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The Kidnaping of Blue Whistler
El Paso MORNING TIMES     6 June 1911
The kidnaping of the famous McGinty cannon - the true story of how the old Blue Whistler was "borrowed" by four insurrectos and concealed while repairs were being made and ammunition manufactured.
( Written by one of the four. )

Away back in December I was one day discussing the progress of the revolution with Governor Abram Gonzales (Honest Abe), when he remarked that the insurrectos were handicapped because they had no artillery with which to batter down adobe walls when attacking a town. I thought of the "Blue Whistler" at once and spoke to him about it. There was nothing said about kidnaping it at the time but every time I passed that old gun afterwards I thought what a pity you can't be of some use to a struggling people who need you so badly instead of ornamenting the city hall park. The more I thought of the matter the more I wanted that cannon and finally I told the governor that I was considering a plan to steal or rather to borrow it, but he discouraged the idea on the ground that it might cause international complications. I feared to discuss the matter openly, lest the authorities become alarmed and remove it but finally I did mention the matter to one or two whom I felt could be trusted and they at once fell into the idea.

But how was it to be done? It did not seem possible that with the city full of Mexican federal spies and American secret service men and the border patrolled by soldiers, it could be removed and secreted until an expedition went out. Ammunition had to be secured and the gun would need repairs and a through overhauling before it could be of service. Then there was the question of getting it across the line into Mexico and having a force of infantry there waiting to receive and protect it. The task seemed herculean and almost impossible and at times it seemed that the plan must be abandoned.

In February, Governor Gonzales joined the Army and went south. I then had a talk with Secretary Braulio Hernandez and informed him that we were going to kidnap that gun or get caught trying. I told him to leave the matter with us American insurrectos so that in case we were caught, it would not work injury to the Junta and revolutionary cause, and he agreed to do so.

We learned that Col. Villareal was expecting to gather a command somewhere in Mexico near the border and we went to work to get the gun and have it ready to go with his command. It was decided to remove it from the city hall park and hide it somewhere while repairs and ammunition were being made. The axle was sprung and would have to be straightened and this would necessitate removing the gun from its carriage and taking the carriage apart. Four men were to do the work and the night of March 11th was the time agreed on but it was Saturday and many people were on the street and so it was decided to wait a few days.

Then came the report that 20,000 troops were ordered to Texas and we realized that when they arrived the work would be more risky and so decided on the night of March 17th (St. Patrick's night as it happened to be.) It was agreed to meet at the city hall at 2 a.m. with a large automobile and to cut the wire by which it was fastened to the railing of the fountain, and then to roll it out into the street and attach it to the automobile and "burn the breezes" out of town.

We met at the appointed time and one man went up the street to watch for the cop while another went to work with the clippers and soon had the trail free. It was then rolled off the sidewalk and on to the street and fastened to the rear axle of the auto; then all aboard and up Campbell to Texas and down that street we went with the old gun jumping and bouncing and making enough noise to wake the whole town. We turned up Austin and when the railroad track was nearly reached the "linch pin" jumped out and off came the wheel.

The combined strength of the four men was insufficient to raise the axle and we were in despair as to what was to be done when along came a freight train and off jumped a hobo who was at once invited to get busy and assist. When he saw what it was he exclaimed, "My God, its a cannon!" The wheel was soon in place and Mr. Hobo was given a dollar together with the advise to get out of El Paso at once, and I presume he acted on it for none of us ever saw him afterwards.

Up Austin to Montana and down that fashionable avenue we went with the gun wheels striking fire from the small pebbles in the street. Out of Montana into the Fort Bliss road we turned and all went well until we reached a point about a hundred yards west of George Harper's place. Then off went that same wheel again. It seemed that our efforts must result in failure after all for daylight was not over an hour away and already a market wagon or two had passed us. We were in despair.

Exerting every ounce of strength possible, we could not raise that axle. None of us had ever dreamed that the old gun was so heavy. Finally the headlights of a big auto showed up. Made desperate we decided that the occupants were going to aid us or we would know why. Two men were in the machine and they proved to be friends and soon we had the wheel on and were going again.

