Complete analysis and interpretation of the artifacts recovered from the 1993 field season must wait until conservation treatment is completed. Preliminary documentation has identified some ownership patterns based on the type of material contained in a recovery. Collections of personal property are the largest category. Artifacts in these collections can be classified as civilian and military issue for use by individual soldiers. A second group is military equipment intended for group use. This category includes tentage and mess equipment. The common element binding the two groups together is their role in the day to day life of the soldier. They represent the basic necessities of subsistence, shelter and standard of living. Both artifact groups are predicted by historical sources. The property belonged to New York and Indiana garrison troops stationed on Folly Island, South Carolina. Things that did not affect the infantry soldier on a daily level were generally not found in the cargo hold.
While artifact analysis must wait, the gross distribution of artifact clusters or recoveries can be examined. Spatial distribution of recoveries in the aft cargo hold is affected by two factors; the original packing arrangement and site formation processes operating after the vessel's loss. Ultimately, interpreting the packing arrangement will help predict the distribution of material in the hold by rank, regiment and company. In turn, this will aid interpretation of the artifact record. The packing arrangement also reveals stowage techniques employed on the Maple Leaf. Before the original order of the cargo hold can be understood the effects of site formation processes must be examined.
Structural damage and cargo displacement caused by the torpedo explosion is limited to the forward part of the ship including the forward cargo space. While the aft cargo hold was not directly affected by the explosion, water flowing into the hold as the vessel settled to the river bottom was the first direct impact of the sinking. Once the confined space flooded, buoyancy played a key role as boxes, poles and other containers shifted to find an equilibrium in the water. Buoyant containers began to float and move around and some became lodged under the main deck. Others, holding heavy artifacts, remained at the bottom of the hold or fell from higher levels.
The scope of this initial displacement is dependent on the open space available for material to move. As an ocean going ship, the Maple Leaf was presumably packed tightly to prevent cargo from shifting in rough seas. Movement in the hold was probably limited.
Soon, other factors began to operate on the cargo. Many boxes and other containers eventually filled with water or became saturated and settled to the bottom. Organic deterioration destroyed fabric bags, sacks and tentage. The artifacts inside the fabric containers either dispersed or remained together depending on the location of the container, the density of articles inside and entrapment by surrounding material. The iron fasteners holding many containers together, such as boxes and barrels, corroded allowing them to fall apart. The distribution of loose artifacts, boards and barrel staves indicates organic and iron deterioration occurred before interior spaces filled with sediment. Not all iron fastened containers fell apart but many did.
Cargo shifting slowed after initial displacement following the sinking. Unlike the forward hold, the aft cargo space remained covered by the intact main deck and was not exposed to tidal currents. Water movement has caused extensive damage and cargo displacement in the forward hold (Cantelas 1993:41). Although material in the aft hold generally reached a stable position, decomposition processes remained at work. As the vessel settled into the river bottom, sediments slowly filled the interior over a number of years, trapping the cargo in position. Sedimentation also created a very stable environment, slowing decomposition dramatically. The anaerobic river mud retards biological deterioration because it cannot support the organisms responsible for most decomposition.
Profile drawings of the interior space illustrate cargo displacement caused by buoyancy or density. Figure 28 shows the location of four east wall profiles. In Profile A Recoveries 68 and 73 are boxes containing very dense artifacts that were either packed on the lower deck or fell from above (Figure 29). Profile B shows a fragmented trunk (Recovery 81) and associated artifacts on the lower deck (Figure 30). The field desk (Recovery 70) remained buoyant and became entrapped in the upper levels.
The boxes and tent poles in Profile C are stacked on the lower deck (Figure 31). A single layer of tent poles (Recovery 87B) is sandwiched between two boxes (Recoveries 83 and 89). In the profile, Recovery 78 lies in front of 89 and rests on the lower deck. This is part of a compact cluster of boxes in the central area of the excavation seen in Figure 28.
Profile D clearly shows the effects of buoyancy (Figure 32). The nested pots in Recovery 89 are heavy enough to keep the box on the lower deck. Assorted tentage materials (Recovery 87C) rest on top of the box. Three groups of tent poles (Recoveries 87A, 87B and 92) illustrate the vertical distribution of poles commonly found in the cargo space. While a certain amount of movement is expected of wooden poles, the three groups are discrete clusters. Recovery 87A was blocked by the barrel (Recovery 85) from floating any higher. The barrel's position, just under the main deck, suggests it was packed high in the hold. Given its size, the barrel probably did not move far from its original stowed position. Recovery 77 is superimposed on this profile to show vertical position. It is packed on top of a cluster of unexcavated tent poles.
Vertical and horizontal displacement of the cargo was primarily caused by the inherent buoyancy of lighter materials. Positive buoyancy allowed greater mobility than negatively weighted objects which remained in place or fell to the bottom. The extent of displacement cannot be known with any degree of certainty but effects on the cargo are understood fairly well. In addition, certain limiting factors operate to contain the dislocation; primarily, a tight packing arrangement. It is reasonable to conclude that dislocation is minimal in the enclosed cargo space and is predominantly vertical, not horizontal.
Evaluating the effects of site formation processes operating inside the ship helps to reconstruct the original 1864 packing order. Further reconstruction of the packing arrangement must take into account human decisions on how goods were stowed on board. This will involve the use of historical documentation, certain assumptions and archaeological evidence of artifact clustering by regiment. Historical documents provide a chronology of events and detail what equipment troops were ordered to take and what was left behind. The main assumptions presume how material was packed into boxes, transported to the ship and stowed as cargo. This information does not exist in the historical record and cannot be verified. On the other hand, artifact clusters based on regiments are available in the archaeological record.
