Creating A Route Cipher

In the novel, Counterfeit Love, Colonel Plane was known for his use of route ciphers to code information both of great importance and detriment. This skill he taught to Theresa, and now I am excited to teach it to you. While my information on this page is very basic and more just on the fun side of things, I encourage you to visit my favorite webpage to learn more about the history and use of route ciphers.

 

A Brief History of the Route Cipher

 

For centuries, people have used ciphers to code important information that they don’t want falling into the hands of the enemy. The route cipher was a specific cipher developed by Anton Stager during the American Civil War to aid the Union in defeating the Confederacy. These ciphers required the use of a codebook in order to decipher. These code sheets or codebooks included the route, keys, code words, and null words necessary to decipher the message.  Because the routes could be different from message to message, it made it very difficult for the Confederates to determine patterns and thus the solutions in a timely manner.

 

How to Create a Simple Cipher

While the Union managed to make their route ciphers really complicated, I am just going to take you through a simple example.

First, you need to start with your original message. I’ll use an excerpt from the letter Colonel Plane used to inform Theresa that her engagement to Broderick was terminated.

Theresa,

I regret to inform you that your intended has proved himself to be a coward of the lowest degree. He and his family have removed themselves from Cincinnati with no intention of returning. Your engagement is thus terminated. Under no uncertain terms are you to contact him.

Regretfully,

Colonel Plane

 

In order to cipher this message, the first word will be a keyword that indicates the grid size and null column. Let’s use the word Counterfeit, and say that it requires a grid of six rows with nine columns.  The third column will be filled with null words that don’t matter to the coded message.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
    love            
    money            
    hope            
    stolen            
    heart            
    escape            

 

The keyword also lets us know what the route will be. Let’s say the route is up the 5th, down the 9th, up the 1st, down the 4th, up the 2nd, down the 7th, up the 8th, and down the 6th. You use this path to fill in the message.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
degree intention love he you to of you that
lowest no money and inform contact returning are your
the with hope his to him your terms intended
of Cincinnati stolen family regret regretfully engagement uncertain has
coward from heart have I Colonel is no proved
a themselves escape removed Theresa Plane terminated under himself

 

 

 

The coded message then becomes:

Counterfeit degree intention love he you to of you that lowest no money and inform contact returning are your the with hope his to him your terms intended of Cincinnati stolen family regret regretfully engagement uncertain has coward from heart have I Colonel is no proved a themselves escape removed Theresa Plane terminated under himself

Now It’s Your Turn

I’d love to see what coded messages you come up with. Maybe I’ll even collect them and add a page with a Codebook and Codes to break. That sounds like fun to me. If you’d like to submit you’re own coded message, use the form below. I look forward to cracking your message.

 

 

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