Early Steamboat Development on Lake
Steamboat Business on Lake Ontario
Donald Bethune, Steamboat Entrepreneur
Maple Leaf's Career on Lake Ontario
The Civil War Years
Florida During the Civil War
Torpedo Warfare on the St. Johns River
Events Subsequent to Sinking
Trans Appalachian North America is graced with an intricate waterway system composed of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River drainage with numerous tributaries. The Great Lakes drain through the St. Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean while the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf of Mexico. This network became a tremendous resource for commercial transportation development in the nineteenth century.
Until the early nineteenth century, conflict between Indian, British, French, and Americans characterized this region. Only after the end of the War of 1812, the last major conflict, did substantial development occur on the Great Lakes. In the decades following the war, the United States and Canada experienced massive immigration. Huge frontier territories open for settlement allowed newcomers to purchase relatively cheap land. A wave of land speculation swept through the eastern United States in 1835, attracting large numbers of settlers to the west. For example, between 1830 and 1840 the population of Michigan increased from 31,629 to 212,267 (Mansfield 1899:182-183, 189; Mills 1910:114).
Across the border, the Canadian government encouraged British immigration. Post-war depression and the industrial revolution made living conditions harsh and many Europeans made the difficult voyage to the new country. Canada wanted to expand its population in the recently opened lands and dilute those disloyal elements found in some districts during the War of 1812 (Glazebrook 1938:63).
The massive movement of people and materials created increasing pressure to develop the infrastructure to handle transportation needs. Natural obstacles, however, created difficulties for east-west travel that effectively isolated western settlers from eastern markets. Niagara Falls and rapids along the St. Lawrence River obstructed navigation to the Great Lakes. The Mississippi River provided an alternative route but it could be hazardous and upstream travel required poling or rowing and the expense of hiring boatmen (Baldwin 1941:61). Road transportation over the Appalachian Mountains was difficult and extremely expensive.
Public demands for better transportation stimulated government sponsored improvements and private initiatives. Early canals by-passed rapids on the St. Lawrence and the first Welland Canal skirted Niagara Falls after 1829 (Mansfield 1899:232). Most importantly, the Erie Canal, completed in 1825, offered a direct link between the Great Lakes and New York City. Although it ended at Buffalo on Lake Erie, a spur line to Oswego, New York connected Lake Ontario with the Erie Canal system. Other canals, such as the Ohio and Erie Canal, joined the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River drainage (Harlow 1926:72; Mansfield 1899:222,255). On the Mississippi, steam powered vessels began reliable two-way traffic after Nicholas Roosevelt's first trip from Pittsburgh to New Orleans aboard the New Orleans in 1811 (Morrison 1958:190). In combination, these improvements created a low cost water transportation network capable of moving western raw materials to eastern markets and carrying settlers and eastern manufactured goods in the other direction.
When the Erie Canal opened, freight forwarding and passenger service became major elements of the east-west trade network extending from the Great Lakes down the Hudson River to New York City (Mills 1910:103). While sailing vessels were more numerous, steam vessels offered quick and regular service. Building a steamboat required a large capital investment so steamboat operators participated in high income trades. For sidewheelers on the Great Lakes this meant passengers, perishable freight, and mail. With fast and reliable service, operators generally expected a regular passenger trade. A few fortunate operators also won lucrative government mail contracts.
Early Steamboat Development on Lake Ontario
Robert Fulton is largely credited with building the first successful commercial steamboat by consolidating advances made in steam technology by earlier inventors. Fulton, in partnership with Robert Livingston, launched the North River Steamboat of Clermont in 1807. The Clermont operated on the Hudson River between New York City and Albany, New York (Morrison 1958:19-27).
Two years after Fulton launched the Clermont, the first British steamboat appeared in North American. In 1809 John Molson launched the Accommodation on the St. Lawrence River for service between Quebec and Montreal. Over the next several years he added four steam vessels to his line, the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company (Glazebrook 1938:71-72).
After the War of 1812, American vessels traded in Canadian ports with little government interference despite restrictions placed on trade by the British Navigation Acts. This competition, between American and Canadian shippers on the Great Lakes, helped speed the introduction of steam vessels. (Glazebrook 1938:73).
In Kingston, Canadian merchants viewed the situation with alarm. One group decided a reliable and fast steamboat would recapture their market share. They raised enough capital to build the Frontenac, the first steam vessel on the Great Lakes. Constructed for $15,000 in Ernestown, near Kingston, the vessel was launched on September 7, 1816. She provided regular service between Prescott and York (Toronto) (Johnson 1975:200). Across Lake Ontario, the first American steam vessel, the Ontario, was built in Sacketts Harbor, New York under license from Robert Fulton. She was launched six months later, in March 1817. (Cuthbertson 1931:215-216).
Early steamboats incorporated existing technology modified for marine use. As steamboats evolved, marine steam technology quickly became more specialized. The first engines were modifications of Watt's stationary side lever engine used in mills and mining. Fulton used a side lever engine, modified with a gear drive and fly wheels, on the Clermont. Early engines were put into hulls designed for sailing but built with provisions for steam machinery and paddle wheels. American shipbuilders quickly dropped the cumbersome side lever mechanism in favor of the cross-head engine such as that fitted on the pioneer Great Lake steamboat Walk-in-the-Water built in 1818 (Walker 1902:318; Whittier 1987:5-9).
While the crosshead engine persisted through mid century, the marine walking beam engine came into wide use after 1825 (Whittier 1987:13). While on a tour of the United States, naval architect Norman Russell (1861:114) found the walking beam engine universal to America and best suited for navigating eastern rivers. Russell found the walking beam engine "cheaper in construction, lighter in weight, more economical in management, less costly in repair, more durable, and better suited for high speed, than any of our own [British] engines." The popularity of this unsophisticated but reliable engine continued into the twentieth century (Whittier 1987:46)
Steamboats designed to increase passenger capacity on the Great Lakes made tremendous strides during the 1830's as a flood of immigrants moved to Illinois and Wisconsin (Mansfield 1899:398). The early Great Lake steamers Frontenac, Ottawa, and Walk-in-the-Water were small and cramped. The engine, boiler, and machinery occupied most of the narrow main deck placing passenger accommodations inside the confining space of the hull.