Into a certain backyard in Government Hill we drove and soon had the precious old gun in the buggy shed, and none too soon, for already light streaks were showing in the east. Next morning fifty different people living in as many sections of the city declared they saw the gun pass their houses the night before - all of which goes to show how many liars there are.

Next night we went out and dismounted and buried the gun and took the carriage down and hid it beneath some hay. Now came the job of getting ammunition for it. One of the four men understood artillery and was given the task of ordering it. A careful computation proved that the shells should weigh twelve pounds each and that a charge of four pounds of black powder would be necessary.

Some ladies were let into the secret (and they kept it too) and they soon had the powder sacks made and they were carefully filled and placed in a steamer trunk. The solid shot were cast and carried out to the place. Tin cans the exact bore of the gun and a foot long, with screw cap to tops, were made and these were filled with twelve pounds each of "boiler plate punchings", bits of steel the size of a quarter of a dollar and thick as a person's thumb. One of these canister charges when fired would kill everything in front of the gun up to a distance of four hundred yards while the solid shot would wreck an adobe house at a distance of a mile.

Finally, everything was ready. The Junta brought the two front wheels and tongue necessary to complete the carriage and with everything in shape we awaited the departure of Col. Villareal who was gathering his men at Guadalupe, across the river from Fabens. His men went over unarmed and the rifles and ammunition was carried over afterwards. On April 4th a Colt's machine gun arrived in El Paso and was whisked over the river in a big auto with two ladies sitting on top of it.

Now all was ready except the big gun. The soldiers were holding up wagons and autos along the county road and searching them and I assure you we were a nervous crowd. Three rancheros from down the valley drove into town with their farm wagons and the cannon and ammunition loaded into one of them and on top of it hay, old boxes and barrels and rubbish of all kinds were skillfully placed. This work was done by a well known Mexican-American citizen - one of the four - and he did it well. The gun carriage and a lot of rifle ammunition was placed in the other two wagons and all arranged to look as much like a ranch wagon as possible. The man in charge left at daylight next morning, the 5th of April, with instructions to the drivers to string along down the road and not become bunched together.

What an anxious day we others spent. Necessity had compelled us to take others into the secret so that by now at least a dozen knew that the gun was in El Paso. A report that the gun was seen in Ojinaga had been published in one of the El Paso papers and it pleased us very much as it served to throw the public off and people generally thought it was true. The day passed and no word was received. Next morning the phone rang and my friend who was in charge said, "Hello, the baby was born in Mexico last night. All is well." What a relief.

Now old "Blue Whistler," it's up to you to aid the cause of liberty. Forty-six years ago your old black muzzle belched forth fire and destruction in a war where brother fought brother. You old rebel cannon, go to it and make history.

Later - The gun was used in the unsuccessful attack on Ojinaga. Then it was carried to Santa Rosalia where it was used with telling affect in the two days fight there, resulting in the capture of the place. Col. Villareal says the heavy firing broke the axle and they made a new one. The first shot at Ojinaga shattered the rotten trail and they made a new one so that when the precious old relic is returned, it will be all dressed up and more valuable than ever.

May she end her days in peace, never more fire a shot in warfare. An inscription on the gun reads as follows: "Built at Frankford Arsenal in 1846." 1)

P.S. - It is thought best to omit the names of the kidnapers for the present. It was hoped by them that the gun could be used in the attack on Ju醨ez but fate decreed otherwise.

"Long Tom" and "Blue Whistler" - what memories they will recall of Mexico's struggle and success in the cause of freedom.

Long after those who took a part in this revolution have passed away, these famous old guns will remain to tell the story of revolution when a people arose in their might and drove out the dictator.
1) "Arsenals didn't cast cannon prior to or during the Civil War, although they did build carriages. It is possible that 'FRANKFORT ARSENAL', the number of the carriage, and '1846' were stamped into the trunnion plates as was usual on carriages built at arsenals. 'Built at' would not have been part of these markings." - Wayne E. Stark

This article is provided here by the kind permission of
Andy Alderette, Managing Editor, Link El Paso Times
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Note from your typist: It is almost impossible for me to proof read my own typing
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Thanks- Verne R. Walrafen

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