tv [untitled] May 19, 2012 12:00pm-12:30pm EDT
history, from muncie, indiana, ball state indiana professor johns connolly examines immigration, voting and the roots of pluralism in the united states. tonight at 8:00 eastern. part of american history tv this weekend on c-span3. history bookshelf features writers of the past decade and airs on american history tv every weekend at this time. this week on history bookshelf, john nagy talks about espionage during the american revolution. he's the author of "invisible ink: spy kracraft of the americ revolution" and a member of the roundtable of philadelphia. this program is 50 minutes. thank you. the american revolution begins up in boston amp the battles of conquered and lexington. the american army surrounds the british who are under a virtual
siege. the british find out that british general thomas gauge is in charge. they have no one on staff who really is an expert in ciphers and codes and they have no system actually in place to send coded messages to their operations in canada or even here in new york. american general george washington takes command of the troops at cambridge and, again, on the american side there is nobody in charge of cryptology. now what you do have a situation, where merchants are not totally ignorant of codes and ciphers. when they deal with their factors, their agents in london, they had a tendency to use a very cryptive cipher system to tell her agents what price to sell at and so on, and so if their messages were intercepted, their mail, because in the 18th
century you had no privacy in the mail. you put it in the mail it was public information and you could pretty much be assured that somebody was going to read it along the way. now, one of the situations is, you have dr. benjamin church who is the surgeon general of the continental army. he is one of the five leaders of the patriot movement in massachusetts, along with john and samuel adams. john hancock, dr. warren and dr. church. the only problem is, dr. church is a british spy. he's been on the british payroll since at least 1772, and so while he is running the american hospitals, he's sending in information to british generals in boston. what you see at the bottom of the screen --
whoop. got to point it the right way. right here. is an actual decoded handwritten message. that's the cipher key of his, that was intercepted. it was intercepted, he wasn't able to send his mail directly into boston. it had to go down to providence, down to newport. so what he did is, he sent his mistress who was a prostitute in boston down to newport to one of her former clients to get the message to the british captain of the vessel. she delivers the message to him. he promptly takes it onboard ship. see as message that's all in ciphers and symbols and so he decides not to do it. takes the document, goes to the governors of rhode island, who then sends him up to american general greene, who being a
merchant knows that it's an encoded message. the americans put two teams to sd decipher the message and both usie frequency analysis, in othr words, which appear the most common? you then back it out. the most common letter in english is the letter e. you would start with figures out what appears the most times and that is the letter e. and then you work down from there. they come up with the exact same translation, both of them, and that's the code that they wrote down that he had used. now, the difference between a cipher and a code. every has a sendancy to misuse the terms. a cipher is when a character or letter represents another character or letter. in other words, a is equal to one. or delta using a symbol is equal to the letter k or something similar. the code is when a character
represents an entire word and usually you're going to need a code book to identify what the codes are, because you're going to be using so many. generally you're not going to be able to keep track of them in your head. one of the things we need to realize is the alphabet in the 18th century is not our alphabet. okay? it is not identical. in the 18th century, the letters i and j are the exact same letter. there is no difference between the two. the letters u and v are the same letter. so if i gave you the letters ivly, today it would look strange. in the 18th century, they would automatically make the change and adjust it and immediately know that what i meant was july. okay? and shorthand writing is another form of codes and ciphers, and
the earliest book that i found on shorthand dates to 1586. so it was well known. what you're looking at is joseph stanbury's cipher, and it's very simple. it's a is equal to z. b is equal to a. it's a one-letter shift. joseph stansbury is the person in philadelphia who received the messages from benedict arnold, wrote them into cipher, in codes, and they were brought across new jersey by two different methods. brought here to new york. they were given to the reverend jonathan o'dell who then decoded the messages and then turned them into british headquarters right here at 1 broadway. they also used book codes, blackstone's commentaries on the laws of england, and if you notice, it says fifth oxford
edition. it is very important that the two people sending and coding and decoding in the messages are using the same edition. otherwise, you find out you put down the word balloon and they're reading it as baloney. so you've got to use the same edition. the first number is usually the page. the second number is the line, and the third number is the word. so 45-9-8 would mean to go to page 45, to go down to line 9, over to word 8, and that would be your word, which obviously you've got to have the same book. dictionary codes. very popular used by all sides. a dictionary, though the most common one used the new spelling dictionary. it has a list of words alphabetical order, two columns, and you have just about every word that you could possibly want.
