No one fired, and eventually, the men put their guns down. With the revolution at stake, the two sides agreed to put their differences aside and coordinate their efforts.
A FINAL ASSAULT
In the ensuing weeks, the dual forces unleashed their own attacks through the province -- the heart of Cuba -- in a final assault on Batista's soldiers.
On Dec. 22, 1958, Morgan's column stormed a fortified area guarding the city of Cienfuegos, firing on the building until the soldiers inside gave up.
Nine days later, Guevara and his men -- after a brutal spate of battles -- took the provincial capital of Santa Clara, causing Batista to panic and flee Havana.
While the rebel factions gathered in Havana to celebrate, Morgan and Guevara never reconciled, say those who knew them. ''Che hated Morgan,'' Castellon recalled.
In fact, they squared off once more when Guevara insisted that leaders of the Second Front give up their command. ''It got real ugly,'' Gutiérrez Menoyo recalled in a 2002 interview. ``We had our hands on our guns.''
Morgan was allowed to keep his rank in the revolutionary army, but neither Morgan nor Gutiérrez Menoyo was given a prominent post in the new government.
Angry over Castro's relentless turn to communism, Morgan broke with the regime and began to run guns to a new rebel front in the Escambray -- acts that led to his arrest.
Tried and convicted before a military court, he was led to a firing squad on March 11, 1961. He was 32.
Since then, Morgan's image has been eclipsed by larger Cold War events. But to those who fought with him in the Escambray, he remains an intriguing figure in the revolution.
''He was a tough guy who struggled most of his life,'' Encinosa said.
``He got in trouble with the army and the law. But he goes to Cuba and he finds a cause. He finds something to believe in, and then he dies for it. In his death, he becomes somebody he had never been before.''