Development of the longitudinal sponson hull improved deck lay-out by adding space. On early steamers short guards protected the projecting paddle wheels. Guards, or sponsons, became a distinguishing characteristic on nineteenth century eastern North American steamboats. By the 1820's they appeared on Hudson River steamboats such as the New Philadelphia, launched in 1826 (Morrison 1958:50). To create the sponson hull, the paddle guards were extended fore and aft, tapering in to meet the bow and stern. The main and upper decks were extended sideways to the edge of the guard. The enlarged guard often added twenty feet or more to the vessel's beam outside the hull depending on the width of the paddle wheels (Cuthbertson 1931:242-244; Russell 1861:108,113).
The Michigan, built in 1833, is credited with incorporating the first longitudinal sponson hull used on the lakes. Reportedly her owners, Newberry and Dole of Detroit, offered the best passenger and freight service between Buffalo and Detroit. The sponsons allowed cabin construction on the Michigan's main deck along with a surrounding promenade. The arrangement offered more pleasant accommodations than those usually found in the holds of other contemporary ships (Cuthbertson 1931:243-245).
Steamboat clientele also included a large class of affluent travelers who demanded better accommodations (Mansfield 1899:398). Redesigning passenger accommodations eventually led to a whole new class of vessels, the upper cabin steamboat characterized by two or more upper decks. The Great Western, commissioned in 1839, became the first vessel in this new class. The hull contained boilers, machinery, and freight. Cabins and state rooms were located on the aft main deck while an additional hurricane deck contained the ladies saloon, dining room, bar and main cabins. Following this innovation, contemporary vessels converted to the upper cabin style and future steamboat construction used the design almost exclusively (Mansfield 1899:398-399).
Steamboat Business on Lake Ontario
Hull construction and steam machinery made steamboats enormously expensive and placed them beyond the reach of most individuals. Due to these extraordinary costs, the "promoter vessel" characterized the principal type of steamboat ownership during the 1830's and early 1840's. A large number of investors, recruited by a principle promoter, owned the steamer. Under Upper Canada law, each investor held one or more shares and "were collectively and individually liable for all her debts" (Lewis 1985:208). The promoter brought a major share of capital to the enterprise as well as a knowledge of steamboat operation applied in day to day business. Notable Upper Canadian promoters included Henry Gildersleeve, Hugh Richardson and James Sutherland. Investors attracted by the promoter's reputation supplied the balance of necessary capital (Lewis 1985:208).
Canadian promoters responded to American competition by pooling resources in working agreements. In 1835 Donald Bethune of Cobourg made an agreement to lease his vessel Britannia to John Hamilton of Kingston. Britannia ran between Toronto and Hamilton in conjunction with Bethune's line which linked Rochester and Toronto. Although the agreement broke down in 1840, it was typical of many informal associations made during the period (Johnson 1975:205-206).
During the 1840's shipping traffic included daily lines along both the American and Canadian shores as well as cross-lake routes linking Canadian ports with the Erie Canal through Oswego. Canadian steamboat operators continued to pursue informal working agreements among themselves. Meanwhile, American trade became increasingly organized beginning with the formation of the Ontario Steam and Canal Boat Company at Oswego in 1842. It served the south shore and a few Canadian ports. In 1848 the company merged with the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company to form the Ontario and St. Lawrence Steamboat Company. The new company ran three lines serving United States and Canadian ports from Lewiston to Montreal with large well appointed steamboats (Johnson 1975:202-205).
In 1849 Canadian laws regulating the organization of corporations changed to one of limited liability. In this structure, the general managing partner assumed liability for corporate debts. Previously, each investor stood jointly responsible for the firm's debt, often far beyond their individual investment (Baskerville 1975:145-146). The change in corporate law created changes in steamboat ownership patterns. Small fleets owned by businesses and groups of investors began to appear. On Lake Ontario the largest operators were Macpherson and Crane, Hooker and Holton, John Hamilton, and Donald Bethune (Lewis 1985:215).
Finally, in April 1850, Canadian owners, including Donald Bethune and Company, John Hamilton, MacPherson and Crane, Thomas Dick and James Sutherland, joined together in a formal working agreement to oppose American competition. The co-signers set shipping rates and passenger fares, and established three routes. The Lake Mail Line connected the lake ports of Hamilton, Toronto and Kingston. The River Mail Line ran from Kingston on the east end of Lake Ontario to Montreal on the St. Lawrence River. The Through Line paralleled the other two, running directly from Hamilton on the western end of Lake Ontario to Montreal on the St. Lawrence River (Figure 3).
Donald Bethune, Steamboat Entrepreneur
Of all the vessel operators, one stands out as particularly important prior to 1860: Donald Bethune. In 1845, Donald Bethune was "the largest Steamboat Proprietor in Canada West." Bethune started his business with the steamer Britannia in service on the Rideau Canal in 1833. During the first year, he could not pay his mortgage, insurance fig 3 premium, or operating costs. To settle the debts, the Bank of Upper Canada and the Bank of Montreal accepted nine promissory notes endorsed by his brother James. After failing to pay off the notes, the banks took Bethune to court. In defense, Bethune reasoned he did not have to pay the money back because the Bank of Upper Canada was illegally chartered and the Bank of Montreal was a foreign bank and could not transact business in Upper Canada. The bench agreed the banks were not operating legally but ordered Bethune to make good on the notes (Baskerville 1975:137-141).
