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Coded American Civil War message in bottle deciphered
bbc ^ | 25 December 2010

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 ...


TOPICS: History; Local News; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: american; bottle; cipher; civil; civilwar; coded; confederate; deciphered; johnpemberton; message; mississippi; pemberton; vicksburg; war

'I can't help you. I have no troops, I have no supplies, I have no way to get over there,' "


1 posted on 12/26/2010 2:04:51 AM PST by JoeProBono
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To: All

Pemberton, John, United States Navy


2 posted on 12/26/2010 2:06:59 AM PST by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: All

Detail from "1910 Vicksburg, Mississippi Riverfront Panorama"


3 posted on 12/26/2010 2:10:22 AM PST by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: JoeProBono
If one does not live for the “curiosity thing” then one does not live.
4 posted on 12/26/2010 2:22:39 AM PST by mmercier (when you can't sleep. you can't eat, you can't breathe... your are in deep)
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To: mmercier

5 posted on 12/26/2010 2:32:42 AM PST by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: JoeProBono

Pemberton, John, Confederate States Army

6 posted on 12/26/2010 2:37:28 AM PST by Gondring (Paul Revere would have been flamed as a naysayer troll and told to go back to Boston.)
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To: Gondring

7 posted on 12/26/2010 2:42:40 AM PST by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: Gondring

Lt. General John C. Pemberton


8 posted on 12/26/2010 2:45:58 AM PST by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: JoeProBono

—and the people of Vicksburg did not commemorate Independence Day again until after D-Day, 1944.

Great post, thanks!


9 posted on 12/26/2010 4:03:59 AM PST by expat_panama
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To: expat_panama

Rather tragic that they have Independence Day and Loss of Independence Day on the same day.


10 posted on 12/26/2010 4:12:54 AM PST by Gondring (Paul Revere would have been flamed as a naysayer troll and told to go back to Boston.)
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To: Gondring

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.


11 posted on 12/26/2010 4:53:09 AM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (Socialists are to economics what circle squarers are to math; undaunted by reason or derision.)
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To: Gondring

Or Liberation Day, depending on the color of your skin.


12 posted on 12/26/2010 4:56:54 AM PST by sphinx (,)
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To: sphinx
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?

13 posted on 12/26/2010 5:05:11 AM PST by don-o (Wait. What?)
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To: JoeProBono

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.


14 posted on 12/26/2010 5:17:56 AM PST by Terry Mross
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To: JoeProBono

I believe that this intelligence has been overtaken by events.


15 posted on 12/26/2010 5:18:44 AM PST by Slings and Arrows
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To: JoeProBono

Very cool. I’m finding the papers overseas are much more interesting then ours.


16 posted on 12/26/2010 5:30:28 AM PST by ladyvet
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To: JoeProBono
The Boston Globe article, which they link to says it was a Vigenère cipher. Wikipedia supplies this tidbit:

The Vigenère cipher is simple enough to be a field cipher if it is used in conjunction with cipher disks. [5] 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".[6]

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.

17 posted on 12/26/2010 5:33:46 AM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (Socialists are to economics what circle squarers are to math; undaunted by reason or derision.)
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To: JoeProBono

18 posted on 12/26/2010 6:29:34 AM PST by GreenLanternCorps ("Barack Obama" is Swahili for "Jimmy Carter".)
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To: JoeProBono

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:

PLAIN TEXT

KEY(repeated with spaces where the msg had spaces)

CIPHER TEXT

== 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

GEN JOHNSTON
MAN CHESTERB
SEA LVLFLXFO


19 posted on 12/26/2010 8:29:58 AM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (Socialists are to economics what circle squarers are to math; undaunted by reason or derision.)
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To: Slings and Arrows

LOL!


20 posted on 12/26/2010 5:09:04 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
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To: sphinx

/bingo


21 posted on 12/26/2010 5:09:10 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
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Secession Timeline
various sources

[Although very late in the war Lee wanted freedom offered to any of the slaves who would agree to fight for the Confederacy, practically no one was stupid enough to fall for that. In any case, Lee was definitely not fighting to end slavery, instead writing that black folks are better off in bondage than they were free in Africa, and regardless, slavery will be around until Providence decides, and who are we to second guess that? And the only reason the masters beat their slaves is because of the abolitionists.]

