June 29, 1864: A spy in Sherman’s camp

William Tecumseh Sherman

Sherman never did have a good relationship with the press, but he had a legitimate complaint against the Herald reporter DeB. Randolph Keim. Keim reported in a published article that Sherman’s men had cracked the enemy’s semaphore code, and were getting valuable information to anticipate Johnston’s movements. Needless to say, this was spoiled by having it published in the New York papers. Sherman directed Thomas to arrest him for trial as a spy.

Official Records:

In the Field, near Kenesaw Mountain, Ga., June 29, 1864.

Major General W. T. SHERMAN,

Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:

GENERAL: Inclosed herewith I have the honor to send you a copy of the New York Herald, of the 23rd instant, which contains a dispatch headed “Sherman,” written, or pretended to be written by DeB. Randolph Keim, and which reveals the very important fact that we are in possessing of the secret of the enemy’s signals. I have considered the possession of this knowledge as of the very highest consequence to us, and have used every precaution to prevent its being known to the rebels. Keim is not harbored in the army of the Cumberland, and I know not where he is. I forward this for such actin as you may deem proper in the premises, but am of the opinion that Keim should at once be executed as a spy.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major- General, Commanding.


It appearing from a publication in the New York Herald, of the 23rd instant, under the head of [De] b. Randolph Keim, that the important secret that we could interpret the rebel signals was revealed, he will be arrested and delivered to Major- General Thomas for trial as a spy.


Major- General.

In the Field, near Kenesaw, June 29, 1864.

General McPHERSON:

Arrest one DeB. Randolph Keim, who is said to be within the limits of your army in the field, and have him delivered to General Thomas to be tried as a spy. Let this be done at once, for publishing in a New York paper the important fact that our signal officers can interpret the signals of the enemy.


Major- General, Commanding.

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