The regiments with property on the Maple Leaf were the 13th Indiana, 112th New York and 169th New York. Following the Federal loss at the Battle of Olustee in North Florida on February 20, 1864, these units were given short notification they were being transferred to Jacksonville, Florida. The men were ordered to take only essential equipment including weapons, ammunition, five days rations and shelter tents. Camp and garrison equipment, tents and baggage were left in charge of the Quarter Master Sergeant for later shipment to Jacksonville (Hyde 1866:66-67; Foster 1864). These "soldier's traps" were eventually loaded into the aft cargo hold of the Maple Leaf (PBS).
Given these conditions, several assumptions can be made about the regimental camps from the time the troops left to the time the material was packed on the Maple Leaf. The orders to move out arrived with the mail boat on February 22. Most of the troops had the morning of the 23d to dismantle their camp and pack before boarding transports about noon (Hyde 1866:66-67). Finding enough packing containers on short notice for the men of all three regiments might have been difficult. One possible solution is to have men sharing the same tent lump their property together in the same box. This scenario is suggested by Recovery 84 which contained artifacts with the initials of four different people.
Once the camps were dismantled and ready for transport, the equipment was loaded on wagons by regiment and company. This transferred the organizational structure of the camp to the clustered packages. The equipment arrived at the ship for loading as a group. Keeping the cargo segregated according to regiment and company during loading would make distribution at the destination easier. Given limited impact by environmental factors, a packing arrangement based on this organization should be discernable in the archaeological record.
Testing this hypothesis provides mixed results. The area examined in 1993 is relatively small, measuring approximately 13 feet long, 4 feet wide and 5 feet high. Placement of tent poles on either side of this space also suggests cargo segregation (Figure 28). Preliminary artifact analysis, however, has identified material from the 13th Indiana and at least one unidentified New York regiment.
Three boxes grouped together are associated with the 13th Indiana Regiment (centered at 8 feet south/9 feet east [Figure 28]). Recoveries 78 and 83 are boxes identified with Company B and Company A respectively. Recovery 84 is a box that contained a brush with "Co A 13th IND." carved in the handle. The clustering of these recoveries does not appear accidental and is expected given the assumptions on how the vessel was packed. All boxes contained dense, heavy artifacts that minimized movement after the Maple Leaf sank.
Three recoveries (67, 77 and 81) are associated with the New York State regiments by brass military buttons. Since nothing was found linking them to a particular regiment the recoveries could be from either the 112th and/or the 169th New York State Regiments. Although Recovery 67 contained one New York State button, its provenience is considered suspect. It is part of an artifact concentration without a container located on the lower deck directly below the deck opening. This area has seen heavy traffic during several field seasons. The button could have been dropped during recovery work. This recovery also contained several cavalry buttons. The New York regiments were infantry units not cavalry.
The two other recoveries associated with New York regiments are a trunk (Recovery 81 and associated recoveries 79 and 80) resting on the lower deck and a box (Recovery 77) wedged among a group of tent poles. Their locations indicate neither has moved far since the ship sank. The trunk and box mark the east and west ends of a compact cluster of boxes (Figure 28). Within the cluster, three out of five boxes belong to the 13th Indiana. The other two, Recoveries 88 and 89, await further analysis to provide a regimental association. The displaced field desk, Recovery 70, located above the trunk is very important in regard to the material it contains and to which regiment it belonged. Currently, it cannot be given a regimental association and therefore, plays a minor role in determining a packing order.
The evidence for a packing arrangement based on the assumptions of segregation by regiments is far from conclusive. However, the remains of an organizational pattern is starting to emerge from the distribution of boxes. Material from the 13th Indiana was placed in the hold as group. This is indicative of a conscious effort to maintain the boxes as a discrete group to be transported to the ship and packed into the hold. Nearby boxes may or may not be from this regiment. Since nothing was used to separate the equipment of one regiment from another, Indiana and New York regimental equipment is not yet readily discernable in the cargo hold plan (Figure 28). In the future it may be difficult to determine the regimental origins of material in the hold until it can be examined after recovery.
Tent poles have apparently been used to separate cargo and act as dunnage to prevent cargo from shifting during the voyage. Poles generally follow an orderly arrangement, aligned along the longitudinal axis of the ship, evident in the plan views of the cargo hold (Figure 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26). The alignment is a function of how the poles were moved and packed in the hold. It is far easier to move with them oriented longitudinally than across the beam.
The majority of recoveries were located between two concentrations of poles. In the case of Recoveries 71 and 82, the poles extend vertically from the lower deck to the bottom of the main deck (Figures 29, 30 and 31). Extrapolating from the limited area examined, it appears the poles separate groups of boxes and packing containers. At the same time they functioned as dunnage to secure and hold the cargo in place. Future investigations may find areas of the hold divided up by tent poles segregating cargo by regiment.
Historical accounts of material transported on the Maple Leaf correspond with the archaeological record. Even the methods used to organize and stow the material is being clarified by the investigation. Yet, not enough of the cargo space has been systematically examined to predict a pattern of artifact distribution. Should excavation continue in the future, recognized trends may become predictive patterns. Full interpretation of the artifact distribution inside the hold must wait until a detailed analysis of the artifact collection is completed. Groupings and associations will certainly appear as material is examined, modifying the interpretation of how the cargo space is organized.