Robert E. Lee letter -- "...There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil. It is idle to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it is a greater evil to the white than to the colored race. While my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more deeply engaged for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, physically, and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their further instruction as a race, and will prepare them, I hope, for better things. How long their servitude may be necessary is known and ordered by a merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild and melting influences of Christianity than from the storm and tempest of fiery controversy. This influence, though slow, is sure. The doctrines and miracles of our Saviour have required nearly two thousand years to convert but a small portion of the human race, and even among Christian nations what gross errors still exist! While we see the course of the final abolition of human slavery is still onward, and give it the aid of our prayers, let us leave the progress as well as the results in the hands of Him who, chooses to work by slow influences, and with whom a thousand years are but as a single day. Although the abolitionist must know this, must know that he has neither the right not the power of operating, except by moral means; that to benefit the slave he must not excite angry feelings in the master..."
December 27, 1856

Platform of the Alabama Democracy -- the first Dixiecrats wanted to be able to expand slavery into the territories. It was precisely the issue of slavery that drove secession -- and talk about "sovereignty" pertained to restrictions on slavery's expansion into the territories. January 1860

Abraham Lincoln nominated by Republican Party May 18, 1860

Abraham Lincoln elected November 6, 1860

Robert Toombs, Speech to the Georgia Legislature -- "...In 1790 we had less than eight hundred thousand slaves. Under our mild and humane administration of the system they have increased above four millions. The country has expanded to meet this growing want, and Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, have received this increasing tide of African labor; before the end of this century, at precisely the same rate of increase, the Africans among us in a subordinate condition will amount to eleven millions of persons. What shall be done with them? We must expand or perish. We are constrained by an inexorable necessity to accept expansion or extermination. Those who tell you that the territorial question is an abstraction, that you can never colonize another territory without the African slavetrade, are both deaf and blind to the history of the last sixty years. All just reasoning, all past history, condemn the fallacy. The North understand it better - they have told us for twenty years that their object was to pen up slavery within its present limits - surround it with a border of free States, and like the scorpion surrounded with fire, they will make it sting itself to death." November 13, 1860

Alexander H. Stephens -- "...The first question that presents itself is, shall the people of Georgia secede from the Union in consequence of the election of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States? My countrymen, I tell you frankly, candidly, and earnestly, that I do not think that they ought. In my judgment, the election of no man, constitutionally chosen to that high office, is sufficient cause to justify any State to separate from the Union. It ought to stand by and aid still in maintaining the Constitution of the country. To make a point of resistance to the Government, to withdraw from it because any man has been elected, would put us in the wrong. We are pledged to maintain the Constitution." November 14, 1860

South Carolina December 20, 1860

Mississippi January 9, 1861

Florida January 10, 1861

Alabama January 11, 1861

Georgia January 19, 1861

Louisiana January 26, 1861

Texas February 23, 1861

Abraham Lincoln sworn in as
President of the United States
March 4, 1861

Arizona territory March 16, 1861

CSA Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, Cornerstone speech -- "...last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution -- African slavery as it exists amongst us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the 'rock upon which the old Union would split.' He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact." March 21, 1861

Virginia adopted April 17,1861
ratified by voters May 23, 1861

Arkansas May 6, 1861

North Carolina May 20, 1861

Tennessee adopted May 6, 1861
ratified June 8, 1861

West Virginia declares for the Union June 19, 1861

Missouri October 31, 1861

"Convention of the People of Kentucky" November 20, 1861

http://members.aol.com/jfepperson/ordnces.html

[Alabama] "...Whereas, the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin to the offices of president and vice-president of the United States of America, by a sectional party, avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions and to the peace and security of the people of the State of Alabama, preceded by many and dangerous infractions of the constitution of the United States by many of the States and people of the Northern section, is a political wrong of so insulting and manacing a character as to justify the people of the State of Alabama in the adoption of prompt and decided measures for their future peace and security... And as it is the desire and purpose of the people of Alabama to meet the slaveholding States of the South, who may approve such purpose, in order to frame a provisional as well as permanent Government upon the principles of the Constitution of the United States, Be it resolved by the people of Alabama in Convention assembled, That the people of the States of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, be and are hereby invited to meet the people of the State of Alabama, by their Delegates, in Convention, on the 4th day of February, A.D., 1861, at the city of Montgomery, in the State of Alabama, for the purpose of consulting with each other as to the most effectual mode of securing concerted and harmonious action in whatever measures may be deemed most desirable for our common peace and security." [Jan 11, 1861]

