11th June 1808. Marshall Bessières’ HQ gets to work

11th June 1808:  General Order from M. Bessieres to all forces under command.
“All French forces are to treat our noble Spanish allies with courtesy and respect. All efforts are to be made to work with local town and regional authorities to secure goodwill and fraternal relations. All supplies and requisitions required by our forces are to be documented and to be paid for with Official Certificates of Military Payment redeemable at the Marshals pleasure.”

He also sent 3 dispatch riders with cavalry escorts of 12 men each to Bayonne, Madrid and Barcelona.  They carried coded messages, the meaning of which cannot yet be revealed, but as a mental challenge to anyone with a few days to spare here are the messages, based on a coding system in use by the French in the Peninsula.  This version translates to English, not French.

Message 1 to Bayonne
51, 144, 48, 33, 109, 15, 146, 120, 81, 136, 128, 48, 147, 99, 79, 136, 110, 118, 37, 142, 120, 6, 135, 48, 73, 148, 85, 13, 11, 39, 11, 25, 99, 128, 32, 6, 109, 89, 35, 9, 16, 43, 111, 48, 109, 77, 124, 145, 55, 38, 120, 48, 14, 16, 118, 108, 32, 7, 117, 120, 11, 32, 42, 26, 29, 8, 79, 136, 11, 37, 7, 16, 12, 50, 15, 7, 101, 47, 81, 81, 64, 148, 14, 25, 128, 6, 95, 32, 122, 110, 148, 38, 81, 81, 9, 14, 42, 26, 120, 81, 117, 92, 120, 51, 35, 132, 8, 26, 145, 110, 81, 127, 73, 101, 40, 55, 44, 122, 15, 79, 102, 33, 77, 29, 79, 75, 21, 118, 35, 47, 57, 54, 95, 120, 117, 128, 11, 118, 103, 75, 11, 131, 21, 81, 25, 9, 75, 33, 35, 9, 132, 146, 43, 6, 8, 8, 45, 103, 92, 146, 21, 101, 37, 75, 29, 29, 55, 6, 145, 146, 21, 33, 7, 47, 110, 101, 146, 29, 101, 55, 138, 6, 104, 11, 37, 7, 133, 24, 145, 131, 117, 50, 6, 75, 136, 110, 133, 11, 146, 67, 117, 117, 7, 136, 73, 135, 29, 12, 7, 109, 148, 3, 35, 128, 142, 136, 26, 31, 15, 146, 21, 26, 26, 117, 29, 42, 6, 128, 8, 146, 109, 108, 51, 13, 107, 11, 32, 148, 3, 75, 120, 142, 132, 48, 6, 41, 148, 136, 79, 146, 69, 117, 29, 79, 14, 9, 109, 122, 75, 31, 79, 44, 128, 6, 33, 109, 81, 64, 117, 75, 33, 110, 95, 120, 80, 35, 127, 51, 13, 95, 145, 110, 75, 11, 33, 11, 117, 114, 48, 131, 80, 24, 41, 67, 75, 109, 148, 114, 32, 35, 101, 104, 80, 132, 133, 75, 54, 114, 35, 127, 44, 35.

