Diary Code Break

Help U.C. Berkeley crack this Civil War code

Scanned Diary AVAILABLE: see link

Big thanks to Ryan, who put the whole scanned diary in a PDF file, located right here: http://www.mediafire.com/?05lw6mipwkgdzc4

As I said, I’m working on the transcriptions now and will post them when they’re done–if anyone who is interested (or just wants a bit of fun) could send me any parts of the code they break, I would hugely appreciate it. I hope to have the whole thing posted–transcribed English and deciphered code–by sometime in March!

We have some progress on a few decodings, but the “Rosetta Stone” seems to only work for some of the sentences. The writer seems to play around with his code a bit, so that the key used for one section may not totally work for another. Here is what a contributor just decoded: can anyone help clean it up? (Also, my own transcriptions of the English have allowed me to guess at some of the words. I put the guesses in parentheses, hoping they can help people to assign correct letters to symbols)

1.jpg – (I have no idea)

2.jpg – ALLY WARANSS? ON MY TONS SUT? I CANNOT MA_N_G SOINT?

3.jpg – I NOW FIND MYSELF BETTER OF MY BAD? DISEASE (bad was elsewhere suggested to be “God”)

4.jpg – ABOUT THIS TIME IRA? GO AS TO CUNSONHAMS? AND GATES FOR THE JOUNA? ONE (I believe he means Cunningham’s, a place he goes in the evening)

5.jpg – BEGIN AGAIN TO NASE? MYSELF (possibly nurse himself? he often makes references to some disease he has)

6.jpg – ODAM? S?? MUCH IS SOULT? THREGSRS? TO?? MY LOVE AFFAIR? VOS? OF ANNUNDA? DOES LISTEN TO MY TALE OF LOVE MARY BE MY SALT? TRIAL

7.jpg – GOT MY LETTERS OF ESIE?

8.jpg – HAVE SEDVEREEEN? QUITE SO ASEIOSN? FOR THE MAIL AM REALLY NUSDERING? TO HEAR FROM QUASSTA? (squiggled out) ME AS HOW TO BREAK THE NEWS TO EM? OF ONE THING I AM SATANFRED? I NEVER SHCMDSED? TO MARRY HER I CAN GAIN ANN I KNOW CTD? I FRAY INAHE? RIAHR? (the beginning of this is actually “have never been quite so anxious for the mail.” The rest of it is decoded in a post from a few days ago, listed below this one)

code-image-1.jpg- WHITE SLAYED SHAN SHSENS? GOT MY LETTERS ON ESIE?

code-image-2.jpg – (i have no idea)

code-image-3.jpg – ABOUT THIS TIME IRA GO AS TO CUNSOHAMS? AND GATES FRO THE JOUNA? ONE

Next Steps

SO: the code has been broken (see post below). But I’ll still be posting the entire diary on Monday, because it’s great fun to now decipher the whole thing. I’m also in the process of transcribing the English parts of the diary. Anyone who can decipher code bits, please let me know, and I’ll add them to the English parts. That way, we can soon put the whole thing together and have the entire diary transcribed and decoded.

The “Rosetta Stone” Key: Pretty Much Complete

Huge thanks to Qingchun Ren of UC Berkeley Math Department for finally breaking the code.

Qingnchun writes:

“I worked out the code for 21 of the 26 letters. The encoding process is
(1) Replace each letter by the corresponding symbol. Add commas between words.
(2) Add some random stroke to make it look messier.

Here’s a few more sentences decoded:

The paragraph above “17”:
I could not be induced to visit a house of ill fame.

The paragraph above the paragraph above “17”:
I now find myself better of my god disease.

And here is THE ROSETTA STONE (**applause**)

 

UPDATE: part of code cracked!

Success!! Part of the code appears to have been cracked by Qingchun Ren. The Code-Breaker writes:

“Basically, each symbol corresponds to a letter, But I guess some extra strokes were added to make it harder to break.”

 Here is what the last page in the file (all written in code) reads:
Have never been quite so anxious for the mail.
Am really suffering to hear from Augusta.
All that ??? troubles me in now to break the news to Em.
If any of you find this helpful for breaking the code in other parts, please let me know, and go ahead and post it (being specific about which page it refers to). As soon as we are sure of the means by which to break it, the entire diary (again, post coming Monday) can be deciphered quite quickly. I promise to transcribe all the coded bits and post them when this occurs.

 

UPDATE

Hi all,

Thanks for the help. What everyone keeps pointing out is that having the entire document, so as to decipher his general handwriting, the context, and all the symbols he uses, would be most helpful. I can’t get to campus until Monday, but then I will be scanning and posting the whole thing.

Keep on with the posts though–we’re getting there!

Civil War Diary Code

Basic story:

I’m a PhD student at U.C Berkeley. The history department recently got ahold of a Civil War diary, but a bunch of things are written in code. We can’t decipher it, so we were hoping someone in the public domain could. Anyone want to take a shot at deciphering this–or, also helpful, let me know what code you think it is? Images attached.

Some context: this is a Union soldier who appears to have seen action in a number of battles throughout the war. It is unlikely that this is military code, since we suspect that he is writing about his superior officers and would not want them to be able to decipher it.

***I am currently in the process of reading the diary to determine the whole context. I will update this website with more information as soon as I finish.

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