[Texas] "...The recent developments in Federal affairs make it evident that the power of the Federal Government is sought to be made a weapon with which to strike down the interests and property of the people of Texas, and her sister slave-holding States, instead of permitting it to be, as was intended, our shield against outrage and aggression..." [Feb 1, 1861]

[Virginia] "...the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States..." [Feb 23, 1861]

http://www.csawardept.com/documents/secession/AZ/index.html

[Arizona Territory] "...a sectional party of the North has disregarded the Constitution of the United States, violated the rights of the Southern States, and heaped wrongs and indignities upon their people... That we will not recognize the present Black Republican Administration, and that we will resist any officers appointed to this Territory by said Administration with whatever means in our power." [16 March 1861 -- Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President of the United States on March 4, 1861. The pretext for Arizona's secession was interruption of U.S. postal service.]

22 posted on 12/26/2010 5:09:45 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
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To: don-o
Let me guess here - you believe that Lincoln fought the War to free the slaves?

The population of Vicksburg according to the last census is just over 60% black. I kinda sorta doubt that the average citizen of Vicksburg looks upon July 4, 1863 as a defeat.

23 posted on 12/26/2010 5:16:41 PM PST by sphinx (,)
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To: Slings and Arrows

Fox News did a little more expansive story than the BBC and included this possible explanation:

“So what about the bullet in the bottom of the bottle?

Wright suspects the messenger was instructed to toss the bottle into the river if Union troops intercepted his passage. The weight of the bullet would have carried the corked bottle to the bottom, she said.

For Pemberton, the bottle is symbolic of his lost cause: The bad news never made it to him.

The Confederate messenger probably arrived to the river’s edge and saw a U.S. flag flying over the city. “He figured out what was going on and said, ‘Well, this is pointless,’ and turned back,” Wright said.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/12/25/civil-war-message-opened-decoded-help-coming/#ixzz19KpVHDZv


24 posted on 12/27/2010 9:59:34 AM PST by rockrr ("I said that I was scared of you!" - pokie the pretend cowboy)
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To: rockrr

Interesting. A fascinating look at history.


25 posted on 12/27/2010 10:22:31 AM PST by Slings and Arrows (You can't have IngSoc without an Emmanuel Goldstein.)
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To: sphinx

Amen. Well played.


26 posted on 12/27/2010 11:37:20 AM PST by NucSubs
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To: sphinx

Careful...you’re dealing in reality here. That does not generally go over well with this subject. ;-)


27 posted on 12/27/2010 11:40:12 AM PST by NucSubs
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To: Lonesome in Massachussets
You might enjoy a book that I recently read:

"The Code Book" by Simon Singh

It's a very interesting book that outlines the history of cryptography and cryptanalysis. The Vigenere cipher is one of the ciphers that is thoroughly discussed. I found a copy at the local library, though I'm sure that there is an electronic copy online somewhere.

28 posted on 12/27/2010 8:53:23 PM PST by Washi
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To: Washi

Thanks I *will* look into it. BTW, have you read David Kahn’s classic, “The Codebreakers: the Story of Secret Writing”, though the title is somewhat of a misnomer? It could just have accurately been called “The Code Makers”.


29 posted on 12/28/2010 4:05:26 AM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (Socialists are to economics what circle squarers are to math; undaunted by reason or derision.)
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To: Gondring

Independence Day was not celebrated in Vicksburg for another 80 years. It was not until 1943, with the men of Vicksburg off fighting in another war, that the people of Vicksburg again felt American enough to celebrate the Fourth. Confederate commander Pemberton had selected the fourth as the date to surrender, hoping that Grant might offer more sympathetic terms.

In the event, Grant did not want to feed 30,000 hungry prisoners, and offered to parole the Confederate captives. Grant hoped that the tired, hungry soldiers would not want to rejoin the fight, and would carry the stigma defeat home with them, but most of the parolees soon rejoined the fight, and that ended prisoner paroles for the rest war.


30 posted on 02/02/2013 5:25:12 AM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (What word begins with "O" and ends in economic collapse?)
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To: Gondring

Better remember, perhaps, as the undisputed inventor of Coca-Cola.


31 posted on 02/04/2013 4:53:01 AM PST by Lonesome in Massachussets (What word begins with "O" and ends in economic collapse?)
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