The piece of paper with a message for a Confederate leader was rolled up with a white thread and sealed along with a 38 caliber bullet in a glass vial.
It remained a mystery for 147 years, until a CIA codebreaker cracked the message had the vial opened.
The message was from a Confederate commander, on the west side of the Mississippi River across from Pemberton.
He’s saying ‘I can’t help you. I have no troops, I have no supplies, I have no way to get over there.‘
The bottle, less than two inches in length, had sat undisturbed at the museum since 1896.
A retired CIA code breaker, David Gaddy, was contacted, and he cracked the code in several weeks.
The code is called the ‘Vigenere cipher,’ a centuries-old encryption in which letters of the alphabet are shifted a set number of places so an ‘a’ would become a ‘d’-essentially, creating words with different letter combinations.
The code was widely used by Southern forces during the Civil War.