How to Use the Union Army Cipher Disc for Escape Rooms
The Union Army Cipher Wheel was primarily used for flag signaling during the American Civil War. The numbers on the outside of the disk would go along with a certain motion of the flag.
For example, when signaling a 1, you may wave the flag left, and to signal an 8 you would wave the flag to the right. In some versions of this disk, the numbers one and two were used, but 2 was later replaced with 8 so that the numbers could be more easily read from any direction.
There was a third flag signal which was represented by waving the flag or torch from above the head downwards in front of the flagman. A common use of this was to signal end of letter, word or end of sentence.


This cipher allowed military personnel within view of each other to communicate using flag or torch signals, even if they have never actually met, as long as they have the same disk and keys to reference.

This cipher method can also be used for telegraphs and Morse code. The 1 and 8 would represent the long and short sounds.


· To start a message, a signal is made using a flag or torch which is waved in a circular motion from right to left, three times. Any motions that follow are a part of the cipher message. 

Users can decide ahead of time if they would like to start a different way. An example of this could be using a “Stutter Code” which is signaling two letters in a row, such as “C,C”.

· The number on the outer ring represents the combinations of movements to be made with the flag or torch, and it will coincide with the letters on the inner disk.
· The adjustment letter is the letter you use on the inner disk to match with a number combination from the other disk (called the key-number), which sets the relationship of the wheels in place so coding can begin.
o R is considered the default adjustment letter if there is no letter given at the start of the signal.
o Any pre-determined adjustment letter on the inside wheel could be placed with any of the key-numbers on the outside wheel.
· The ending combination is decided ahead of time to signal the end of a word or the end of a phrase. It could be a Stutter Code, a phrase, or the third flag motion as noted above; bring the flag down from being raised above the head, to being straight in front of the flagman, and back up again.


· Adjustment Letter: R Key Number: 1881 Ending Combination: tion,tion
o “Union Army” would be represented by 8111, 8888, 81, 888, 8888, 1181, 1181, 111, 1881, 181, 8118, 1181, 1181.
o “Confederate” would be 1811, 888, 8888, 8811, 1118, 118, 1118, 1881, 111, 8818, 1118, 1181, 1181.

Information gathered from

It is important to understand each of the puzzles and props in your Escape Room to ensure you can utilize their full potential. With this in mind I have created an instructional series to help familiarize yourself with our Cipher Wheels and Encryption Machines.

For articles on how to use our other Cipher Wheels please see the links below:


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