Advertisement
  1. News

Civil War shipwreck artifacts come to Dunedin Historical Museum

Published Aug. 30, 2012

DUNEDIN

It was 1864 and the moon was full when the Maple Leaf steamed down the St. Johns River carrying Union troops and equipment to Jacksonville. Lurking in the murky waters below: a dozen mines or "torpedoes" made from wooden kegs filled with 70 pounds of black powder.

When the transport vessel struck one, the explosion ripped apart the ship and killed four soldiers. The vessel sank and with it thousands of artifacts to be preserved in a muddy tomb for discovery 120 years later.

Now some of those artifacts can be seen at the Dunedin Historical Museum as part of a traveling exhibit called "The Maple Leaf: An American Civil War Shipwreck." The exhibit is on loan from the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.

"What is unique about this shipwreck is that there were over 6,000 artifacts found, giving us a time capsule from the Civil War era," said Vinnie Luisi, executive director of the museum. "It helps us understand what a Union soldier's life was like."

The large amount of civilian items found shows that widespread looting took place around the Union camps, he said.

Among the items in the traveling exhibit are a fountain pen and inkwell, a toothbrush — sans the bristles — a medicine bottle, a dinner plate in an Asian pattern and Union Army uniform buttons. More artifacts will be added in mid September.

The Maple Leaf was built in 1851 and originally used as a Canadian pleasure excursion ship. The shipwreck was partially mined by Keith Holland and the St. Johns Archaeological Expedition Inc. in 1984, but only about 5 percent of the ship's cargo has been salvaged so far. Some seven feet of mud and 20 feet of water entomb the wreckage about 12 miles south of downtown Jacksonville.

A reproduction of the torpedo that sank the Maple Leaf is also on display. Developed by the secret Confederate Torpedo Service, the underwater mines were at the time a new kind of weaponry — one that would revolutionize maritime strategies and ultimately sink or damage 43 federal vessels during the Civil War.

Other related exhibits at the museum focus on Florida and Tampa Bay's role in the war. The displays include original and reproduction Civil War uniforms and artifacts. Children and adults can try on the reproduction clothing and handle artifacts soldiers used for everyday camp life.

"These hands-on activities are part of a traveling exhibit that will go to classrooms upon request," Luisi said.

Overall, the exhibition is a teaching tool for those of any age who want to learn more about the War Between the States and Florida's role.

"Florida may not have had a Battle of Gettysburg," Luisi said, "but it was important for the Confederacy — as a source of food supplies like beef and salt, railroading and transportation along the St. Johns River."

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Stay with tampabay.com for the latest news and updates. Times
    Seth Monroe Majors, 31, died at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.
  2. Building sand mandalas will be offered each day throughout Peace Week at Pasco-Hernando State College's Porter Campus. JONES, OCTAVIO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Peace Week 2019 will be Sept. 30-Oct. 4
  3. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and developments.
    The shooting happened on the 5100 block of Matanzas Avenue, police said.
  4. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates.
    Charges in the incident are pending, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
  5. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks to reporters in Tampa on Aug. 21. Delays in his filling vacancies on the state's five water management district boards have twice led to those agencies canceling meetings to levy taxes and set budgets, which one expert said was unprecedented. OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES  |  Times
    Vacancies lead to canceling two agencies’ budget meetings.
  6. Jessica Stoneking, Seven Springs Elementary School art teacher, and a group of kindergarten children enjoy a colorful floor rug during instruction time.  The rug is one of the many flexible seating options art students have in Stoneking's class. Gail Diederich
  7. President Donald Trump listens to music by military musicians during a State Dinner in the Rose Garden at the White House, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) AP
    Allies of Joe Biden, the early front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary, seized on the developments to portray him as the candidate Trump least wants to face next fall.
  8. Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil says religious leaders must be empathetic to the needs of families members of those who die by suicide. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Attitudes have evolved with understanding about mental illness
  9. Rabbi Reb Tuviah (Paul Schreiber) is rarely seen without his guitar. He will sing at the upcoming Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at Temple Beth David in Spring Hill. Paul Schreiber
  10. Joshua Michael Nichols, 21, was arrested by Pasco County Sheriff's deputies on Saturday in connection to the early morning shooting death of an unidentified man during an argument outside a Spring Hill home. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    One person is in custody. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement