St. Johns River; Jacksonville
Photo Terri Bryce Reeves
By Terri Bryce Reeves - Tampa Bay Times
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.