santa Anna's spurs.

Frank was made a prisoner. He was allowed to remain in Richmond as a paroled prisoner and pledged the Oath of Allegiance on August 26, 1865. Custer was sent out west, where, on June 25, 1876, he was killed at Little Big Horn. On his boots that day......you guessed it! Santa Anna's spurs! When his body was recovered, only one of the spurs remained. It was returned to his widow, Libby Custer, who returned it to Frank Huger.

The spur is now in the collection of the Virginia Historical Society.
 
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Ralph Heinz

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Custer's body when found on the Little Big Horn Battlefield a couple days after his death was striped naked and blackened by the sun and heat and decomposing to the point that the burial detail were nauseated. I've never read anything of his boots with a single spur being found on his body nor have I ever read anything of the spur being returned to Libbie (correct spelling) Custer and then given by her to Huger. I have a very extensive library on Custer and the battle and have worked at the battlefield on several archaeological projects and have known a number of NPS Custer Battlefield historians.

A description of Custer's body looking as though he was simply sleeping was told to Libbie to spare her from the awful truth as she was very popular and respected by the surviving officer's of Custer's command.
 

lelliott19

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Custer's body when found on the Little Big Horn Battlefield a couple days after his death was striped naked and blackened by the sun and heat and decomposing to the point that the burial detail were nauseated. I've never read anything of his boots with a single spur being found on his body nor have I ever read anything of the spur being returned to Libbie (correct spelling) Custer and then given by her to Huger. I have a very extensive library on Custer and the battle and have worked at the battlefield on several archaeological projects and have known a number of NPS Custer Battlefield historians.

A description of Custer's body looking as though he was simply sleeping was told to Libbie to spare her from the awful truth as she was very popular and respected by the surviving officer's of Custer's command.
Thanks for your reply and for the additional information. I'm guessing then that the story must be another one of those oft repeated myths? I suppose because it makes a really good story.

Here is what the Virginia Historical Society says about the spur:
An early 19th century steel and gold spur, formerly the property of Benjamin Huger (the "Huger Spur"), with a history of use by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and General George Armstrong Custer. The spur was one of two given by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in 1847 to General Winfield Scott. Scott soon presented the spurs to his aide, Colonel Benjamin Huger. He gave them to his son (West Point with George A. Custer) Frank. Captain, later Colonel, Frank Huger wore them throughout his service in the C. S. A. and upon his surrender of his troops at Sailor's Creek in 1865, he game them to his opponent, his friend, General George A. Custer. Custer died at Little Big Horn wearing the spurs (June 25, 1876). Months after his death one spur was brought back to Colonel Huger. All of this history is fully documented in history books, articles, and recorded interviews with Colonel Huger who lived until June 14, 1917. https://www.virginiahistory.org/col...gital-timeline/virginia-new-south-1876-–-1924

Article from the Norfolk Historical Society:
http://www.historicforrest.com/norfolkHistoricalSociety/insights/2002_spring/huger.html

I also found the story included in these books
Sailor's Creek: The Black Day of the Army 2nd Edition Edition
by Col Greg Eanes (Author)

Last in Their Class: Custer, Pickett and the Goats of West Point
By James Robbins, https://books.google.com/books?id=i...3YB4QQ6AEIWTAJ#v=onepage&q=huger spur&f=false
 

MAJOR DUNDEE

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I've already heard this story, but it seems bizarre that the spur(s) was found on the battlefield...as Ralph Heinz said ,most of the dead soldiers where naked and everything the injuns could have used was robbed by them.
Why didn't Custer return the spurs just after the war ? He is supposed to have asked Colonel Huger to keep them for a while, but he died before returning them, and his widow send them back to Huger.

I've read or heard somewhere that Custer was also the happy owner of the table used by Lee and Grant at Appomatox...
 

James N.

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I've already heard this story, but it seems bizarre that the spur(s) was found on the battlefield...as Ralph Heinz said ,most of the dead soldiers where naked and everything the injuns could have used was robbed by them.
Why didn't Custer return the spurs just after the war ? He is supposed to have asked Colonel Huger to keep them for a while, but he died before returning them, and his widow send them back to Huger.

I've read or heard somewhere that Custer was also the happy owner of the table used by Lee and Grant at Appomatox...
Although Custer WAS at one time the owner of one of the two Appomattox surrender tables (purchased from Wilmer McLean by Phil Sheridan himself as a gift for Libby!), the whole spur story sounds, well, spurious! Let's forget about the Custer connection and go back to the top...

