Skip to comments.Coded American Civil War message in bottle deciphered
Posted on 12/26/2010 2:04:42 AM PST by JoeProBono
A message in a bottle delivered to a Confederate general during the American Civil War has been deciphered, 147 years after it was written. In the encrypted message, a commander tells Gen John Pemberton that no reinforcements are available to help him defend Vicksburg, Mississippi. "You can expect no help from this side of the river," says the message, which was deciphered by codebreakers. The text is dated 4 July 1863 - the day Vicksburg fell to Union forces.
(Excerpt) Read more at bbc.co.uk ...
'I can't help you. I have no troops, I have no supplies, I have no way to get over there,' "
Pemberton, John, United States Navy
Detail from "1910 Vicksburg, Mississippi Riverfront Panorama"
Pemberton, John, Confederate States Army
Lt. General John C. Pemberton
—and the people of Vicksburg did not commemorate Independence Day again until after D-Day, 1944.
Great post, thanks!
Rather tragic that they have Independence Day and Loss of Independence Day on the same day.
Philadelphia born Pemberton was a West Point Graduate whose wife was from Virginia. He had served much of his career in Texas, Florida and New Orleans and resigned from the Union Army at the start of the Civil War. At least one author claims that he felt that the citizens of Vicksburg could negotiate less harsh terms by surrendering on Independence Day.
Independence Day was not celebrated again in Vicksburg until July 4, 1943, eighty years to the day after it’s surrender.
Or Liberation Day, depending on the color of your skin.
Let me guess here - you believe that Lincoln fought the War to free the slaves?
Vicksburg and Gettysburg are the reasons the Battle of Helena never got much press. But if the Confederates had taken Helena they could have gotten supplies down to Vicksburg. That’s what the Helena “historians” say anyway.
I believe that this intelligence has been overtaken by events.
Very cool. I’m finding the papers overseas are much more interesting then ours.
The Vigenère cipher is simple enough to be a field cipher if it is used in conjunction with cipher disks.  The Confederate States of America, for example, used a brass cipher disk to implement the Vigenère cipher during the American Civil War. The Confederacy's messages were far from secret and the Union regularly cracked their messages. Throughout the war, the Confederate leadership primarily relied upon three key phrases, "Manchester Bluff", "Complete Victory" and, as the war came to a close, "Come Retribution".Claude Shannon, the father of information theory, came up with what was known as the "unity index", the amount of information that must be transmitted using a cipher to unambiguously decode it. The longer a message, or the more information transmitted and intercepted using a single key, the easier it will take to decode. The fact that snippet is brief and that the decoders were possibly unaware of the limited number of keys employed may explain why it took weeks to decode.
An elaboration of the Vigenère cipher is the running key cipher in which the code phrase is taken to be a book or a long passage. The problem with running key ciphers is that the key is available to the enemy and may be compromised. In addition, even if the key is chosen to be in a different language, eventually the non-uniform and non-random relationship among letters in human language reveal themselves and the cryptanalyst eventually can recover both the cipher message and the key. (There is an hilarious instance of this in the book, "The Good Soldier Schweik", in which the cadet decodes the general's "unbreakable" cipher, using an example from a cadet handbook.)
The ulitmate development of the Vigenère cipher is the one time pad, which is unbreakable in principle. A drawback to the one time pad is that the key is as long as the message and the keys must be distributed prior to the communication. The Venona intercepts used "sometime" pads, one time pads that had been reused. The Russians (like most countries at that time) used one time pads that were printed in book form and distributed to there stations worldwide. During the war, apparently some key books were created by reprinting and shuffling pages of previous code books and hoping no one noticed. The Americans noticed.
My transcription and decoding of the original. The message was enciphered using the phrase “MANCHESTER BLUFF”. There are apparently errors made during the encryption.
EAPS = CAPS
JNFORM = INFORM
DIVECSION = DIVERSION
What follow is in the form:
KEY(repeated with spaces where the msg had spaces)
== line break between lines of original message ==
GENL PEMBERTON YOU CAN EXPECT NO HELP FROM THIS SIDE
MANC HESTERBLU FFM ANC HESTER BL UFFM ANCH ESTE RBLU
SEAN WIEUIIUZH DTG CNP LBHXGK OZ BJQB FEQT XZBW JJOY
OF THE RIVER LET GENL JOHNSTON KNOW IF POSSIBLE WHEN
FF MAN CHEST ERB LUFF MANCHEST ERBL UF FMANCHES TERB
TK FHR TPZWK PVU RYSQ VOUPZXGG OEPH CK UASFKIPW PLVO
YOU CAN ATTACK THE SAME POINT ON THE ENEMYS LINE
LUF FMA NCHEST ERB LUFF MANCH ES TER BLUFFM ANCH
JIZ HMN NVAEUD XYF DURJ BOVPA SF MLV FYYRDE LVPL
JNFORM ME ALSO AND I WILL ENDEAVOUR TO MAKE A DIVECSION
ESTERB LU FFMA NCH E STER LUFFFMANC HE STER B LUFFMANCH
NFYSIN XY FQEO NPK M OBPC PHIJFHOHT AS ETOV B OCAJOSVQU
I HAVE SENT YOU SOME EAPS I SUBJOIN DESPATCH FROM
E STER BLUF FMA NCHE STER B LUFFMAN CHESTERB LUFF
M ZTZV TPHY DAU FQTI WTTJ J DOGOAIA FLWHTXTI QLTR
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