Military Biography Spanish-American War Lt. Andrew Summers Rowan Part 2

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)

At last, on May 1, the exhausted Rowan reached General Garcia. Although mistakenly described to Garcia as a "confidence man," Rowan was accepted as a friend and entrusted with military information which precipitated the U.S. invasion of the island. After their conference, Rowan was led back through the jungles to the north coast of Cuba, where he set out in a boat equipped with gunnysack sails. Miraculously, the boat reached the Bahamas safely, and by May 15 Rowan was back in Washington. Although he was rewarded with a series of promotions leading to the rank of lieutenant colonel of the 6th U.S. Volunteers, he received no public acclaim for his efforts.

Upon the signing of the protocol ending the war, Rowan was ordered back to Cuba to survey the island as part of postwar occupation preparations. In 1899--the year Hubbard wrote "A Message to Garcia"--Rowan was mustered out of the volunteer service, on Mar. 15. He joined the 19th Infantry as a captain and was sent to the Philippine Islands to quell riots and rebellions by Filipino insurgents. There, in an action at Sudlon Mountain, he was cited for gallantry.

Rowan continued his career in the military at posts in Kansas, Kentucky, and Washington. In 1905 he returned to the Philippines as a major in the 15th Infantry, and from 1907 until his retirement in 1909 he was stationed at Fort Douglas, U. On his retirement, he was allowed to retain the permanent rank of major and the courtesy title of colonel.

When the army instituted the Distinguished Service Cross for exceptional courage in the line of duty, Rowan was nominated for the decoration. The War Dept., though it supported the nomination from the outset, had an embarrassing problem in bestowing the award, for its official records contained no reference to Rowan's Cuban mission. At the secretary of the army's special request, Rowan himself had to write the requisite report. On Aug. 22, 1922, at the Presidio garrison in San Francisco, he received the award. That year Rowan also received a Silver Star citation for his heroism at Sudlon Mountain.

He returned to obscurity until Hollywood decided to capitalize on the popularity of Hubbard's story. In 1936, 20th Century--Fox tried to induce the aging soldier to appear in a romantic film version of "A Message to Garcia" featuring moonlit beaches and dark Cuban beauties. Rowan wanted no part of it and refused to see the movie when it was released.

On Jan. 1, 1943, the 85-year-old Rowan died in San Francisco. But before his death, he had one last opportunity to set the record straight. At a dinner party, a talkative woman turned to him and asked, "Colonel, what was this message to Garcia, anyway?" Rowan promptly replied, "It was, madam, an invitation from President McKinley to an old-fashioned New England boiled dinner at the White House."

Note. Facts about his mission were drawn from Rowan's 1922 report. According to an alternate account, Rowan completely fictionalized his adventures in Cuba and in fact botched his assignment so badly he was nearly court-martialed.

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