Event Calendar

1862: J.E.B. Stewart began his infamous ride around McClellan's Army of the Potomac

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

1862: J.E.B. Stewart began his infamous ride around McClellan's Army of the Potomac

Description: On 12 June 1862, J.E.B. Stewart began his infamous ride around McClellan's Army of the Potomac. The intelligence he brought to Gen. Lee eventually enabled the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to dispel the Union Army from the James Peninsula and save Richmond.

On that note, we bring you photos of an extremely rare artifact, the Confederate Cipher Reel. This cipher reel, one of two known to have survived the war, was captured by Union forces at the surrender of Mobile, Alabama, in May 1865. It bears the penciled notations of Confederate Signal Officer Captain Thomas Hawkins Clagett Jr. of Leesburg, Virginia. The reel used a centuries-old cipher known today as the Vigenere. Poor security practices of Confederate users made a potentially sophisticated cipher vulnerable to being read by the Union.

The Civil War Confederate Cipher Reel (pictured here)......used the Vigenere or "court" cipher system wrapped around wooden cylinder. Two adjustable pointers indicated plain and cipher letters. Captured in Mobile, Alabama, in May 1865. It was sent to the Chief Signal Officer in Washington, D.C. and later went to the Signal Intelligence Service, a fore-runner of the National Security Agency and the Army's Intelligence and Security Command.