Bethune weathered the first turbulent years of business due to a general upswing in the forwarding business. Favored by government patronage, he also held the primary mail contract on Lake Ontario from 1841 until the end of his career in 1853. The contract paid between £3000 and £5000 each season, brought prestige, and increased passenger business. The traveling public knew the mail line met postal schedules so service was guaranteed (Baskerville 1975:142; Johnson 1975:204).
Bethune suffered serious financial setbacks due to a number of factors despite attempts to organize and regulate fares. Steamboat operators, including Bethune, engaged in periodic rate wars which undermined potential earnings. As his aging fleet depreciated, resale value declined and maintenance costs increased. Since postal schedules demanded his boats be in top condition, breakdowns and delays meant sizable fines. High overhead and low rates, coupled with economic recession, caused Bethune to declare bankruptcy for the first time in November 1848. The Bank of Upper Canada held mortgages on seven of his boats and took possession of them one week before Bethune declared bankruptcy (Baskerville 1975:143,145).
The following year, 1849, Bethune organized another company based on the new corporate law that limited investor's liability. The Donald Bethune and Company had eighty-two co-partners with Bethune as manager and sole general partner. On the surface the new law looked very attractive to investors but was, in fact, very complex. A management committee was selected to advise the general partner in business matters. However, "should any limited partner act as a manager or general partner, or in any other way not comply with the charter's requirements, he and all other limited partners would become totally liable for all debts." The complexity of the organization combined with Bethune's ineptness, would eventually compromise his partners protected status and make them liable for corporate losses (Baskerville 1975:145-146).
The Bank of Upper Canada sold Bethune's mortgaged boats to the new Donald Bethune and Company, but the newest one was already eight years old in 1850. Bethune entered the Canadian steamboaters alliance by placing one of these boats, the Princess Royal, on the Lake Mail Line. She was built in 1841 and despite extensive repairs was not able to meet her schedules. The Canadian Postal service fined Bethune £750 for irregular mail deliveries. To solve this problem, he decided to build a new, reliable and faster steamboat. The vessel would be named Maple Leaf and construction began during the winter of 1850-1851 (Baskerville 1975:146; Girvin 1993:65).
Maple Leaf's Career on Lake Ontario
Bethune chose to build the Maple Leaf in Kingston at the Marine Railway Yard managed by John Counter. The shipwright in charge of design and construction was George Thurston, the Yard Superintendent. Bethune intended to use the ship on the St. Lawrence River as well as Lake Ontario. While it could shoot the rapids on the river going down stream, it had to use canals around the rapids on the return trip. Therefore, the hull was the largest possible size able to fit locks on the St. Lawrence Canals (Daily British Whig [DBW] 26 March 1851).
A low pressure walking beam engine powered the vessel with steam supplied by two new boilers (Figure 4). The Maple Leaf's engine was taken from the Sovereign, formerly the Niagara, built in 1840. Bethune bought the Niagara in 1843 from John Hamilton for use on the Royal Mail Line, and renamed her Sovereign. The Sovereign was laid up at the Marine Railway Yard in the fall of 1850 to remove her engine. It was taken to the Kingston Foundry and rebuilt to increase power before being installed on the Maple Leaf (DBW 26 March 1851; Heyl 1967:251; Girvin 1993:67-68).
The Maple Leaf, like other Great Lake steamboats of the period, burned cordwood in her boilers. Tremendous forests grew around the Great Lakes region providing plentiful fuel. In one year alone, 1857, the Maple Leaf's fuel costs reached $14,000. Wood was loaded on board by passing it down through the engineering hatch into the fuel bunkers (Union and Advertiser [UA] 3 June 1857; Girvin 1993:88).
On June 18, 1851, the Maple Leaf "left the ways in fine style, and plunged into her future element amidst the cheers of several hundred spectators." The local press lauded her swan-like grace and predicted she would be a fast boat (Kingston Argus 23 June 1851). The Canadian Certificate of Ownership (1851) describes the ship as having a burthen of three hundred and ninety eight 1334/3500 tons...one mast, and one deck, that her length from the inner part of the main stem to the fore part of the stern post aloft is one hundred and seventy three two tenths, her breadth in midships is twenty four feet seven tenths, her depth in hold midships is ten feet six tenths, that she is propelled by steam, with an engine room seventy one feet seven tenths in length, and two hundred and three tons; that she is sloop rigged, with no bow sprit, is round sterned carvel built, has no galleries and has no figure head; and...has been duly registered at the Port of Toronto.
The press responded favorably to the Maple Leaf, describing her luxurious accommodations and providing a taste of contemporary travel:
The Maple Leaf's length overall is 181 feet; her breadth of beam, 26 ½ feet; depth of hold, 11 feet. Like most of the newer lake boats, she has a Saloon on the upper deck, 130 feet in length, with a row of state rooms on each side, and a dining table capable of accommodating 100 guests, besides the ordinary cabin dining table. Of the state rooms, 12 are most comfortably fitted up with French bedsteds, and the remainder, 32 in all, have two berths in each. Everything is good and new. The Saloon and the ladies' cabin beneath are richly decorated with white and gold cornices and panelling, the chairs and settees cushioned with crimson plush, and curtains of crimson and gold damask... We are particularly pleased with the profusion of stained glass, tastefully and elaborately painted by our friend Mr. E. C. Bull, whose skill has covered every glass door and window with pretty little sketches enwreathed with maple leaves, which would form quite a study for the youthful artist. (DBW 26 March 1851).
The Maple Leaf fitted out over the summer and made her first trial voyage on September 19 under the command of Captain Neil Wilkinson. Her first passenger voyage was an excursion trip to the Provincial Fair held in Brockville. She left Toronto on September 25, stopping at Kingston along the way, and returned on September 27 (Girvin 1993:70).
Bethune built the Maple Leaf to replace the Princess Royal and operate on the Lake Mail Line. However, circumstances dictated other arrangements would be more profitable. In 1850, the Northern Railroad completed a line to Ogdensberg with connections to Montreal, Boston, and other eastern cities. A new route was created to take advantage of the railroad connection. It paralleled the Lake Mail Line from Toronto to Kingston and then went down river to the American railhead at Ogdensberg. On October 6, the Maple Leaf started service on the semi-weekly route (Girvin 1993:71).
