The Maple Leaf was a luxury cruise vessel, commissioned into service as a Union cargo supply ship during the Civil War. On April 1, 1964 the ship struck a submarine torpedo in the St. Johns River and sank off the coast of Mandarin Point.
Finding and retrieving the Maple Leaf had been a lifetime dream of Dr. Keith Holland, who with several friends founded St Johns Archaeological Expeditions Inc. After days of searching, the divers located the ship under 8 feet of silt and recovered over 3000 objects. They relinquished their rights to the artifacts to keep the collection intact.
Now, through the end of the year, you can view the collection at the Mandarin Museum at the Walter Jones Historical Park on Mandarin Road. Come on Sunday, August 17th or Saturday, August 30th between 11:00 and 4:00 to meet several of the divers. Hearing their stories about finding the ship, the difficulty of working with the silt and debris, and the steps necessary to preserve the artifacts, truly bring this exhibit to life!
The National Park Service has said the Maple Leaf is the “most important repository of Civil War artifacts ever found”, and the wreck has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.