Decoding Revolutionary Correspondence

Cornwallis to Wemyss, 7 October 1780

Code/Cipher: variation of "substitution by 1-29" (see here)
Source: PCC Roll 65 Page 529 (translation on Page 760)

Major James Wemyss was an acting commander of the 63rd Regiment. .

In Plaintext

The state of the lower country and the absolute
necessity of preventing the enemy from being in quiet
possession of the East Bank of Santee obliges me to change
the destination of the 63d Regiment. I will therefore
explain my plan to you and the part you are to bear with.
The object of marching
into North Carolina is only
to raise men,
which, from every account
I have received of the number of our
friends,
there is great reason to hope, may
be done
to a very considerable
amount.
For this purpose I shall move
in about ten or twelve
days to Salisbury and from
thence invite all loyalists
of the neighbouring countries
to repair to our standard

to be formed into Provincial Corps, and armed,
clothed, and appointed as soon as we can do it. From
thence, I mean to move my whole
force down to Cross Creek.
As it will then be about the middle
of November, I hope the lower
country will be healthy.
I shall
then be in
full communication with our
shipping and shall receive all the
arms and clothing that Charlestown can afford.

I would have you mount your whole
regiment and, if you think
yourself too weak, take thirty
men from Turnbull, desiring
him
to detain in their place as many
of our
convalescents, and proceed into the
country as soon as possible.

I can give you
no particular directions.
My object is to prevent
the enemy from being thoroughly
masters of the country you
have left. You will therefore
act, according
to your discretion
and the intelligence
you may receive,
either offensively or
defensively until you hear
of my march to Cross Creek, when
you will join me.
We may correspond
by means of the cypher. You will please to give a
copy of the cypher to Turnbull and send another
by a safe conveyance to Balfour. Tell Turnbull
that I address this letter to you as he is ill, and shew
him the contents - You will of course take Harrison's
Corps, and what militia you please - You will send
a copy of this letter to Balfour, which you may I suppose
venture without cypher as the only danger is near this
place, and you will afterwards correspond with them
when you think it necessary.

