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John Jay to Philip Schuyler about Writing in Cypher, February 19, 1780

Letter. John Jay to Philip Schuyler regarding suspended correspondence, writing in cypher

Letter. John Jay to Philip Schuyler regarding suspended correspondence, writing in cypher

New York State Library, NYSL_SC19811_B1_F6_003
 
Document Description
John Jay to Philip Schuyler suspending correspondence, writing in cypher, February 19, 1780.
 
Questions
What does John Jay mean when he refers to the ‘cypher’?  “ …To do it the more effectually, wish you would send me a Plan and cypher you once showed me at Rhynebeck”….
Did General Schuyler have a successful military reputation during the Revolutionary War?
Why was correspondence suspended between General Schuyler and John Jay?
How was a cypher used to confuse the enemy and create diversion?
What does John Jay reference when he states the following, and why? “Your attention is not, so I am persuaded, so restrained to domestic objects and the pleasures or occupations of that retreat”….
 
Historical Challenges
Research the different spy codes created during the Revolutionary War.  How did collected intelligence impact the outcome of the war? What is a cipher and how can it be used today in 21st century communication?
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
ELA: Develop a secret code. Write a letter in the code you developed.
 

Historical Context
Secret communications and spy networks were a very important part of the process of intelligence-gathering during the Revolutionary War. Coded letters and spies often conveyed information that was pivotal to the outcomes of individual battles and the whole war itself. These documents show some of the ways in which officers were able to gather and communicate information secretly, as well as prevent the enemy from communicating intelligence.
General Philip Schuyler was a member of a notable early Albany, NY family. He was appointed a Continental Army Major General in 1775 by the Continental Congress, but was quickly replaced in 1777. In 1779 he resigned from the army.  He joined the Continental Congress, first serving as a NY State Senator (1780), then as a U.S. Senator for NY (1788). 
 
 
Essential Question
What were some of the methods used by armies to communicate and gather intelligence about the enemy?
 
 
Check for Understanding
Divide students into small groups of 4.  Each group will construct a cipher (cypher) letter from General Schuyler.  The letter should be written in response to John Jay and include information in the content about how to decode the cipher.