Is this a comprehensible discussion of the northern wire cypher?

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#1
I have a guy trying to impress his girl, a no no, with the mechanics of the northern wire cypher. Is this a reasonable discussion?

"
"It is a remarkably simple system at base, but it is complicated in its execution. It is in two parts, common nouns like the names of generals, colonels, rivers, cities have other words replacing them. And the nouns that are used a lot have two or three alternate names which you are supposed to use them interchangeably. The Mississippi is variously the Yellow, the Nile, and Yangtsee. The Tennessee is the Pechora and the Lena. The Cumberland is Seine, Tiber, and Amazon. The Ohio is the Danube, the Volga and the Rhone. General Grant is Alqi, Butler is Cpunz, Sherman is Mcnaughten, Bragg is Kindness, Pemberton is reg41."
"Don't they know they know about their names?"
"Theoretically they don't. Stanton would have their heads if they interfered with the cypher, so they keep quiet. They don't need to know, so they don't"
He lapsed into didactic mode, which always amused her. His saxon accent became more pronounced "The next part is where it becomes fiendishly complicated. It is called The Route. Every week they change this at 4:00 sunday morning. When you prepare a message you write it on a grid of between 18 and 42 letters. Then you follow the route when you write the message. For example, I would send a message that general Butler is going to go to Baton Rouge on the Missippi and attack general Bragg, I would send the message 'cpuns going to attack kindness at sticks using yangtsee. I will show you. This route is a very simple one, we just start in the upper right using a 10X5 grid, like so..... I will have a few random letters to fill in the rest of the grid, and voila, an incomprehensible message that the confederates will tear their hair out trying to figure out. "
She looked at the message "ystskekatc,wegucsktagp,penwisitnu,aqaitadai,qzygstncog. That looks miserable."
"They change the route weekly. This will prevent the confederates ever getting translated in time to do anything about it."
Y S T S K E K A T C
W E G U C S K T G P
P E N S I S I T N U
A Q A I T A D A I S
Q Z Y G S T N C O G
 

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#2
A simple, possible cipher key regarding the input strictly for the wire recipient could be, 'Watch your p's and q's that you don't have them reversed; and be sure to dot your 'I's and cross your 'T's. Being to the point that the sender and receiver knew that Bragg was not the point of attack by Butler, and say, Butler was on the Peninsula and it was 1864. Then the cipher could be interpretable. Other wise it is the 'avant-garde' desire to promote personal attention. Morgan and his men in Kentucky on one of his first raids had tapped the line out of Midway, I think it was, and played with the train depot deliveries while finding secrets as to who was on the other end. Guessing-game.
Lubliner.
 
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#3
My understanding was the wires were under the direct control of Stanton, separate from his generals. Grant got in trouble one time because he arrested a wire operator.

This is how the system was explained to me, but it is still confusing. The route and the substitution together would have made this to hard to untangle.

The action in my story is 1863, before Butler was moved. I think he was in New Orleans til he was replaced by Banks.
 
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#4
Wells Fargo banks often used to have history displays. The main office in Portland Oregon had a sort of functional telegraph office, with a cypher book on display. This was for simple substitution cypher, where numbers, cities, offices and the like had 6 letter random substitutions. major customers, and publicly traded companies also had substitutions.
 
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#5
My understanding was the wires were under the direct control of Stanton, separate from his generals. Grant got in trouble one time because he arrested a wire operator.

This is how the system was explained to me, but it is still confusing. The route and the substitution together would have made this to hard to untangle.

The action in my story is 1863, before Butler was moved. I think he was in New Orleans til he was replaced by Banks.
Ah, my mistake. I think Signal Corps or Engineers were the sub-contract with the war department. Lincoln would spend a lot of time in the wire room reading and sending messages. In following transmissions in the western theater I found numerous events where messages had been waylaid, or set aside, only to arrive after they were due. I believe there was some infiltration in 1863 and onward where critical information would be rerouted to wrong locations, so the operation would be jeopardized. I have seen a message show up in time-critical situations very late with an appended communication alerting that fact. I have not yet had the time to investigate that issue, but it was one that had attracted my attention a year of so ago.
There were general cipher keys for transmission of intelligence. A 'fist' is generally recognized by an operator, concerning dot and dash regularity by the receiver. Transmissions cost money to transmit. Therefore they had to be used wisely. An open line or ciphered communication. Grant may say to Butler or especially Dana, to send it on the closed line. Not all communications were secret. The need to be able to interpret raw information was paramount to success, and many misunderstood the requirements unless trained in full comprehension.
Lubliner.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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#6
I also read that every person's unique manner of transmitting messages made each person immediately identifiable. Amazing what people were able to do.

I don't know how messages were routed. I need to do some research. Messages were not instantaneous, but Lincoln could carry on a conversation with his generals. Sort of like we used to do with 300 baud modems.

This becomes a research project!
 
Joined
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Messages
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#7
I also read that every person's unique manner of transmitting messages made each person immediately identifiable. Amazing what people were able to do.

I don't know how messages were routed. I need to do some research. Messages were not instantaneous, but Lincoln could carry on a conversation with his generals. Sort of like we used to do with 300 baud modems.

This becomes a research project!
Quite often in correspondence sections of the OR the times are given, as received, and sometimes as sent, at such and such time. This makes those a definite plus when tracking the messages in a single day, for rarely are they in timed order.
Lubliner.
 



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