Military Biography Spanish-American War Lt. Andrew Summers Rowan Part 1

About Lt. Andrew Summers Rowan who purportedly delivered a message to Garcia in Cub during the Spanish-American War.


LT. ANDREW SUMMERS ROWAN (U.S., Spanish-American War)

"A Message to Garcia," an essay written in 1899 by Elbert Hubbard, appeared in the March issue of his monthly magazine, The Philistine. It purported to relate the story of "a fellow by the name of Rowan," who had heroically delivered a message to Gen. Calixto Garcia Iniguez, leader of the Cuban rebel forces during the Spanish-American War. Although Hubbard exclaimed, "There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land," the essay's real intent had nothing to do with Rowan. It was, instead, a heavy-handed admonition to workers to obey authority and to place devotion to duty above all else. Business and industrial concerns every-where ordered copies for their employees and made it an instant sellout. It earned Hubbard over $250,000 in royalties and eventually was translated into 20 languages and reprinted over 100 million times. Unfortunately, not only was Hubbard's moral parable about the valiant messenger incorrect in all its particulars, but the real story of this supposed hero was ignored completely.

Andrew Summers Rowan, the lieutenant credited with delivering the message, was born on Apr. 23, 1857, in Gap Mills, Va. Following in the footsteps of his father, a colonel in the 180th Virginia Infantry in the Confederate Army, he entered West Point at age 20. He was graduated in 1881 and commissioned a second lieutenant in the 15th U.S. Infantry. During the ensuing eight years, he saw active duty at frontier posts in Texas, Colorado, and the Dakotas, and he also undertook several assignments in South America for the Military Intelligence Division.

For some reason he became intrigued with Cuba and wrote a book about the island. This, combined with his knowledge of Spanish, his reputation as a topographical expert, and his physical adventuresomeness--mountain climbing was his favorite pastime--made him an excellent choice for a top-priority mission to Cuba. Contrary to what Hubbard wrote about the assignment, there was no "message" for Rowan to deliver in a "sealed oilskin pouch" from President McKinley to General Garcia. Instead, Rowan was merely given a verbal order from his superior officer, Col. Arthur Wagner, to determine the strength of Garcia's forces and arrange their cooperation with American forces should a war break out between the U.S. and Spain over Cuban independence.

Rowan first took ship to Jamaica. There he contacted Cuban insurgents, who landed him in a small fishing boat near Santiago de Cuba on Apr. 24, 1898, the day Spain declared war on the U.S. A group of Cubans guided him through dense, insect-infested jungles for six days. Their supplies soon ran out, and during the last days they existed on sweet potatoes. In the midst of this ordeal they met up with several men who claimed to be Spanish deserters. Suddenly, one of the men lunged at Rowan with a knife, but he was quickly decapitated by Rowan's Cuban companions.

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