Although little is remembered of this war, other than Teddy Roosevelt's famous charge with the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill, there is one story which has been told and retold more often than any other military adventure in modern history: A Message to Garcia.
No military maneuver is more fraught with danger than a beachhead landing. The success of the allied invasion of France on D-Day may lull some into complacency. However, had the Germans not been misdirected by false intelligence and a feint to another landing zone, the allies might easily have been thrown back into the sea. Think of how much more dangerous a beachhead assault is when the army lacks specialized landing craft, and airborne troops to land behind enemy lines and disrupt their communications and logistics. During the Spanish-American War, U.S. Army soldiers were rowed ashore in wooden longboats.
As the Americans prepared to storm the beaches of Cuba during the Spanish-American War, they had only one asset to prevent the enemy from decimating their ranks as they rowed from the ships to shore: The Cuban insurgents then under the command of General Garcia. When President McKinley met with his military commanders, he asked how they planned to coordinate their assault so that the rebels would keep the Spanish from intercepting them. There was only one answer. Someone had to get a message to Garcia.
Garcia and his force were encamped somewhere in the rugged mountains at the eastern end of the mountain. No one knew exactly where. As Elbert Hubbard related in his telling of the tale, “No mail or telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly. What to do! Someone said to the President, 'There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.'”
Hubbard dashed off his rendition of Rowan's adventure for a monthly periodical, The Philistine. Requests for reprints began to arrive almost immediately: a dozen, fifty, a hundred, a thousand. The New York Central Railroad then ordered one hundred thousand copies in pamphlet form with their ad on the back cover. It was then translated into Russian by order of Prince Hilakoff, Director of Russian Railroads, and a copy given to every employee in Russia. Other countries republished it in their own language. Rowan's heroism, endurance, and determination became a model to be emulated by men everywhere.
I knew that I had to include a modern version of the tale in my novel, Rebels on the Mountain, as an homage to Rowan. Thus, my hero, Nick Andrews, a U.S. Army Ranger, takes a message to Castro.