Wednesday, July 17, 2013

30 Days of Giveaways ~ Day 17

Welcome to Day 17! Yesterday's winner is:

Rebekah Gyger!

And here's what you're entering for this week. Winners of the book are selected every day, and the Tea Light Garden's winner will be drawn Friday night. Keep entering all week! Every entry is good all week long.



And EXCITING!!! I think I might have missed an email from my publisher alerting me to this--but the book trailer for Whispers from the Shadows is live!!!



You'll notice that there's a new way to earn an entry. ;-)

And now for today's normal post.

Remember When . . . Espionage Needed Tools?

I've blogged about my different discoveries in historical espionage before, but I've never put them all together before. And since this fall I'm teaching a home school class to my local group about the different historical methods of spying, I figure it'll be fun to get a head start here. ;-)

By the time of the Revolution, spying in Europe had reached some rather hilarious levels. It was so common in the different courts that they all knew other countries' men were intercepting their messages and copying them. The "Black Chambers" of these master spies were located nearby the courts. The spies would steal incoming correspondence, make a copy, and slip the original back into the post. Codes had become common too, but these dudes got their jobs by being able to break them, quickly and efficiently. So it was just all one big puzzle that they were playing, knowing well their opponents were evenly matched.
A page from the real Culper Ring's code book

One story I read and loved was of a spy who mistakenly sent along his copy instead of the original message. The recipient knew right away what had happened and sent it back to him, demanding his original in its place--proving that they all knew exactly who was doing what and took very little issue with it after so long.

But in America, espionage was like so many other things--new and experimental. And when the Revolution was in full swing and General Washington found himself in need of reliable intelligence, he had no Black Chamber to rely on. He had only a few trusted men with no background in spying and no training in the covert.

My personal experiments with heat-developed inks
Today we look at the cyphers and codes that the Culper Ring developed and shake our heads at how amateur they were. But they did the job, and because of the ingenuity of the brothers Jay and their "sympathetic stain" (invisible ink), the British never even saw the code to crack it. Until then, they had to use heat-developed inks for messages, which anyone with a flame could develop. But this stain required a particular counter agent. This level of security is what kept their secrets throughout the war. And what made Ring of Secrets a lot of fun to write. ;-)

By the War of 1812, another intelligence tool had made its way to America--the mask, or grille. This was a piece of paper with a shape cut out of it. The writer of a message would put this mask down upon a blank piece of paper, write his true message within the hole, and then remove the mask and fill in the lines around the message so that the real words would be innocuously hidden within innocent sentences. In order to know what the message was, the recipient would have to also have the mask, which would be sent in a separate batch of correspondence.


In the Civil War, codes were the feature of the day, and there were a lot of them. Members of the Knights of the Golden Circle, for instance, would come up with codes for each occasion. Simple phrases to let each other know if a particular outcome had happened as expected or not. Other codes used a key--a book, usually a dictionary, that both sender and receiver had. They would use numbers to indicate words. So you might see something like this: 192.15.26

These numbers stood for page, line, word on line. If they were encoding something like a name that wouldn't be in a dictionary, they would spell it out using a forth number to indicate a letter within the word.

See why this series is so much fun? And you'll have a chance to put some of your own skills to use this Friday, when I'm taking part in a blog tour for a kids' series about a K9 spy. ;-)

Now my question to you today:

Do you think you could have been a spy in early America?


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23 comments:

  1. I'm not sure I would have been very good at figuring out codes and I probably talk too much, so no, I don't think I would have made a very good spy in Early America.

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  2. I think that I would make a terrible spy. I'd be so afraid all of the time.

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  3. I do not think so. I would have had a hard time trying to keep allt the codes and methods safe! I would also be so terrified of what would happen upon discovery. What about you?

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  4. No I could have not been a good spy. But, I would love to win this contest. MAXIE

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  5. I would never be a good spy Im too black and white
    God bless you

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  6. I think I could be a spy, because I hear things without meaning to. :)

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  7. I like to think I would have been a great spy. I wanted to be one when I was little, so I learned how to read upside down, and I would follow people around to try and figure out what secret missions they were on. Finding out that my mom's secret mission was making dinner, or my brother's was seeing how many hot wheels he could line up before hitting a wall was not intriguing enough for this spy ;) However, carrying out a mission with codes and such would be fantastic!!

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  8. No way, I'd never make a good spy. I'm way too emotional and would be terrified I'd be found out.

    winterrose (at) comcast (dot) net

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  9. Ms. White,

    Whomever the publisher hired for the voiceover narration did a bang-on job in their selection! I really could soak into the descriptions of Whispers from the Shadows! :) :) It was keen of you to offer us extra entries for viewing it!! And, as to the question of the hour, yes, I think with my keen observation skills mixed with my ability to solve puzzles, I think I might have been quite the assest! :)

    I suppose I mirror Ms. Fleming's enthused reply for collecting adventures as much as experiences whilst be of use as a spy! :)

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  10. I would make a terrible spy! I'm not all that great at lying and I panic at the thought of getting in trouble. So I'd either get caught or have a severe panic attack and die!

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  11. I think I could slip around unnoticed pretty well. I don't know about working with all the codes and such.

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  12. I am a horrible liar, haha. I would be better doing something behind the scenes so that I wouldn't have to talk to people.

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  13. When I was younger I always wanted to be a spy. But I don't think I would really make a good one. I feel like I would make a mistake or be too obvious that I would be caught. I also wouldn't be very good at deciphering codes.

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  14. One thing I really loved learned about the original Culper Ring was that none of them were what would have considered ideal spy material either--they were just everyday people who wanted to help. And the main guy, Robert Townsend, even suffered from a nervous disorder, often lapsing into "black spells" of anxiousness (sounded rather like manic-depressive by the descriptions, actually).

    So you never know! Any one of you could have risen to the challenge. ;-)

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  15. I think I would love the idea but chicken out in the end.:)

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  16. I like to think I would be pretty good - I do really enjoy puzzles of all kinds, and I frequently overhear more than I want to, as I tend to be quiet and people either don't notice or don't care that I can hear them. The difficulty is that I am no good at flat-out lying, though I bluff fairly well in card games (though according to my brothers, that is mainly because I look as guilty as sin all the time, bluffing or not). It might make a difference to be acting, since my conscience is less likely to smite me.

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  17. I have absolutely no idea. It would be extremely hard for sure. To be honest I don't know if I would have what it takes. I'd like to think I would have the guts/strength and determination to do something like that. But if I'm realistic I'm almost positive that at this point in my life I don't. I think I am smart enough though.:)

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  18. I would not make a very good spy.

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  19. I, also, would not have made a very good spy - it is hard for me to keep secrets!

    bonnieroof60(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  20. I don't have a poker face, so no I wouldn't make a good spy.

    Fun article, Roseanna!

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  21. While it sounds like fun, I'm pretty sure that I would be a terrible spy!

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  22. Haha, no! I'm good at keeping secrets but don't really enjoy keeping them very long, and danger is not my thing.

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