April 23, 1857: Spanish-American War Hero Andrew Rowan Born in Monroe County
Andrew Rowan, made famous as the subject of a patriotic essay, was born in Monroe County on April 23, 1857. In 1898, the United States was on the verge of war with Spain over the island of Cuba. President William McKinley needed military intelligence from Cuban General Calixto Garcia. The Army chose Lieutenant Andrew Rowan to deliver the message.
He sailed in a small fishing boat from Jamaica across 100 miles of open sea. His men then hacked their way through a dense Cuban jungle to avoid Spanish patrols. After finding and delivering the message to Garcia, Rowan made a perilous trip back to the U.S. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Rowan would become one of the Spanish-American War’s most famous heroes because of a surprisingly popular essay. The year after the war, writer Elbert Hubbard detailed Rowan’s heroic act in a small pamphlet entitled Message to Garcia. Hubbard lauded Rowan as an example to young men who needed ‘‘a stiffening of the vertebrae.’’
Andrew Rowan died in 1943 at age 85 and was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.