... On April 21, 1836, in a fight lasting less than 20 minutes, Gen. Sam Houston, leading the Texian Army, defeated Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto. It was the decisive battle that ended the Texas Revolution. The next day, General Santa Anna appeared before General Winfield Scott, and surrendered his sword. In a gesture of good-will, Scott returned the sword. Not to be outdone, Santa Anna insisted that Scott accept his ornate spurs. Crafted of steel, with an intricate gold-inlaid band and engraved with trailing vines, these were no ordinary spurs. But that is only the beginning of the story!

General Winfield Scott, in turn, presented the prized spurs to Captain Benjamin Huger, his chief of ordnance and artillery, for heroism during the campaign. Benjamin Huger pictured above...

I would very much like to know HOW in one day Generalissimo Santa Anna got from the wilderness of San Jacinto on Buffalo Bayou, Texas, to Washington, D. C. or wherever else the commanding general of the entire United States Army was in order to make this transaction? In fact, it wasn't until that day following the battle that Santa Anna was captured, hiding in a well and dressed in a Mexican soldier's uniform pretending to be a private soldier. He was without sidearms and although he was taken back to his camp his tent had been looted and his sword stolen. (What is probably the genuine stolen sword was donated only a few years ago to the Alamo Museum per its curator, my friend Bruce Winders.) The only American general directly involved in the Texas Revolution was Zachary Taylor and HE was back at Fort Jesup near Nachitoches, Louisiana. Santa Anna barely escaped having his neck stretched by the outraged Texas troops who had produced a rope for that very purpose, but the shrewd Sam Houston realized El Presidente was more valuable as a hostage and had him shipped for his safety all the way back to President Andrew Jackson in Washington - and no doubt that trip took a while!

Edit: This isn't the only ridiculous story concerning a single spur I've heard - At one time the Museum of the Texas Daughters of the Confederacy, which was then located on the second floor of the 1857 Land Office Building on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, had on display The Spur of Gen. Robert E. Lee himself! It had NO futher identification or story as to HOW Gen. Lee had lost one of his spurs, or how it came to be there. As I recall, it was in the same case with the cabinet card photo showing a Confederate soldier, armed with his M.1872 Trapdooor Springfield rifle and Mills Pattern web belt!
 
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lelliott19

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Too bad. It seemed like such a cool story!

But its definitely one of the things I like most about this forum.....you can always count on our members to provide accurate information. Thanks for providing the additional info and rebuttal @Ralph Heinz @MAJOR DUNDEE and James N.

Sorry I wasted everyone's time. :D
 

James N.

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I think the spurs were reached by Winfield Scott at the end of the US-Mexico war, not after the 1836 events.
Custer's boots in 1865
View attachment 179593
This is possible but still questionable because I don't believe Santa Anna ever surrendered in the Mexican War - After a fairly short campaign the U.S. Army under Scott managed to maneuver the larger Mexican Army out of Mexico City and enter it after the Mexican government and its army withdrew to the west. Santa Anna was removed from power by his own government leaving no reason for HIM to surrender to anybody; instead he just returned to another of his periods of exile between his eventual FIVE presidencies. As an aside, by the time of the Mexican War Santa Anna had previously lost one of his legs to a cannonball - a British one at Veracruz in 1842, as I remember - and so afterward wore a fully-articulated wooden one as a result; during another retreat following a battle with Scott's army along the road to Mexico City Santa Anna fled on horseback leaving the wooden leg in his carriage to be captured by the Americans. (Maybe that's how Scott got the single spur!?)
 
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Nathanb1

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Although Custer WAS at one time the owner of one of the two Appomattox surrender tables (purchased from Wilmer McLean by Phil Sheridan himself as a gift for Libby!), the whole spur story sounds, well, spurious! Let's forget about the Custer connection and go back to the top...



I would very much like to know HOW in one day Generalissimo Santa Anna got from the wilderness of San Jacinto on Buffalo Bayou, Texas, to Washington, D. C. or wherever else the commanding general of the entire United States Army was in order to make this transaction? In fact, it wasn't until that day following the battle that Santa Anna was captured, hiding in a well and dressed in a Mexican soldier's uniform pretending to be a private soldier. He was without sidearms and although he was taken back to his camp his tent had been looted and his sword stolen. (What is probably the genuine stolen sword was donated only a few years ago to the Alamo Museum per its curator, my friend Bruce Winders.) The only American general directly involved in the Texas Revolution was Zachary Taylor and HE was back at Fort Jesup near Nachitoches, Louisiana. Santa Anna barely escaped having his neck stretched by the outraged Texas troops who had produced a rope for that very purpose, but the shrewd Sam Houston realized El Presidente was more valuable as a hostage and had him shipped for his safety all the way back to President Andrew Jackson in Washington - and no doubt that trip took a while!

