Message to Garcia

We are continuing with our favorite Tom Suddes nuggets and reflections. This little story (as introduced and summarized by Tom) came to define an underpinning of our culture – especially in the early years. The shorthand from Tom would be, “Can you go ‘message-to-Garcia’ this one?” We knew what that meant.


This story was written by Elbert Hubbard, editor of the “Philistine Magazine” and published in March of 1899! I am paraphrasing Hubbard’s story… but I think you will get the point.

THE STORY: When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the insurgents… a General Garcia. He was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba – no one knew where. Mail or telegraph could not reach him… and the President had to secure his cooperation quickly.

Somebody told the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of ROWAN who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”

Andrew S. Rowan, West Point Class of 1881 was a First Lieutenant in the 19th Infantry, U.S.A. (Yes!) Because he knew the topography of Cuba, was familiar with Spanish, and had shown himself to be a brave and prudent solider, Lieutenant Rowan was selected for this mission.

In short, he took the letter, sealed it in an oil skin pouch, strapped it over his heart and crossed from Jamaica to the southern coast of Cuba in a sailboat. He disappeared into the jungle, made his way inland to Garcia’s camp… and delivered his message!!!

In Hubbard’s words: “The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia. Rowan took the letter and did not ask, ‘Where is he at?’ By the eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and his statue placed in every college in the land. It is not book learning young men need nor instruction about this and that but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; do that thing – ‘CARRY A MESSAGE TO GARCIA!’”

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