MESSAGE TO GARCIA BACKGROUND
The president needs to initiate communications with the leader of the Cuban Forces. A man that was not well qualified for the task ( He had never meet the leader of the Cuban Forces nor had He had never been to Cuba and He didn’t speak the language ) was chosen for the task, and he was given no specific information were in Cuba He might be found.
The man’s account of the meeting at which he was given this difficult task (the typos aren’t mine this is how it appears on the web).
“when Colonel Wagner came to me to ask me to meet him at the Army and Navy Club for lunch at one O’clock. As we were eating, the colonel—who had, by the way, a reputation for being an inveterate joker—asked me: “When does the next boat leave for Jamaica?”
Thinking he was making an effort to perpetrate one of his pleasantries, and determined to thwart him, if possible, I excused myself for a minute or so and when I had returned informed him that the “Adirondack,” of the Atlas Line, a British boat, would sail from Mew York the next day at noon.
“Can you take that boat?” snapped the colonel.
Notwithstanding that I still believed the colonel was joking I replied in the affirmative.
“Then,” said my superior, “get ready to take it!”
“Young man,” he continued, “you have been selected by the President to communicate with—or rather, to carry a message to—General Garcia, who will be found somewhere in the eastern part of Cuba. Your problem will be to secure from him information of a military character, bring it down to date and arrange it on a working basis. Your message to him will be in the nature of a series of inquiries from the President. Written communication, further than is necessary to identify you, will be avoided. History has furnished us with the record of too many tragedies to warrant taking risks. Nathan Hale of the Continental Army, and Lieutenant Richey in the War with Mexico were both caught with dispatches; both were put to death and in the case of the latter the plans for Scott’s invasion of Vera Cruz was divulged to the enemy. There must be no failure on your part; there must be no errors made in this case.”
By this time I was fully alive to the fact that Colonel Wagner was not joking.
“Means will be found,” he continued, “to identify you in Jamaica, where there is a Cuban junta. The rest depends on you. You require no further instructions than those I will now give you.” which he did, they being essentially as outlined in the opening paragraphs. “You will need the afternoon for preparation. Quarter-master-General Humphreys will see that you are put ashore at Kingston. After that, providing the United States declares war on Spain, further instructions will be based on cables received from you. Otherwise everything will be silence. You must plan and act for yourself. The task is yours and yours only. You must get a message to Garcia. Your train leaves at midnight. Good-by and good luck!”
We shook hands.
As Colonel Wagner released mine he repeated: “Get that message to Garcia!”
Hastily, as I set about to make my preparations, I considered my situation. My duty was, as I understood it, complicated by the fact that a state of war did not exist, nor would it exist at the time of my departure; possibly not until after my arrival in Jamaica. A false step might bring about a condition that a lifetime of statement would never explain. Should war be declared my mission would be simplified, although its dangers would not be lessened.
In instances of this kind, where one’s reputation, as well as his life,
is at stake, it is usual to ask for written instructions. In military service
the life of the man is at the disposal of his country, but his reputation
is his own and it ought not be placed in the hands of anyone with power
to destroy it, either by neglect or otherwise. But in this case it never
occurred to me to ask for written instructions; my sole thought was that
I was charged with a message to Garcia and to get from him certain information
and that I was going to do it. “