Maple Leaf 150th Anniversary


(Poster created by Matt Arpen)

The Maple Leaf – 150th Anniversary Exhibit


On Friday April 1, 1864, on a moonlit night, the Union steamship Maple Leaf headed back to Jacksonville after dropping off men, horses and supplies in Palatka. At 4 A.M. she was sunk by a Confederate torpedo in the St. Johns River just off Mandarin Point. And thus starts 150 years of fascination about this beautiful ship, her crew, her cargo, her mission and the stories that are held deep in the mud of the St. Johns.

In 1984 Dr. Keith Holland was a young dentist who also liked to dive. The Maple Leaf captured his interest to the point of founding the St. Johns Archaeological Expeditions, Inc., locating the wreckage and directing and participating in underwater exploration and artifact recovery that took years,  and provided  a treasure – a treasure of personal belongings of Union soldiers, U.S. Army issued equipment and items taken from plantations in South Carolina. Thousands of these artifacts were brought to the surface and preserved for future generations to learn about life and culture in Civil War America.

The treasure they found was not gold, but was much more valuable because of what could be learned from it. The Chief Historian of the National Park Service at the time stated that the wreck of the Maple Leaf “is the most important repository of Civil War artifacts ever found and probably will remain so.”

From that day forward, this National Historic Landmark became part of the history of Mandarin! On April 1, 2014, it will have been 150 years since the event took place! Be sure to watch this video produced by the Florida Humanities Council about the Maple Leaf.

During this 150th anniversary exhibit, we honor the ship, her men, those who recovered her artifacts and brought her stories to life for us all. A brand new exhibit featuring over 100 newly displayed artifacts will be up until the end of December, 2014. The artifacts being displayed are on loan from the Florida Division of Historical Resources and represent U.S. Government issued items, personal items from the cargo belonging to three Union regiments as well as items taken from deserted plantation homes in South Carolina. It offers a window into a time long ago that was extremely critical in U.S. history.

The only authoritative book written about the ship, her missions and the efforts to recover  her cargo, “Maple Leaf – An Extraordinary American Civil War Shipwreck”, has been reprinted as the 150th Anniversary Edition. This book has been out of print for about 20 years. We are indeed grateful to Dr. Keith Holland for allowing Mandarin Museum & Historical Society to reprint and sell this wonderful book. It is a must read for any person who wants to learn all they can about this national Civil War era treasure and how it came to be available for us to view. It may be purchased in the museum book store.