What would be a trap letter?

NH Civil War Gal

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#1
I'm in the middle of a book, "The Cormany Diaries" A Northern Family In The Civil War. Edited by James C. Mohr.

I have never, ever come across an entry like this. Certainly I understand the meaning of the trap but why and how would the captain be doing this? That's what I haven't come across.

Page 249, November 17, 1862 Monday. Spent most of day on Co. Books. Finished Co. descriptive Book. The men are good, only too good to me, tempting me with cigars and things I am better without. Yesterday---by order of The Captain I wrote a "trap" letter, and by it found out that one of our Men is not "true blue"--Kept original and sent a copy--He'll "smoke" a little.

I'm many pages past this entry and there is no more reference to it. I've never seen any reference to anything like this in any other diary, either from a company clerk or from a captain. And there is no copy of the letter either. Any idea who/what they are trying to trap?
 

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Jimklag

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#3
I'm in the middle of a book, "The Cormany Diaries" A Northern Family In The Civil War. Edited by James C. Mohr.

I have never, ever come across an entry like this. Certainly I understand the meaning of the trap but why and how would the captain be doing this? That's what I haven't come across.

Page 249, November 17, 1862 Monday. Spent most of day on Co. Books. Finished Co. descriptive Book. The men are good, only too good to me, tempting me with cigars and things I am better without. Yesterday---by order of The Captain I wrote a "trap" letter, and by it found out that one of our Men is not "true blue"--Kept original and sent a copy--He'll "smoke" a little.

I'm many pages past this entry and there is no more reference to it. I've never seen any reference to anything like this in any other diary, either from a company clerk or from a captain. And there is no copy of the letter either. Any idea who/what they are trying to trap?
Trap letters are usually written because the authorities suspect one or more men of giving secrets to the enemy (intentionally or not) or some similar offense. The trap letter is written and copies go to everyone - each letter having a slight difference in content. If the stuff in the letter leaks out, the authorities will know which version of the letter it was by what was leaked.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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#7
Trap letters are usually written because the authorities suspect one or more men of giving secrets to the enemy (intentionally or not) or some similar offense. The trap letter is written and copies go to everyone - each letter having a slight difference in content. If the stuff in the letter leaks out, the authorities will know which version of the letter it was by what was leaked.
Ah - thank you Jim, that was the fuller explanation I was looking for. I didn't realize that each version would have a slightly different version in content. The things we learn!
 
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#10
Trap letters are usually written because the authorities suspect one or more men of giving secrets to the enemy (intentionally or not) or some similar offense. The trap letter is written and copies go to everyone - each letter having a slight difference in content. If the stuff in the letter leaks out, the authorities will know which version of the letter it was by what was leaked.
Tom Clancy wrote about it in his Jack Ryan series, I think it was called the Canary Trap.
 

Carronade

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#11
Tom Clancy wrote about it in his Jack Ryan series, I think it was called the Canary Trap.
Yes, that term originated back when typewriters used carbon paper which often printed on canary yellow sheets (sometimes multiple copies would be different colors). As in the CW example, you'd make several slightly different versions of a document and give a copy to each potential suspect, and if it was found that one version had gotten to the bad guys, you'd know who had done it.
 

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