The vessel sailed on the route for less than a month before one of Bethune's other steamboats, the Admiral, broke down. The Maple Leaf replaced the Admiral on the cross-lake route from Rochester to Toronto, stopping in Cobourg and Port Hope. She resumed service on the Ogdensberg line in November and even replaced the Princess Royal on the Lake Mail Line before the end of her first season (Girvin 1993:72-73).
In January 1852, the participants in the 1850 Articles of Agreement renegotiated the contract to the detriment of Donald Bethune. The agreement reinstated the Through Line after having been dropped the previous year because of financial losses. The agreement also obligated Bethune to place the Maple Leaf on the Through Line even though he stood to loose a great deal of money (Girvin 1993:74). Another event caused the company further hardship when the Maple Leaf collided with the iron hulled steamboat Magnet. A court ruling found the Maple Leaf at fault and fined the company £600 (Daily News [DN] 28 October 1852).
The Through Line lost heavily in 1852 due to competition with American lines and cheaper Canadian freight service on the St. Lawrence River. The group of operators dropped the Through Line again and beefed-up the Lake Mail and River Lines. Each line was assigned four boats and the Lake Mail Line was extended down river to Ogdensberg to meet the Northern Railroad. Passengers on the Lake Mail Line had the option of transferring to the railroad at Ogdensberg or taking the River Line down the rapids on the St. Lawrence. The Maple Leaf, Magnet, Passport and Arabian operated on the Lake Mail Line (Girvin 1993:75).
Bethune and Company's financial troubles increased in 1853. The Maple Leaf's walking beam broke while steaming off Long Point, Lake Ontario shortly after leaving Kingston in May. She was towed to the Marine Railway Yard in Kingston and work started on a new beam at the Kingston Foundry. In less than two weeks, the steamboat resumed her schedule on the Lake Mail Line (DN, 2, 11 May 1853). During her career on Lake Ontario, the Maple Leaf eventually had all major engine parts replaced due to breakdowns and failures (DN 2 May 1853; DN 29 July 1854; UA 16 July 1859; UA 20 March 1860).
In December 1853, Bethune fled Canada for England taking £4000 in paid-up Donald Bethune and Company capital and neglecting to pay in his £6000 share. In Bethune's absence, some of the limited partners made managerial decisions in order to keep the company solvent. Under Canadian corporate law, that action made all company partners completely liable for all debts (Baskerville 1975:147).
During the winter, the stunned and embarrassed partners decided to place the Maple Leaf on the cross-lake route. They also signed a contract with the Great Western Railway to transport locomotives from Rochester to Hamilton on the Princess Royal. The Maple Leaf made the first cross-lake trip of the season on March 5, 1854 under the command of a new master, Captain Robert Kerr (Baskerville 1975:147; Girvin 1993:77). The boat served this route regularly for the next nine years.
Mechanical breakdowns on the water happened fairly frequently and were often caused by weather and lake conditions. For example, ice and late winter storms often hindered early season navigation. One of the Maple Leaf's paddle wheels was lost on April 14, 1854 while traveling to Toronto (Girvin 1993:78). Such occurrences took boats out of service for repair and played havoc with schedules.
An engine breakdown on June 12, 1854 caused enough damage to warrant installing a whole new power plant. The pin fastening the piston rod to the walking beam broke, allowing the piston to smash into the cylinder bottom. The disabled vessel was towed to Kingston for repairs. "A new cylinder was made at the Kingston Foundry, which along with other repairs, has given her a complete new engine" (DN 29 July 1854; Girvin 1993:79). Although the repair costs are not known, the complete engine machinery for the Cleveland, built in 1837, cost $50,000 (Labadie and Murphy 1987:52). Bethune and Company struggled through 1854. And by early 1855, the partners were ready to liquidate the business.
The company agent in Rochester, George Darling, saw the potential of starting a new business exclusively devoted to cross-lake trade between Toronto and Rochester. He recruited investors from the United States and Canada to form the Lake Ontario International Steamboat Company on June 20, 1855. The new company purchased the Maple Leaf for $50,000 and bought out the charter for the Highlander from the Bethune Company. Daily cross lake service began with both vessels operating out of Rochester fig 5 (Figure 5)(Girvin 1993:79-83).
Over the winter the company had both vessels overhauled and painted; a normal practice during winter lay-up. Painting the Maple Leaf's exterior kept the ship in port until April 21, 1856. In early May, both the Maple Leaf and Highlander were damaged by ice while cruising on the lake. Damage to the Maple Leaf's paddle wheels and the hull was so bad, the vessel was taken out of the water for repairs (UA 17 May 1856; Girvin 1993:85).
By the mid 1850's, railroads extending along the lake shore competed with ship traffic on the lake. Steamboat lines suffered as railroads provided more frequent, faster and reliable service. In 1856, the Grand Trunk Railroad completed a line from Montreal to Toronto along the Canadian shoreline. It stopped at Port Hope, Cobourg, and other ports served by the steamboat lines, nearly eliminating coastal trade (Glazebrook 1938:170-171).
Due to the impending down-turn in trade, the Lake Ontario International Steamboat Company made several changes before the 1857 season. The Highlander's lease was not renewed, leaving only one vessel to serve the cross-lake route. The company cut back service on the route, eliminating most of the north shore coastal trade. Daily service, however, was maintained to the remaining ports (Girvin 1993:86). The Maple Leaf left Rochester each morning at eight o'clock for Cobourg to connect with the Grand Trunk Railroad serving points east and west along the Canadian shore. The Cobourg and Peterboro Railroad made additional connections inland. The Maple Leaf stopped in Port Hope before returning to Rochester during the night to connect with the New York Central Railroad. Twice a week the Maple Leaf stopped in Colborne before returning to Rochester (UA 21 March 1857). In effect, the company turned the cross-lake route into a ferry line serving railheads on each shore.