Message 2 to Madrid
40, 25, 146, 33, 109, 12, 81, 29, 79, 109, 120, 81, 74, 99, 81, 118, 110, 33, 131, 138, 60, 50, 81, 57, 148, 128, 146, 77, 24, 29, 111, 60, 117, 118, 92, 111, 45, 75, 110, 80, 60, 11, 40, 7, 142, 120, 12, 52, 101, 53, 81, 146, 143, 39, 75, 18, 77, 120, 7, 55, 81, 21, 67, 128, 79, 14, 16, 35, 44, 73, 15, 30, 92, 110, 149, 118, 103, 124, 127, 55, 71, 29, 79, 14, 133, 136, 108, 137, 7, 117, 128, 11, 131, 121, 24, 29, 44, 146, 109, 11, 32, 7, 133, 15, 125, 12, 75, 101, 47, 81, 48, 52, 148, 14, 141, 114, 26, 99, 37, 71, 110, 148, 71, 79, 48, 16, 14, 102, 6, 114, 79, 117, 12, 29, 51, 75, 133, 125, 60, 34, 79, 41, 110, 101, 40, 55, 8, 38, 92, 79, 54, 136, 143, 29, 79, 75, 142, 109, 35, 145, 56, 102, 135, 114, 117, 29, 11, 109, 143, 75, 11, 131, 21, 146, 90, 132, 124, 136, 124, 133, 16, 79, 43, 24, 50, 44, 135, 143, 80, 81, 21, 101, 137, 35, 120, 128, 55, 6, 47, 146, 52, 109, 75, 145, 111, 101, 48, 29, 101, 55, 51, 13, 30, 11, 37, 75, 132, 60, 37, 117, 8, 24, 124, 33, 73, 9, 11, 48, 67, 117, 117, 75, 136, 73, 135, 120, 92, 124, 33, 148, 123, 7, 114, 64, 33, 24, 104, 15, 81, 52, 13, 26, 117, 114, 42, 13, 114, 50, 79, 118, 108, 65, 24, 30, 11, 32, 148, 86, 75, 120, 142, 16, 146, 60, 148, 118, 48, 81, 69, 117, 120, 48, 14, 133, 109, 38, 75, 31, 81, 8, 128, 26, 109, 33, 79, 21, 117, 124, 33, 110, 45, 128, 12, 75, 145, 65, 24, 95, 47, 73, 124, 11, 33, 11, 117, 29, 79, 37, 15, 60, 67, 35, 33, 148, 29, 37, 124, 101, 31, 92, 9, 16, 75, 102, 120, 7, 47, 44, 124.

Message 3 to Barcelona
40, 141, 146, 109, 33, 15, 48, 29, 146, 118, 128, 146, 74, 45, 146, 136, 34, 118, 32, 21, 135, 122, 81, 118, 51, 146, 148, 120, 146, 143, 13, 114, 110, 60, 117, 136, 15, 110, 135, 75, 73, 12, 60, 11, 8, 124, 34, 75, 133, 60, 80, 75, 101, 130, 79, 79, 103, 39, 124, 18, 143, 29, 75, 55, 81, 64, 67, 120, 79, 14, 9, 7, 44, 73, 12, 30, 92, 34, 149, 33, 77, 75, 47, 55, 71, 29, 81, 14, 16, 33, 108, 131, 75, 117, 128, 11, 137, 42, 13, 120, 125, 48, 33, 11, 32, 124, 133, 80, 50, 12, 124, 101, 145, 81, 146, 64, 148, 14, 25, 120, 26, 95, 32, 68, 34, 148, 68, 146, 146, 16, 14, 42, 13, 120, 81, 117, 12, 114, 51, 124, 133, 50, 60, 73, 81, 127, 110, 101, 40, 55, 8, 122, 15, 146, 42, 118, 143, 120, 79, 35, 142, 118, 124, 127, 57, 121, 135, 114, 117, 29, 11, 136, 103, 7, 11, 37, 64, 48, 90, 16, 7, 109, 7, 9, 133, 79, 43, 24, 8, 50, 135, 18, 80, 146, 142, 101, 137, 7, 114, 120, 55, 6, 41, 81, 64, 136, 35, 127, 34, 101, 79, 114, 101, 55, 40, 13, 107, 11, 37, 75, 132, 60, 32, 117, 8, 13, 75, 118, 111, 9, 11, 146, 67, 117, 117, 35, 33, 73, 95, 29, 80, 75, 109, 148, 123, 7, 114, 52, 136, 26, 104, 12, 48, 21, 26, 6, 117, 114, 102, 13, 114, 44, 146, 33, 108, 40, 24, 107, 11, 37, 148, 3, 75, 120, 21, 9, 79, 60, 148, 33, 79, 146, 69, 117, 128, 81, 14, 133, 118, 38, 35, 30, 48, 44, 114, 6, 33, 136, 146, 21, 117, 124, 118, 111, 99, 29, 15, 35, 127, 65, 13, 135, 41, 110, 75, 11, 136, 11, 117, 120, 81, 37, 92, 60, 67, 124, 136, 148, 128, 137, 75, 101, 31, 15, 133, 9, 35, 54, 128, 124, 145, 50, 7.

The system is well described by Mark Urban in his book, “The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Codes” (ISBN 0-571-20538-0) and I am indebted to Mark for his research. It is a substitution code, but each letter may have several numeric equivalents and sometimes a single number may represent a commonly used word or group of letters.

As an example of sloppy staff work which opens the first key to the code, all three messages begin with “M. Bessieres”