Confederate Message in a Bottle Deciphered 147 Years Later

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The encrypted note, dated July 4, 1863, was meant for besieged Confederate Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, and read in part, "You can expect no help from this side of the river." (The Museum of the Confederacy)

The siege at the Battle of Vicksburg, in Mississippi, was a crucial victory for Union forces, and catastrophic defeat for the Confederates. On the day of the battle, one Confederate general sent a coded message in a bottle to Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, who was under siege in Vicksburg. The message was never received, and before this year, it had never been deciphered. Catherine Wright, collections manager at The Museum of the Confederacy, took on the challenge of deciphering the message. Confirmed by two cryptographers, the message reads, in part: “You can expect no help from this side of the river.”


Catherine Wright

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja

Comments [3]

John Dewey from Anna, TX

The encryption used a simple Vigenère cipher (ref Keyword MANCHESTERBLUFF.

Jan. 02 2011 03:25 PM
Charles Poole from Fort Worth

We can not read such notes in the light of today-We must remember that it is part of our history--those men fighting--and families starving in Vicksburg--were Americans--fighting an invader to their land. In order to heal the nation that is why even in Arlington a wonderful memorial to fallen Confederates was built before the Spainish American War-to help build the nation whole to face the future conflicts and the time to come--why congress voted to return the battle flags of the South-to honor the sacrifice-the pain-

Dec. 29 2010 06:04 AM
Brian McCabe from Detroit

I can't believe Hockenberry's reaction to what was contained in the note. He was so sad that the confederates weren't able to get reinforcements that would have resulted in "saving" Vicksburg ~ which would have prolonged the war and caused more death and suffering on both sides let alone risk forever fractioning the country.

Dec. 28 2010 07:12 PM

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