Although the 1857 shipping season was less profitable than the past two years, the Maple Leaf continued to make money. A change in command also occurred. Captain Kerr resigned and was replaced by George Schofield, the Maple Leaf's purser. Schofield served under Kerr for many years on the cross-lake route (UA 23 March 1857).
The 1858 season began slower than normal with the Maple Leaf starting service in late April (UA 8 March 1858). In general, the financial panic of the previous year, coupled with railroad competition, left few passengers and little merchandise for lake vessels to carry (Gibbons 1859:343-357; Studenski and Krooss 1963:127; UA 5,19 April 1858). The International Steamboat Company reduced the Maple Leaf's schedule to three runs a week but expanded her route to include Toronto, "calling at all the usual places" on the north shore (UA 5 April 1858). The route had been profitable for the past twenty-five years and the late season start brought a fair number of passengers and freight.
Returning to Toronto brought the Maple Leaf under the scrutiny of Canadian steamboat inspector Samuel Risley. The Canadian Steamboat Inspection Act required all passenger steam vessels calling at Canadian ports to have an annual safety inspection. Mechanical breakdowns on the lake could be life threatening and these inspections hopefully insured reliable service. Boilers received careful examination because explosions took hundreds of lives in early steam transportation. The Maple Leaf failed Risley's inspection at Toronto in late April and underwent repairs before carrying passengers. Boiler inspection revealed numerous corroded fasteners that caused internal strengthening stays to fail (Risley 1858). These were fixed, a new safety valve installed, and the engine hold enclosed with tin as a precaution against fire (Girvin 1993:89).
In early July the Maple Leaf stopped serving Toronto and limited her runs to Colborne, Cobourg and Port Hope (Girvin 1993:90). The local press described the steamboat business as "going to seed or drying up" (UA 21 June 1858). To augment normal trade across the lake, the Maple Leaf engaged in a highly popular excursion trade. These trips were probably orchestrated by Captain Schofield and George Darling, the company ticket agent in Rochester. Several types of trips were offered but the moonlight excursions from Charlotte enjoyed large turnouts and included a band for entertainment. Tickets cost fifty cents for the steamer alone, or seventy-five cents included rail transport from Rochester and back (UA 24 July 1858).
The company also took advantage of small isolated settlements on the lake. The Maple Leaf made special excursions from Oak Orchard Harbor and Yates, located west of Rochester, providing an entertaining distraction for these small communities. There was even a special excursion to Niagara Falls for people from Cobourg, Colborne, and Port Hope. This attracted about "three hundred ladies and gentlemen" on the two day cruise (UA 20 August, 8 and 25 September 1858).
Still, the extra business did not produce enough profit to pay company debts. On October 13, a United States Marshal seized the Maple Leaf because the owners failed to pay $700 claimed by seven plaintiffs for supplies and services (UA 14 October 1858). The company did not have the money to pay off debts and the steamboat was auctioned to the highest bidder. George Whitney bought the boat for $6800 and then sold it to Captain Schofield before the start of the 1859 season (UA 25 January 1859).
The Maple Leaf resumed scheduled service three times a week to Colborne, Cobourg and Port Hope in late March 1859. Business was described as fair. Captain Schofield also resumed the profitable excursion trips, popular the previous summer. The busy schedule created a great deal of wear on the machinery that eventually caused a major breakdown. On July 16, the Maple Leaf's paddle shaft broke shortly after leaving Charlotte and the disabled vessel returned to port for repairs. Local papers report a new shaft was installed and the vessel returned to service August 1, 1859 (UA 22 March, 7 April, 20 June, 16 and 19 July, 1 and 3 August, 1859).
Through the season's end in early December, the Maple Leaf continued on a busy schedule. Newspapers report a wide variety of cargo. On November 2, 1859, she arrived in Rochester with "a miscellaneous cargo picked up at Port Hope, Cobourg, Grafton, and Colborne. She had a quantity of wheat, twenty thousand feet of sash lumber, fifty bundles of singles (sic), two hundred sheep, three horses, some cattle, and other goods too numerous to mention." She returned again on November 30 with "a number of passengers and some freight, including 500 bushels of wheat and a lot of peas for E. N. Buell, and a lot of cattle for owners on board. She will leave again this evening with 400 bbls. of flour, 100 bbls. of apples, 50 bbls. of cider, miscellaneous freight and a fair complement of passengers" (UA).
Over the winter the Maple Leaf was placed in dry dock at Port Dalhousie for a major overhaul. Her engines and boilers were removed, inspected, and repaired. The engine received a new piston, installed by E. Burroughs. Inspectors examined the hull inside and out and found the timber sound. The hull was then caulked. The following winter the vessel received a completely new main deck (Girvin 1993:97; UA 20 March 1860, 19 February` 1862).
The decline in steamboat trade experienced on Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes in general during the 1850's had several causes. Immigration slowed in the 1850's, causing a corresponding decline in passenger traffic served by fleets of steamboats plying across the lakes (Mills 1910:154). Further, the Panic of 1857 caused a severe depression forcing many steamboat businesses to close and lay up vessels (Barry 1973:80; Studenski and Krooss 1963:127). The screw propeller, introduced in 1842, had a more economical engine and larger cargo space than sidewheelers. The first lake propeller, Vandalia, was launched from Oswego on Lake Ontario. Propellers were well suited for trade on the lakes, especially through connecting canals. Sidewheel vessels like the Maple Leaf, built for travel through canals, actually wasted the canal's capacity because of the extending paddle wheels. However, propeller hulls were built to the canal's maximum volume. By 1861 the number of propellers eclipsed the sidewheel steamers in lake trade, although the old style vessel remained popular for passenger service (Morrison 1958:371-372).