Edit: This isn't the only ridiculous story concerning a single spur I've heard - At one time the Museum of the Texas Daughters of the Confederacy, which was then located on the second floor of the 1857 Land Office Building on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, had on display The Spur of Gen. Robert E. Lee himself! It had NO futher identification or story as to HOW Gen. Lee had lost one of his spurs, or how it came to be there. As I recall, it was in the same case with the cabinet card photo showing a Confederate soldier, armed with his M.1872 Trapdooor Springfield rifle and Mills Pattern web belt!
Thank you. Beat me to it. Somewhere the two stories (San Jacinto and the Mexican War) were conflated.
 

Peter Stines

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FWIW: At San Jacinto, Santa Anna's camp furniture included a silver chamber pot and Sam Houston "liberated it". He used it for a soup bowl for many years afterward. Can anyone say "EEEEEEWWWWW GROSS" ???? At one time Santa Anna's folding camp bed was at the Alamo. I've seen a photo of it from a San Antonio newspaper dating from 1920's. Not sure where it is now. I think one of his sabers is either at San Jacinto Monument or at Houston's home a.k.a. The 'Steamboat House'.
 

NDR5thNY

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View attachment 179466
https://www.virginiahistory.org/collections-and-resources/learn/story-virginia-digital-timeline/virginia-new-south-1876-–-1924

This is no ordinary spur.....this one has a history. And Oh! What a history! It starts in 1836 and ends forty years later, in 1876. This is Santa Anna's spur, also known as the Huger spur, and, if this spur could talk, what a story it could tell!

View attachment 179467
https://www.thestoryoftexas.com/discover/artifacts/the-surrender-of-santa-anna

On April 21, 1836, in a fight lasting less than 20 minutes, Gen. Sam Houston, leading the Texian Army, defeated Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto. It was the decisive battle that ended the Texas Revolution. The next day, General Santa Anna appeared before General Winfield Scott, and surrendered his sword. In a gesture of good-will, Scott returned the sword. Not to be outdone, Santa Anna insisted that Scott accept his ornate spurs. Crafted of steel, with an intricate gold-inlaid band and engraved with trailing vines, these were no ordinary spurs. But that is only the beginning of the story!

View attachment 179468
Benjamin Huger http://modoc1873.stores.yahoo.net/ramewarimofc.html

General Winfield Scott, in turn, presented the prized spurs to Captain Benjamin Huger, his chief of ordnance and artillery, for heroism during the campaign. Benjamin Huger pictured above.

When Benjamin's son, Francis Kinloch "Frank" Huger, graduated from West Point in 1860, the spurs became an heirloom - given, father to son. Frank is pictured below.
View attachment 179469The Photographic History of The Civil War in Ten Volumes: Volume Five, Forts and Artillery. The Review of Reviews Co., New York. 1911. p. 73., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9750574

After graduation, Frank Huger was assigned as a 2nd Lieut 10th US Infantry, but, on May 21, 1861, he resigned his commission and cast his lot with the Confederacy. Young Huger was commissioned Captain of the Norfolk Light Artillery and was quickly promoted through the ranks. Col Edward Porter Alexander, commanding Huger and his battalion, said of Frank that he "....never shirked a care or danger or grumbled over a hardship in his life..." When E P Alexander was promoted to chief of artillery, Frank was promoted to Lt Col and took over command of the battalion. On Feb 18, 1865, Frank Huger was promoted to Colonel.
View attachment 230304LOC

On April 6, 1865, at the Battle of Sailor's Creek, Frank Huger surrendered the remains of his battalion to his old friend and West Point classmate, George Armstrong Custer. Custer, ever chivalrous, asked his captured friend, "Frank, is there anything that I can do for you?" Huger made two requests: 1.) to keep his horse and 2.) that Custer hold, for safe keeping, the spurs given to him by his father - Santa Anna's spurs.

Frank was made a prisoner. He was allowed to remain in Richmond as a paroled prisoner and pledged the Oath of Allegiance on August 26, 1865. Custer was sent out west, where, on June 25, 1876, he was killed at Little Big Horn. On his boots that day......you guessed it! Santa Anna's spurs! When his body was recovered, only one of the spurs remained. It was returned to his widow, Libby Custer, who returned it to Frank Huger.

The spur is now in the collection of the Virginia Historical Society.
Thanks for the post Laura! Another excellent one for you!
 
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