Mexican Army Pack Saddle

Beasts of burden

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by Tom Wancho, Exhibit Planner

After the surrender of Mexican General Martín Perfecto de Cós following his army’s December 1835 defeat against the Texas army at San Antonio (Béxar), Mexican President and General Antonio López de Santa Anna organized the remainder of his nation’s army to challenge Texas. They gathered at San Luis Potosí, approximately 225 miles north of Mexico City and embarked on a 526 mile march north to reclaim San Antonio.

Santa Anna's army of 6,019 men relied on 1,800 mules to transport materials. Eight hundred of the animals were owned by the government; the remaining 1,000 were leased for the expedition. Working in teams of two, the mules pulled four-wheeled wagons and two-wheeled ox carts. The animals also carried cooking supplies such as pots, frying pans, and eating utensils stuffed into bags and then hung onto hooks on a pack saddle, like the one seen here. Pack saddles sat on the mule’s hind quarters and were balanced by equally distributing weight between the right and left side. The simple wooden structure was held together by leather straps and metal nails.

Pack mules could carry up to 20% of their body weight, which ranged between 820 and 1,000 pounds. Fully loaded, they could travel up to 15 miles per day and required frequent rest stops.

A tenuous relationship existed between army officials and the animal handlers. The Mexican government hired men to oversee the ox carts and mules. Because as civilians they were not subject to military law, and because the Mexican government realized the importance of the men and the animals they cared for, officers were told not to issue orders to the animal handlers or to cause them undue stress.

By the time the revolution ended and Mexican troops returned home, the mules had navigated more than 2,000 miles (by modern-day mapping standards).

This pack saddle is one of more than 200 Texas Revolution artifacts collected over the years by British singer Phil Collins. Collins donated the majority of his collection to the Alamo in 2014.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Mexican Army Pack Saddle Artifact from San Antonio, Texas
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