Finally, the most important reason for the decline in sidewheel steamboats on the Great Lakes was the railroad. Rail lines paralleled the important east-west lake routes. In 1853 the final rail link, the Lake Shore Line, connecting New York and Chicago was completed between Toledo and Cleveland. In Canada the Great Western Railway across southern Ontario reached the Detroit River in 1854 (Mills 1910:153-154). As previously mentioned, rail service along the north shore of Lake Ontario was provided by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1856 (Glazebrook 1938:170). Railroads offered faster, more frequent and most importantly, year round service (Mills 1910:153-154).
The Civil War Years
In 1860, economic conditions for steamboat trade on the Great Lakes remained bleak. Many ships lay idle because aggregate vessel tonnage exceeded commercial needs. When the American Civil War erupted in the spring of 1861, great economic disparity developed between shipping on the Great Lakes and the east coast. Depressed market conditions continued on the lakes while government charter fees on the east coast reached extraordinary heights. As a result vessels were sold off the lakes for service on the Atlantic (Girvin 1993:103). The reason for the government's demand for merchant vessels is found in the state of the federal navy at the opening of the war.
When Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861, there were forty-two commissioned naval vessels and most were on distant foreign duty stations. Less than a dozen warships were available at the start of the war. Lincoln declared a blockade on Confederate ports on April 19, 1861, but immediate implementation was impossible. The Union navy began to buy and charter merchant vessels for blockade duty. Further, the Union Army needed ships to supply and carry troops in the coming campaigns (McPherson 1988:313-314). Enterprising ship brokers and vessel owners profited from the overnight demand to create a fleet from surplus merchant vessels. Laid-up vessels were chartered and sold wherever available including the Great Lakes. Even the engines of large Lake Erie steamers were removed to supply the demand on the east coast (UA 28 April 1862).
The Maple Leaf's last season on the Great Lakes was marked by slow business and strife caused by the Civil War. Normal service continued across the lake from Rochester to Port Hope and Cobourg. In addition, Captain Schofield tentatively scheduled a new route connecting Oswego to the two Canadian ports. He also continued to offer the popular summer excursions trips (UA 16 April, 3 July 1862).
Throughout 1861, British Canadians took an increasingly anti-northern view. Fear of invasion, Secretary of State Seward's hostility towards Canada, and general border friction between the two countries all contributed to Canadian animosity toward the Union (Winks 1960:68). Southern sympathizers in Canadian lake ports were often vocal in supporting the Confederacy. Their enthusiasm caused a brawl on the Maple Leaf while docked in Cobourg on July 3, 1862 (UA 7 July 1862). The event was symptomatic of the tensions raised by the war.
The cross-lake route also provided a way for men to escape the war and flee the country. On August 8, 1864, President Lincoln issued the Order of Non-Intercourse forbidding any citizen of military age from leaving the country without permission. Military guards were stationed at embarkation points, including Charlotte, to impede deserters and draft dodgers trying to flee the United States. The order effectively banned trade with Canada, interrupting twenty-five years of continuous cross-lake service from Rochester. American steamboats suffered especially hard (UA 13 August 1862; Winks 1960:202).
In response to the general economic climate of the time, the Maple Leaf's owners, Captain Schofield and Josiah Dewey, negotiated the sale of the steamboat to Boston investors. The abrupt announcement of the vessel's sale was made by the Union and Advertiser: "The steamer Maple Leaf has been sold to Messre. [John] Lang and Delano, of Boston and by them chartered to the U. S. Government" (14 August 1862). Delano was actually a ship broker while Charles Spear was the other half owner (Girvin 1993:106). The transaction was made official on September 2, 1862 for $25,000 and recorded by the Boston Custom House on September 5, 1862.
Government demands for shipping were so great that Lang and Spear signed a charter agreement for the Maple Leaf with the U. S. Army the day before they purchased her (Boston Custom House 1962). The army agreed to a one month charter with the option to extend indefinitely for $550 a day. The owners were responsible for keeping the ship maintained, properly manned, equipped, and supplied while the War Department provided fuel and paid port charges. Marine risks were borne by the owners north of Cape Henry, the southern cape of Chesapeake Bay. All war risk and marine risk south of Cape Henry was assumed by the army (Charter Agreement 1862).
Henry Dale, the Maple Leaf's new Captain, joined the vessel in Quebec, during the ship's transit to the east coast (Dale 1869). Dale's two sons, Frank and Henry, Jr., served on board the ship with their father. Dale remained master of the ship until she was lost in the St Johns River (Crew List 1864).
The Maple Leaf entered service at the conclusion of McClellan's futile Peninsula campaign, when Union forces utilized an armada of civilian and military vessels to move the massive force along the east coast. Union strategy called for the Army of the Potomac to proceed up the York Peninsula from Fort Monroe and take Richmond. Although the campaign failed, hundreds of ships and barges carried over 100,000 men, 25,000 animals, 300 cannon, and a vast amount of supplies. By late August 1862, the army was withdrawn to a new theater on the Rappahanock (McPherson:1988 423-424).
The Maple Leaf was chartered for the Department of Virginia and operated under the Chief Quartermaster of the Seventh Army Corps at Fort Monroe. She moved troops and supplies along the east coast from Baltimore to Jacksonville, Florida (List of Steamers 1862; Thomas 1863). Many of her movements directly supported military expeditions. In January 1863, the Maple Leaf loaded fuel, commissary stores and troops in Beaufort, North Carolina for General Robert Foster's expedition in Suffolk, Virginia (UA 20 February 1863). Union forces used Suffolk as a base in southern Virginia against Confederates protecting Petersburg (Hyde 1866:34).
In October 1863, Union forces swept through Mathews County, Virginia arresting individuals involved in illicit Confederate trade, seizing their boats, livestock, and grain supplies. The Maple Leaf was assigned picket duty, along with army and navy gunboats, to prevent anyone from escaping by water during the operation (Wistar 1863).