what they would do is, they would put a dot over the number to indicate whether it was the first column or the second column. they had a tendency when it was the first column to just ignore the dot. they would also do things like add 20 to the page, or seven, or what have you. so if i was going to give you the number 155-11, and i had added 20 to the page, i'm telling you to go to page 139. okay? there is also an instance where they paged the book backwards. to try and keep it hidden. what you're looking at is the original letter from benedict arnold offering west point for 20,000 pounds. it's in code, and the original letter is at the university of michigan at the clemons library. this is a pigpen cipher.
we would call it, like a ticktacktoe board. they called it a pigpen. you would place the letters in each one of the quadrants and the two sides, the sender and receiver, had to agree which letters are going where. okay? so as long as you understood the positioning of the letters in the different slots, you were able to transcribe a message. so if you're looking here you see in the first upper left quadrant the letters a, b, c. if you drew just the upper left quadrant without putting anything in it, it would indicate the letter a. if you drew the quadrant and put one dot, it would indicate the letter b. the upper left quadrant with two dots would be the letter c and so on. now, all sides wound up using this. the americans, the british, the french. there's even a haitian diary
partially written in a pigpen cipher. now, that's what it would look like when would you actually see it, and if you took the time to translate it, it would give you the word "traitor." if you look at the first letter, it's the lower left quadrant, one dot. so it's the letter t. and if you carry it out, you will then get the word traitor. the pigpen cipher, by the way, is used up through the american civil war. oop. this is the french version. it also used an x to indicate, to just make it a little more complicated. the next thing is calmed the cardano grille or more of a mask. the sections where the squiggles, those would be
cutouts on the page. so you, how you would use this is, you would put the mask on the paper put your secret message in the cut out holes, takes mask all off and then write the rest of the message around it. now, you're not going to get it right the first time. so it is something that would have to be done a number of times in order to get it correct. they also used with a hidden center. we would call it an hour glass mask in the 18th century they called it a dumbbell mask. you always have to understand the different terminology. here is a letter written with a hidden center. here's the actual hidden message. okay? and what the message says is,
sir william howe has gone to the chesapeake, it was sent by general henry clinton up to general begoin telling him howe was not coming up the hudson to help him. he's gone to attack philadelphia. so you can see the hidden center, and, again, the actual letter as it went. dead drops. the dead drop is where one party deposits a letter or message in a location, leaves it there and then another one comes along and picks it up. dead drops were used in trees in albany and paris and in pittsburgh, and in pittsburgh, you have simon girdy who is a british spy. he would come, pick up the message that was left by his brother in a tree outside of pittsburgh. the only problem is simon girdy could not read or write. which is a major handicap if you're a spy.
he would wind up having to get a friend of his to translate and tell him exactly what the message was. the only problem was that the friend was an american spy, who then went back and told general broadhead at fort pitt all the information that was coming out of fort pitt going up to fort detroit. this stuff is real. this is not hollywood. this is the way it really worked! okay. on long island they used the box in a cow pasture. you also had to be careful where you stepped, but you can still do it. the way it worked is, austin roe was a tavernkeeper out in suffolk county. he would travel in to new york city to pick up supplies and what have you, and he would take the messages back out to eastern long island. he had rented a cow pasture to place his cattle to graze. so he had a legitimate reason to go to the cow pass dhoer pick
up, to check on his cattle, while there, he would leave the messages in a box in the field. aimless woodall would come, since he own pd the field had a legitimate reason for being in the field, checking what's going on and while there would pick up the messages and give them to sela strong. she would then place it in a location down at the beach on long island sound, and by the use of bloomers and kerchiefs she would hang on the line to indicate to the american people that were coming over to service the debt drop where they were to go and pick up the messages. in philadelphia, we have the story of mom rinker, who would sit up on the, along the river doing her pcrocheting and darning, and then would be observing the british.
