______The Confederate Secret Service was at a loss. Even though it could intercept coded Union messages as they were transmitted over the telegraph the CSS could not figure out what they were saying. A codebreaking bureau could not be established due to a lack of personnel suited for the work and a scientific theory as to how to pursue the project.
______Intercepting coded messages was relatively simple for the Confederates. Early in the war some telegraph stations on the Confederate side of the lines were still connected to the Union telegraph network. Later, Confederate scouts and spies were sent behind Union lines to tap unguarded telegraph lines, often by using a pocket key. This was a miniature version of the device normally used to send and receive morse code.
______The messages intercepted appeared to be gibberish. That was because the Union was using a Route Transposition Cipher. This was a system in which used a grid of columns and rows; each word in the message was set up in a predetermined series of blocks, then the empty spots were filled with meaningless words. The entire grid was sent by telegraph, then laid out into the grid once again on the receiving end and the words picked out using the predetermined series of blocks. Sometimes code words were used for certain geographical features or units or names that might be recognized by an eavesdropper.
______The Route Transposition Cipher had the added advantage of using actual words, rather than a series of code numbers or letters as other systems did. This made telegraph operator error much less likely.
______Since the Confederates were getting nowhere in trying to figure out what "jam misfortune cat adversity roman sphere" meant, they tried to get a solution to these coded messages by printing them in their newspapers and inviting the public to try to decipher them. With over 1000 newspapers in publication at the beginning of the war and the collective brainpower of the entire Confederacy available (this was in the days before the internet) no doubt a lot of readers tried, but without a knowledge of the mechanics of the code, how many columns and how many rows, it was unlikely that someone would stumble on a way to decode them. And indeed, none of the readers of Confederate newspapers ever did.