Another duty involved transporting Confederate prisoners of war. On June 10, 1863, the Maple Leaf left Fort Monroe taking ninety-seven Confederate prisoners to Fort Delaware. Once well offshore, the prisoners overpowered their guards and took control of the ship. Thirty wounded prisoners, or those who otherwise refused to escape, did not leave the ship. The remaining sixty-seven men used lifeboats to land on Cape Henry. The Maple Leaf was left unharmed only after the captain and the officer in charge of the guard agreed to continue the trip to Fort Delaware without raising an alarm. Once the federals regained control, however, the Maple Leaf returned to Fort Monroe and the search for the escapees began. Helped by local sympathizers, the former prisoners traveled across the sounds and swamps of North Carolina and eventually reached Richmond as popular heros (Asbury 1898; Dix 1863; Seddon 1863; Wolf 1921)
Union soldiers transported on the Maple Leaf traveled in relative safety but not under the best conditions. In the summer of 1863, the Maple Leaf moved the 112th New York Regiment from Norfolk, Virginia to Hilton Head, South Carolina for duty on Folly Island, South Carolina. Men of the regiment thought poorly of the captain and crew who bilked their passengers for everyday necessities. Regardless of high charter fees paid owners by the government, army officers paid "New York city prices" for poor food and men were charged five cents to boil coffee (Hyde 1866:47-48). Whether the treatment accorded the men of the 112th is typical of chartered transports is unknown, but it appears the Maple Leaf was not a popular ship among these troops.
Florida During the Civil War
On January 10, 1861, Florida seceded from the Union. Split by internal division, lacking centralized control, and hobbled by limited resources and geography, Florida was isolated from the rest of the Confederacy (Nulty 1990:39). As a result, Florida was not considered militarily important by either the Union or Confederacy and no major military operations were conducted there (Johns 1963:214).
Before the war ended, however, Jacksonville, Florida was invaded and abandoned four times by Union forces. On March 4, 1862, Federal troops occupied Fernandina and four days later began to move on Jacksonville and St. Augustine. A small, seven vessel squadron carrying units of the Fourth New Hampshire Infantry reached the mouth of the St. Johns River on March 8. The squadron split up as several ships headed for St. Augustine and the remainder went to Jacksonville. The approaching squadron caused Jacksonville's population to panic and many fled the city. Confederate irregulars were ordered to burn public and private property which the Union might use. Much of the property was owned by northern transplants or Union sympathizers. Before Federal troops entered the city on March 12, 1862, property losses reached over a half a million dollars (Davis 1913:154-160).
The Union occupation of Jacksonville lasted less than a month. During March, Confederate forces massing ten miles west of town threatened to retake the city (Wright 1862a). Federal lines were over-extended and Brigadier General Horatio Wright, commanding U.S. forces in Jacksonville, was ordered to evacuate the city. Troops were pulled back to Fernandina and St. Augustine on April 7, assuring Federal control of eastern Florida (Benham 1862; Wright 1862b).
After Union forces left Jacksonville, Federal gunboats continued to patrol the river. Confederate General Joseph Finegan secretly constructed gun batteries on St. Johns Bluff below the city to protect river communication and threaten the Federals (Finegan 1862; Jones 1862). On October 1, 1862, a combined force of 1,573 men and six gunboats from Hilton Head, South Carolina, attacked the Confederate fort (Brannon 1862; Godon 1862). The Confederate commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hopkins, hastily evacuated his troops leaving the batteries and magazines partially intact (Hopkins 1862).
When a detachment of Union troops entered Jacksonville again on October 3, 1862, they found the town virtually deserted. Many citizens who were northern sympathizers and did not flee, were forced to move to the interior. The Federals only stayed four days. With control of the river and a small Federal garrison manning the batteries on St. Johns Bluff, Jacksonville could be reoccupied at any time (Davis 1913:171).
The third occupation of Jacksonville began on March 10, 1863. Two black regiments, many former slaves from Jacksonville, held the town. The Federal force "came to collect negro recruits, to plunder, and probably to inaugurate some vague plans of loyal political reconstruction". Troops raided the local country side but found few blacks, little plunder, and Union sentiment seemed limited to the occupied city. As Union forces again abandoned the town on April 2, rowdy and drunken soldiers set fire to many remaining buildings and destroyed a large part of the city (Davis 1913:171-174).
By the end of 1863, the Federal government had several reasons to occupy north Florida between the St. Johns and Suwannee Rivers:
First. To procure an outlet for cotton, lumber, timber, turpentine, and other products of the State. Second. To cut off one of the enemy's sources of commissary supplies. Third. To obtain recruits for...colored regiments. Fourth. To inaugurate measures for the speedy restoration of Florida to her allegiance..." (Gillmore 1864).
Federal strategy called for an expeditionary force to land at Jacksonville and move inland. Troops arrived at the mouth of the St. Johns River on February 7, 1864, on several transports including the Maple Leaf and General Hunter. General Truman Seymour, traveling on board the Maple Leaf, commanded the expedition. By that night Union forces controlled the city and prepared to thrust inland the next day (Meriam 1864).
Opposing the Federal advance was General Joseph Finegan, with headquarters in Lake City, Florida. On February 20, 1864, Union and Confederate forces finally met at Olustee, or Ocean Pond, approximately fifty miles west of Jacksonville in Florida's the largest Civil War battle. After the Federal defeat, Union troops, pressed by the Confederates, fell back to Jacksonville (Finegan 1864). The Rebels erected fortifications on McGirts Creek, ten miles from town, out of the range of Union gunboats on the river (Gardner 1864). The Union defeat confined Federal control to east Florida, centered in Fernandina, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine.
