Encrypted Civil War Message Finally Decrypted, 147 Years Later

from the wasn't-that-hard,-actually dept

When talking about encryption, people often talk about just how long it would take a certain level of computing to crack the code, so there may be some interest in the fact that it apparently took 147 years to decipher a coded Civil War message... but it turns out that the main reason it took so long was that no one looked. The message had been stored in a bottle and was apparently delivered to Confederate General John Pemberton during the battle of Vicksburg (which the Confederacy lost) on July 4th, 1863. The bottle was given to the Museum of the Confederacy back in 1896 by a former soldier, but the museum staff never bothered to pull the message out of the bottle until a few months ago. After discovering the message was coded, the museum asked some top code breakers to see if they could decipher it, and it apparently took them a few weeks. The message? It probably wasn't that important either, as it basically told General Pemberton he was in trouble and wasn't getting any reinforcements:
"You can expect no help from this side of the river."

Filed Under: ciphers, civil war, encryption

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Susan, 29 Dec 2010 @ 2:22am

    Security by obscurity? ;)

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.