Longstreet's Scout
Henry Thomas Harrison

Breaking the Code

In his article, "The Spy Harrison," Mr. James O. Hall cites Mr. David Gaddy, an expert on Civil War ciphers, who assumed the numbers on the paper Harrison is holding in the photo are Confederate code and that the message was an ancient one: "I Love You."

Coded_message.JPG (5609 bytes)

Harrison's coded message

Mr. Gaddy did not see the actual photograph so he was just guessing.  He was certainly close but not correct. In making a scanned image of Harrison's photo for reproduction I enlarged the picture and noticed the numbers on the paper are clear and are easily readable. The only problem is there are only 6 numbers on the paper and the message "I LOVE YOU" is 8 characters. This made no sense. So I decided I would try some simple deciphering on my own. 

The message can be translated without knowledge of cipher techniques and a good assumption is that Laura Broders had no code breaking skills. Amazingly, the "code" was nothing more than a simplistic alphabet to number translation commonly used by children. Harrison merely assigned each letter of the alphabet a number starting with 1 for an "A" and ending with 26 for a "Z." Apparently Harrison wasn't reckless enough to compromise military ciphers in a photograph that could fall into unfriendly hands.

A simple translation of the numbers on the paper, 13-25-12-15-22-5, translates to "MY LOVE."  End of mystery.


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