Rose's Coded Letters
We've all heard of
Rose's coded message to General Beauregard on July 10th, 1861, that
resulted in the confederacy winning the battle of Manassas or first
Bull Run. We know that Betty Duvall hid the message in the folds of her
long hair, crossed through enemy lines dressed as a simple farm girl,
and only when confronted by the general himself did she let down her
hair and hand him the contraband message, which was fashioned into a
small silk purse.
Have you ever wondered how the general knew the message was
Of course, Betty told him the message was from Rose, but still, I'm
sure he wanted more than the word of a stranger.
First, Rose left a calling card by way of the purse the message was
wrapped in. The purse was made of a black silk, easily
identifiable to anyone familiar with fashions of the time to know that
it was of a variety known as "mourning silk." It was the first measure
of introduction by the "lady in mourning."
Second she left a coded "key" on the envelope that contained the
message. Above the name Beauregard you will see six cryptic figures.
These six symbols, when decoded, spell out the name JORDAN, which
signified that the letter had come from Rose, Jordan's agent.
At this point the General was convinced that the letter was genuine,
but still wished to confirm it's authenticity, so he sent George
Donnellan to meet Rose face to face and confirm that she was indeed the
sender and the information was reliable. And, of course he used other
resources to check the validity of the information, as well.
The silk purse and the envelope still remain today in the National
Archives, but unfortunately, the coded message is lost to us.
The message contained 10 words, to wit: "McDowell has certainly
been ordered to advance on the sixteenth. ROG"
Coded, the message would have looked something like this............
The photo of Betty can be found at Georgetown University in the David
Rankin Barbee papers. The original appears to be a black and white
photo that was colored with a crayon or chalk, as was the custom at the
time the photo was taken. It was badly faded; almost beyond
recognition. I used a graphics manipulation program called Neat Image
to clean up the noise and then used Paint Shop Pro to adjust the
histogram, reduce the contrast and reanimate the features of Betty's
face and hair. I also added the matte, returning the image to what it
probably looked like originally.