Verification Dump

The state of the lower country and the absolute
necessity of preventing the enemy from being in quiet
possession of the East Bank of Santee obliges me to change
the destination of the 63d Regiment. I will therefore
explain my plan to you and the part you are to bear with.
19<t> 3<h> 4<e> 10 - 1<o> 14<b> 2<i> 44<e> 15<c> 19<t> - 31<o> 60 18<f> - 24<m> 8<a> 22<r> 15<c> 3<h> 42<i> 29<n> 21<g> -
72<i> 29<n> 19<t> 1<o> - 29<n> 61<o> 22<r> 19<t> 70 3<h> - 15<c> 48<a> 22<r> 71<o> 5<l> 2<i> 29<n> 8<a> - 52<i> 6<s> 31<o> 29<n> 35<l> 37<y> -
19<t> - 80 71<o> - 22<r> 68<a> 62<i> 6<s> 4<e> - 24<m> 64<e> 29<n> - which from every account
I have received 31<o> 18<f> 19<t> 73<h> 74<e> - 29<n> 39<u> 24<m> 14<b> 4<e> 22<r> - 1<o> 18<f> 71<o> 99<u> 22<r> -
18<f> 22<r> 60 32<i> 44<e> 29<n> 26<d> 6<s> - there is great reason to hope may
be done
19<t> 91<o> 8<a> 17<v> 74<e> 22<r> 77<y> - 15<c> 1<o> 29<n> 6<s> 2<i> 26<d> 4<e> 22<r> 8<a> 14<b> 55<l> 64<e> -
68<a> 24<m> 71<o> 59<u> 29<n> 19<t> - For this purpose I shall 24<m> 1<o> 17<v> 60 4<e> -
32<i> 50 29<n> - 8<a> 14<b> 1<o> 9<u> 19<t> - 19<t> 44<e> 29<n> - 31<o> 22<r> - 19<t> 13<w> 40 4<e> 35<l> 17<v> 74<e> -
26<d> 68<a> 7<y> 6<s> - 19<t> 50 81<o> - 36<s> 38<a> 35<l> 2<i> 6<s> 14<b> 9<u> 22<r> 7<y> - 8<a> 29<n> 26<d> 18<f> 22<r> 1<o> 24<m> -
19<t> 3<h> 4<e> 29<n> 15<c> 44<e> - 32<i> 29<n> 17<v> 2<i> 19<t> 4<e> - 38<a> 85<l> [l] - 5<l> 1<o> 7<y> 8<a> 45<l> 2<i> 66<s> 19<t> 6<s> -
(Page 530)
31<o> 18<f> - 19<t> 3<h> 74<e> 70 - 29<n> 4<e> 2<i> 21<g> 33<h> 14<b> 71<o> 9<u> 22<r> 42<i> 29<n> 21<g> - 15<c> 1<o> 9<u> 29<n> 19<t>
57<y> 6<s> - 19<t> 91<o> - 22<r> 54<e> 25<p> 8<a> 2<i> 22<r> 90 - 19<t> 1<o> 51<o> 49<u> 22<r> - 6<s> 19<t> 8<a> 29<n> 26<d> 38<a>
22<r> 26<d> - to be formed into Provincial Corps, and armed
clothed and appointed as soon as we can do it. From
19<t> 3<h> 4<e> 29<n> 15<c> 80 84<e> - 32<i> 24<m> 4<e> 8<a> 29<n> - 19<t> 1<o> 24<m> 71<o> 17<v> 84<e> 24<m> 7<y> - 13<w> 33<h> 31<o> 5<l> 54<e> -
18<f> 41<o> 22<r> 15<c> 4<e> - 26<d> 1<o> 13<w> 70 29<n> - 19<t> 1<o> - 15<c> 22<r> 1<o> 6<s> [s] 60 80 15<c> 22<r> 4<e> [e] 11<k> 90 -
+
8<a> 6<s> 2<i> 19<t> 13<w> 42<i> 5<l> [l] - 19<t> 33<h> 74<e> 29<n> - 14<b> 4<e> 8<a> 14<b> 1<o> 9<u> 19<t> - 19<t> 3<h> 70 4<e> - 24<m> 2<i> 26<d>
[d] 35<l> 34<e> 1<o> 18<f> - 29<n> 51<o> 17<v> 4<e> 24<m> 14<b> 74<e> 22<r> - 2<i> 3<h> 1<o> 25<p> 4<e> - the 5<l> 1<o> 13<w> 4<e> 22<r> -
15<c> 41<o> 9<u> 29<n> 19<t> 90 22<r> 37<y> - 13<w> 32<i> 5<l> [l] 14<b> 4<e> - 73<h> 74<e> 48<a> 5<l> 19<t> 3<h> 7<y> - I shall
then be in
18<f> 9<u> 5<l> [l] - 15<c> 1<o> 24<m> [m] 9<u> 29<n> 2<i> 15<c> 8<a> 19<t> 32<i> 31<o> 29<n> - 13<w> 2<i> 19<t> 33<h> 1<o> 9<u> 22<r>
6<s> 3<h> 2<i> 25<p> [p] 32<i> 29<n> 21<g> - 8<a> 29<n> 26<d> - 6<s> 33<h> 38<a> 5<l> [l] - 22<r> 4<e> 15<c> 54<e> 42<i> 17<v> 44<e> - 48<a> 35<l> [l] 19<t> 3<h> 4<e>
8<a> 22<r> 24<m> 6<s> - 88<a> 29<n> 26<d> - 15<c> 5<l> 1<o> 19<t> 3<h> 32<i> 29<n> 21<g> - 19<t> 3<h> 58<a> 19<t> - 15<c> 3<h> 8<a> 22<r>
5<l> 4<e> 66<s> 19<t> 31<o> 13<w> 29<n> - 15<c> 48<a> 60 29<n> - 38<a> 18<f> [f] 1<o> 22<r> 26<d> -
I would have you
24<m> 1<o> 9<u> 29<n> 19<t> - 7<y> 51<o> 59<u> 22<r> - 13<w> 3<h> 31<o> 5<l> 4<e> -
22<r> 34<e> 21<g> 2<i> 24<m> 54<e> 29<n> 22<r> [should be 19<t> ] - 8<a> 29<n> 26<d> 2<i> 18<f> - 37<y> 31<o> 99<u> - 19<t> 3<h> 2<i> 29<n> 11<k> -