she would write her messages and stick it in a ball of yarn, which she would allow to roll down the hill and down at the bottom of the hill it serviced by two american whose would come, pick up the messages and take them back to washington at valley forge. and in rhode island they also used a rock down by the water. invisible ink, anything that's mildly ascidic will work. whether it be milk, lemon juice, grape fruit juice. juring world war ii they actually used urine. anything that will weaken the fibers of the paper. what happens is the fibers once weakened, when you bring it next to heat, the weakened fibers will darken first. the only thing you have to remember is to take it away from the heat or the whole document goes brown. but anything that will weaken the fibers will work in doing
it. i'm sure some of you, when were you younger, tried writing with miamii milk or lemon juice and put it next to a light bulb, and it does work. they also had, in the 18th century, three different methods, which are identified in the book, that tells you of compound chemical reactions where you would write with one chemical and then have to apply a second chemical, which then would make the message appear. applying heat to that chemical would have no effect and would not make it visible. what you're looking at is an actual letter written in invisible ink. they're very rare, mainly because when you apply the chemicals to it, the documents become very fragile. the reference jonathan o'dell mentions the fact that he transcribed all the letters when
they got him, because they became very brittle after applying the -- if you look at the page, you can see at the top it starts, sir, you drop down to the third line, sir begins again. a second beginning of a letter. you can also see there's two different color inks being used, and also on the left side, what looks like a water mark is actually where the chemical reation has been applied to the document. hidden compartments. they use all sorts of things to hide messages. up on the new york frontier, up near albany, and up in canada, they used hollowed out bullets and on the frontier people would be expecting to go out and shoot their dinner and so you would be carrying a pouch with musket balls for your rifle or your
musket, and so it would be inconspicuous. in many cases it was. there is a situation after the falls of forts montgomery and clinton in new york that the american army is disbursed. a british agent who's carrying one of these hidden musket balls sees a group of soldiers in british lobster back uniforms making breakfast. he comes up and tells thek, take this to general clinton. they take him to general clinton, however, they take him to american general clinton. there are three general clintons in the american revolution. two on the american side, one on the british. they are actually part of the connecticut troops who were given regular british army uniforms to wear that were captured at sea and they were known at the red coat regiment. when taylor, the spy who's carrying the message, gets,
realizes that he's been captured, he swallows the silver bullet. he's observed. they give him tartar emmerick to bring up the message, he brings it up and then shoves it back down again. at which time american general clinton is starting to lose his patience, and tells him he will take the tartar emmerick again, and this time it will stay up or he will retrieve it through surgery at the end of a bayonet. so he brings it up. he's convicted as a spy and hung at kingston, new york. buttons. some of you may have coats where you have a cloth over the button. this was a fashion that was popular at the time in the american revolution. on your overcoat, or the buttons to match the color of the cloth over the button to match the color of the jacket. what was happening in philadelphia while the british
were in occupation is, children were able to pretty much go in and out of the lines almost at any time without being harassed whatsoever. so they would write messages in shorthand, place it over a, it was either a wooden or a bone button which then would be covered in a cloth, the sun would go through the lines out to the american troops, see his brother who would then take the messages out of from underneath the button, write at response and send him back sbointo the c of philadelphia. canteens, there are instances of double bottom canteens that are used. clothes. dr. benjamin church mentions that some of his spies on their breach bridges if you're familiar with a hoodie, a sweatshirt with pull strings. this sleeve the pullspring slides in. it during the american revolution at that time the breaches, you would have a pull
string. so they would hide the message inside the slot for the drawstring. knives. one british soldier, when he applied for his british pension, identifying the fact that he was british spy, turned in his fake hollow knife to prove the fact that he was working as a spy. and -- when the -- pennsylvania troops mutiny at morristown, british general clinton sent six spies out of new york to try and entice the mutineers to come over to the british side. he offered them everything but the crown of england. if they did. but the messages were encased in tea lead. they came in like chock lis bol
bars, would be wrapped in aluminum foil. back then used a lead foil, not good healthwise, but they were not aware of it. okay. pens. quill pens. everybody, like most people today carry a pen. back in the 18th century, people carried quills. there exists a set of messages that were rolled up very tiny, slipped inside a quill and carried through the lines, and that's how we know they did that. plant pods. there is a case where a spy comes into new york city and he hides his messages inside leather bladders that are hidden under exotic plants that are in plant pots. everything worked fine, except, and he goes through the lines, when william smith goes to pick up the messages at this guy's apartment here in new york, he sees all messages being hung up on lines in the room as the ink is running off the pages.
