A tiny, 2-inch bottle containing a 147-year-old coded message, a bullet, and white thread was a mystery dating to the siege of Vicksburg, but at last the message has been decoded, reports the AP. The bottle, which never reached its Confederate general recipient, sat on a museum shelf for more than 100 years, until the collections manager decided to investigate. The bottle was examined under an electron microscope, the paper carefully removed, and the coded message sent to a retired CIA codebreaker.
But even if the message had made it to Confederate Lt. Gen. John Pemberton, it wouldn't have done any good. "He's saying, 'I can't help you. I have no troops, I have no supplies, I have no way to get over there,'" said the collections manager of the Museum of the Confederacy. After a six-week siege, Pemberton surrendered on July 4—also the date on the belated message—but Vicksburg was so traumatized by the experience that it refused to celebrate Independence Day for 80 years.