7<y> 41<o> 39<u> 22<r> 6<s> 4<e> 5<l> 18<f> - 19<t> 31<o> 1<o> - 13<w> 4<e> 8<a> 11<k> - 19<t> 98<a> 11<k> 4<e> - 19<t> 3<h> 2<i> 22<r> 19<t> 7<y>
24<m> 4<e> 29<n> - 18<f> 22<r> 1<o> 24<m> - 19<t> 9<u> 22<r> 29<n> 14<b> 79<u> 5<l> 35<l> - 26<d> 4<e> 6<s> 2<i> 22<r> 42<i> 29<n> 21<g> -
(Page 531)
33<h> 2<i> 24<m> - to detain in 19<t> 3<h> 44<e> 2<i> 22<r> 60 - 25<p> 5<l> 8<a> 15<c> 4<e> - 8<a> 6<s> 24<m> 8<a> 29<n> 37<y> -
31<o> 18<f> 1<o> 9<u> 22<r> - Convalescents, and proceed into 19<t> 33<h> 70 44<e> -
15<c> 1<o> 9<u> 29<n> 19<t> 22<r> 7<y> - 8<a> 6<s> 66<s> 1<o> 31<o> 29<n> 88<a> 56<s> - 25<p> 51<o> 6<s> [s] 2<i> 14<b> 5<l> 4<e> -
I can give you
29<n> 1<o> - 25<p> 8<a> 22<r> 19<t> 2<i> 15<c> 9<u> 5<l> 78<a> 22<r> - 26<d> 42<i> 22<r> 4<e> 15<c> 19<t> 62<i>
71<o> 29<n> 6<s> - 24<m> 60 7<y> - 31<o> 14<b> 32<i> 4<e> 15<c> 19<t> - 72<i> 6<s> 19<t> 1<o> - [ 25<p> 22<r> ] 44<e> 17<v> 4<e> 29<n> 19<t> -
19<t> 33<h> 44<e> - 4<e> 29<n> 74<e> 24<m> 7<y> - 18<f> 22<r> 31<o> 24<m> - 14<b> 4<e> 2<i> 29<n> 21<g> - 19<t> 3<h> 1<o> 22<r> 71<o> 9<u> 21<g> 33<h> 55<l> 77<y> -
24<m> 8<a> 6<s> 19<t> 54<e> 22<r> 76<s> - 1<o> 18<f> 19<t> 3<h> 54<e> - 15<c> 71<o> 9<u> 29<n> 19<t> 22<r> 60 7<y> - 77<y> 51<o> 99<u> -
73<h> 78<a> 17<v> 4<e> - 35<l> 64<e> 18<f> 19<t> - 57<y> 41<o> 9<u> - 13<w> 2<i> 5<l> 35<l> - 19<t> 3<h> 4<e> 22<r> 74<e> 18<f> 1<o> 22<r> 94<e> -
8<a> 15<c> 19<t> - 78<a> 15<c> [c] 1<o> 22<r> 26<d> 2<i> 29<n> 21<g> - to your 26<d> 2<i> 6<s> 15<c> 22<r> 4<e> 19<t> 2<i> 1<o> 29<n> -
38<a> 29<n> 26<d> 19<t> 3<h> 44<e> - 2<i> 29<n> 19<t> 4<e> 5<l> [l] 82<i> 21<g> 74<e> 29<n> 15<c> 34<e> - you may 22<r> 4<e> 15<c>
84<e> 52<i> 17<v> 94<e> 60 - 4<e> 2<i> 19<t> 3<h> 44<e> 22<r> - 31<o> 18<f> [f] 74<e> 29<n> 66<s> 42<i> 17<v> 4<e> 5<l> 7<y> - 70 1<o> 22<r> -
26<d> 4<e> 18<f> 34<e> 29<n> 6<s> 32<i> 17<v> 34<e> 35<l> 97<y> - 9<u> 29<n> 19<t> 32<i> 5<l> - 37<y> 1<o> 9<u> - 3<h> 4<e> 8<a> 22<r> -
1<o> 18<f> 24<m> 67<y> - 24<m> 8<a> 22<r> 15<c> 3<h> 90 - 19<t> 71<o> - 15<c> 22<r> 31<o> 6<s> [s] 15<c> 22<r> 4<e> [e] 11<k> - 13<w> 3<h> 44<e> 29<n> -
57<y> 51<o> 59<u> 30 - 13<w> 2<i> 5<l> [l] - 32<i> 61<o> 2<i> 29<n> - 24<m> 4<e> - We may correspond
by means of the cypher. You will please to give a
copy of the cypher to Turnbull and send another
by a safe conveyance to Balfour. Tell Turnbull
(Page 532)
that I address this letter to you as he is ill, and shew
him the contents - You will of course take Harrison's
Corps, and what Militia you please - You will send
a copy of this letter to Balfour, which you may I suppose
venture without cypher as the only danger is near this
place, and you will afterwards correspond with them
when you think it necessary.

Notes

Cornwallis enciphers double letters with a single letter. This makes deciphering by an interceptor more difficult (patterns such as ABCCDCC may reveal a word such as "possess"). This may be an intentional precaution. A letter of Balfour to Stuart on 12 August 1781 (using substitution by 10-39) takes another measure to hide double letters, inserting a null between double letters (e.g., between the two l's of "will").

On the other hand, word breaks ("-") used in the present letter provides a strong clue to a decipherer.



First posted on 16 August 2009. Last modified on 16 August 2009.
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