Shipwreck Recovered U.S. Buckle

USS Maple Leaf (Union)

Sunk: April 1, 1864

Sunk By: Confederate Torpedo


On April 1, 1864, the Union transport vessel "Maple Leaf" struck a Confederate mine in the St. John's River, near Jacksonville, FL, and sank. Four lives were lost, and the cargo (mostly personal luggage from soldiers as well as supplies for the Union forces in Florida) was a total loss. Rediscovered and excavated in 1984, the "Maple Leaf" was declared a national historic landmark in 1994. Therefore, very few artifacts from this wreck have ever ben on the market. 


~ USS Maple Leaf ~


Constructed in Kingston, Ontario, the Great Lakes passenger steamship Maple Leaf set out to sea on June 18, 1851. Its first owner, Donald Bethune and Company, used the Maple Leaf as a passenger ship until the company started to flounder. Mr. Bethune subsequently fled the country and the remaining partners sold the vessel to a company based in Rochester, New York, in 1855. At the time, a new reciprocity treaty between the United States and Canada temporarily revitalized Lake Ontario shipping but by the end of the decade the United States found itself in a depression. Although the shipping trade went into decline, the charter market for steamers rose as a result of the Civil War. In 1862 the Maple Leaf was sold to Bostonians J.H.B. Lang and Charles Spear who chartered it to the U.S. Army.


The Maple Leaf was used as a transport vessel, bringing Union troops south to Virginia. In 1863, Confederate prisoners-of-war (POWs) on the ship overpowered their guards and took control of the vessel. After landing, the POWs escaped to Richmond. The Union recovered the boat and continued to use it to transport troops along the East Coast until 1864. In April of that year, the Maple Leaf struck a Confederate "torpedo" (what we would now call a mine) off Mandarin Point in the St. John's River. The