for the longest time i thought this was just a dumb spy, until i find out, and the british also found out, he was a double agent. he was a spy working for lafayette. but by claiming that his documents were destroyed, that was hopefully giving him credence. powder oranghorns. we know they used powder horns. one found in sandusky, ohio, with a message inside, apparently dropped by the spy, and shoes. there are a number of instances where shoes, false heels, were used. there's a case in virginia that we know of. there is also a spy who carried messages from london to paris, to benjamin franklin. used false heels on his boot to carry the message.
washington's deceptions. now, the one thing i do have to say about washington, for somebody who never told a lie, he certainly stretched the truth an awful lot. up in cambridge, when he first takes over the american army, they were down to actually nine rounds per man. nine shots. that was it. as far as the gun powder, they actually had in camp. he knew there was british spies going around the american camp. so what he did is, he had a shipment of barrels brought up from providence, rhode island marked gun powder. the only problem is, inside the barrels was sand. so the british spies would go back and report that the americans had plenty of gun powder and they would be able to keep the siege up for a long time. he also did a thing calmed a troop multiplication at
morristown, after the battles of trenton and princeton. the american army goes up and encamps at morristown, and while there, normally you would put most of your troops, cluster them in houses, try and keep as many together as you could. washington went the exact opposite way. he would put on or two soldiers in a house so the area they occupied was much greater than the amount of troops he had. so the spies are reporting back to british headquarters here in new york that washington's army extends over such a great area. so they're reporting back that he has three or four times more soldiers than he actually has. to me, one of the best ones occurs by general putnam of princeton, new jersey. again, after the battle of princeton. putnam was there with 50 men, the british army in new brunswick and the rest of the american army is at morristown.
so the bulk of the british army could come down and squash him in an instant, if he wanted to. there is a british officer who was wounded very badly at the battle of princeton. was not expected to live. asked for permission to have a british officer come out of new brunswick, take his last will and testament. agreed, but insisted it had to be done at night. what putnam dp is, in all the empty houses, he put candles to make them look like they were occupied. he then had his 50 soldiers march past the house where the last will and testament was being taken. sometimes one, two at a time. sometimes six at a time. sometimes a dozen. sometimes all 50. when he goes back to brunswick, he reports that putnam is in princeton with 4,000 soldiers.
instead of the 50 he really had. okay? bakery boards for spies. washington likes to make up fake reports and send demands to british headquarters here in new york. he did so well that amp the battle of brandywine in pennsylvania, they captured an original american report but were absolutely convinced it was fake, because they were getting so many fake reports, they refused to believe it. now, another one is what washington's deception, it was that in march, in 1781, to move the american army and the french army from north jersey and basically westchester and putnam counties past the british, crossed the delaware river and eventually down to yorktown, to hook up with lafayette, down there, and attack corn wallace.
so washington uses what's calmed the deception battle plan. and the deception battle plan is also used in world war ii for the landing at normandy. it's also used in "desert storm" by general schwarzkopf to do an end-around on the republican guard. they use washington's plan. all right. first thing you need is a clear objective, and the clear objective was he needed to march across south jersey being attacked by the british located in new york and on staten island. you have to know the enemy's assumptions, and washington originally was planning to attack new york with the french. the british in new york believed that, and so what you have to do is, that once you know what the enemy believes, you then have to reinforce their belief that that is what you're going to do.
so the next thing would be method selection. the options they used. one of the things that he did is, since they were using the french army. the french army, a bulk of their diet is bread, he had brick ovens being built, and they were built in chatham, new jersey. he issued orders for the preparations of building ovens at the highlands, right near sandy hook, and he also was issuing orders for supplies to be brought to the french ovens at the highlands. once the french troops arrived, and since the french troops were never going there, he could write as manyrd others as he wands, because none of these contracts would ever take place. the other thing that he did is, he had troops assigned to go to perth amboy and they went down by the water's edge and he want the british to observe them collecting bricks. at perth amboy you had a