The project goals completed in 1993 include documenting the engineering space on the starboard side, continued investigation of site formation processes and excavation inside the aft cargo spaces. Each one of these tasks increased our understanding of the existing site and the environmental conditions operating on the shipwreck.
The engineering space revealed destruction caused by channel clearing work in the 1880's. Taller elements of the propulsion system were removed, leaving the boilers and lower portions of the drive train. To date, documentation is complete on the easily accessible upper portion of this area. The major diagnostic features examined in 1993 include the paddle wheels, paddle shaft, walking beam, connecting rod and starboard boiler.
The lower part of the machinery space remains obstructed by debris. This area has great potential in the future to produce data on the engine components, fuel bunkers, the general layout of the engine room and space utilization.
The aft cargo hold excavation revealed a remarkably intact cargo space with packages and materials still maintaining some semblance of the original packing arrangement. Web for Windows provided reliable mapping controls in the zero visibility conditions. The collection of artifacts recovered from this excavation will materially aid the interpretation of many aspects of the American Civil War. Further, opening a space inside the hull provides access to elements of the ship that are impossible to examine otherwise.
Site documentation over two field seasons has revealed enough features to create a preliminary reconstruction of the Maple Leaf's main deck (Figure 33). The reconstruction is based on archaeological findings augmented by historical sources. Currently, site documentation is limited to 100 feet of the starboard side and a small area of the aft cargo hold. The deck is remarkable for its features and the protection it provides the cargo inside the holds. However, it obstructs many of the diagnostic construction details that can only be examined inside the hull.
In 1994 the starboard side aft deck is slated to be examined from the engineering spaces to the stern. This will complete the planned site documentation begun in 1992 under a three year agreement between ECU and SJAEI. Additional diagnostic features of the vessel also deserve recording. However, available time and manpower will determine whether or not these features are documented in 1994. They include the port paddle shaft and wheel, the underside of the starboard guard, the forward end of the starboard hogging truss, the rudder, and the lower deck inside the aft cargo hold. These features will add to the small but growing pool of knowledge now available on Great Lakes steamboats.
Documentation on Great Lakes ship construction prior to the twentieth century is notoriously absent. Plans rarely exist. Instead, each vessel often represents a separate creation from the memory and imagination of the shipwright (Halsey 1990:18). Floating examples of vessels in the Maple Leaf's class have not survived the past one hundred forty-four years (Lenihan 1987:2). They generally exist only as archaeological sites and archaeological investigations provide the only means available to gather data on their material remains. Later examples of side wheel steamers, such as the Ticonderoga and Eureka, do offer important comparisons to illustrate ship development (Whittier 1987:2).
Although the Maple Leaf rests far from Lake Ontario, it offers an extraordinary chance to study Great Lakes ship construction and modification made to the vessel during the Civil War. Further, the cargo in her holds is historically significant to the United States as a whole. It offers insight on the daily lives and times of the common soldier at a defining period in American history.