Following the Federal defeat at Olustee, General Seymour requested reinforcements to strengthen Union positions in east Florida. Three of the regiments sent to Jacksonville were the 13th Indiana, 112th New York and 169th New York, stationed at Folly Island, South Carolina (Itinerary of Military Operations 1864). Orders for the troop movement arrived at Folly Island with the mail boat on February 22. The following morning the troops were given short notice to dismantle and pack their camps before boarding transports about noon (Hyde 1866:66-67). 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). The reinforcements arrived in Jacksonville on February 25 and were assigned picket and guard duty while awaiting their baggage (Itinerary of Military Operations 1864).
At the same time two Navy gunboats were sent to Palatka, forty-eight miles south of Jacksonville, on February 22, to destroy any vessels that Rebel forces might use to cross the river (Balch 1864). Union ground forces occupied the town on March 10, and began constructing defensive works (Seymour 1864). Before the end of the month, the Maple Leaf made three trips to Palatka to support Union operations (Dale 1864). She ran aground near the town on March 10 and had to be lightered (Barton 1864:17). With Federal forces entrenched along the St. Johns, a stalemate existed between the opposing sides (Nulty 1990:200-201).
Torpedo Warfare on the St. Johns River
After the capture of the Confederate batteries on St. Johns Bluff and Yellow Bluff in September 1862, Union gunboats patrolled the St. Johns River at will. Confederate forces did not have the means to oppose Union gunboats in a conventional way. Instead, a secret Confederate military program concentrated on submerged torpedoes, or mines. Several kinds were developed including a barrel type used on the St. Johns. This consisted of a barrel filled with seventy pounds of powder, anchored to the bottom and floating just below the water surface. It detonated when a vessel struck a contact fuse mounted on the barrel (Dahlgren 1865).
As a defensive measure against Union forces occupying Palatka, Confederate Major General Patton Anderson ordered the St. Johns be mined with torpedoes. The "infernal machines" were sent from the torpedo service in Charleston, South Carolina under the supervision of Captain E. Pliny Bryan. On the night of March 30, Bryan placed twelve torpedoes, each filled with seventy pounds of gun powder, across the river channel at Mandarin Point. A little more than twenty-four hours later the Maple Leaf became the first torpedo casualty on the St. Johns (Bryan 1864; Perry 1965:114-115, 166-167). This incident ended the last voyage of the Maple Leaf which began four days earlier.
On March 26, the Maple Leaf was anchored at Hilton Head awaiting assignment. Captain Dale received orders from the Army Quarter Master to proceed to Pawnee Landing on Folly Island, to take on the camp and garrison equipage of Ames' and Foster's Brigades (Dale 1864). This was the baggage left behind by the 13th Indiana, 112th New York and 169th New York regiments, when they left for Jacksonville. The cargo also included Foster's Brigade headquarters equipment and the property of two sutlers valued at $20,000 (Hatch 1864a; New York Times [NYT] 13 April 1864).
The Maple Leaf's First Mate Charles Farnham supervised loading the vessel at Pawnee Landing on March 27. The forward hold was packed with:
sutler goods of the ordinary kind-tobacco-cigars-preserves-mackerel and such stores-and tents on top of the sutlers goods and then another layer of sutler goods right under the fore hatch. A few old ammunition boxes were put in aft, but they were light and I think they held only some soldier traps. I asked if there was any ammunition in them and was told that there was not, and I lifted one of them and found it light. Nothing of this kind ever went forward of the [paddle wheel] shaft.
The deck was loaded with 32 horses, four army wagons, four carts and various boxes (Farnham 1864). Much of the stowed material was personal effects, camp and garrison equipment, including company books and papers, tents, and other property. When ordered to Jacksonville in February 1864, many officers of the 112th New York took only what they were wearing and suffered severely from the Maple Leaf's loss (Hyde 1866:60-71).
The Maple Leaf arrived in Jacksonville at 5 p.m. on March 30 (Dale 1864). Shortly afterward, Dale received orders from Captain Charles Walbridge, acting Chief Quartermaster of the District of Florida, to transport a detachment of the Independent Battalion of Massachusetts Cavalry to Palatka that night. The Maple Leaf took on board 87 horses, 75 men and some forage. She departed Jacksonville at nine o'clock, following the General Hunter with orders to return the next night (Walbridge 1864a).
The cavalry reinforcement was a response to a Confederate build-up, consisting of "three regiments and some cavalry", threatening Palatka (Seymour 1864). River Pilot Romeo Murray guided the vessel through the darkness to avoid sniper fire and arrived in Palatka at 4 a.m. (Murray 1864). The cavalry was unloaded and preparations made to return to Jacksonville that evening. The vessel left the dock at 11:15 p.m. on March 31 (Dale 1864).
Pilot Murray described conditions on the river that night: "The moon rose about 3 and one half o'clock and it was a right clear night. The river was still and perfectly smooth and I could see the shore well and make the channel easy." The Maple Leaf rounded Mandarin Point at 4 a.m. and struck one of the torpedoes set by Captain Pliny Bryan the previous night. A tremendous explosion shook the steamboat. The torpedo detonated approximately thirty feet from the bow, near the keel on the starboard side. It caused immediate and catastrophic damage. The pilot house collapsed with Murray and ship quartermaster Samuel Jones inside; the foremast was blown out of its step and settled forward (Murray 1864; Jones 1864). The starboard hogging truss broke and the side of the ship "stove in" (Farnham 1864).
The vessel sheered to starboard and settled on the bottom slightly athwart stream in twenty-four feet of water (Murray 1864). Two firemen and two deck hands, asleep in the forecastle, were killed. The saloon deck was partially submerged under three feet of water allowing the passengers and crew to easily escape in the lifeboats. They rowed downstream to Jacksonville, arriving about 8 a.m. (Dale 1864).
Later the same day, Dale and some of his officers went back to inspect the wreck on the Federal gunboat U.S.S. Norwich. They were able to save the mail and personal property of the captain and ship's officers (Log of the U.S.S. Norwich 1864). After surveying the situation Dale declared the vessel and cargo a total loss (Dale 1864). A Board of Survey convened on April 2 and 3 to establish the cause of the sinking found the mishap unavoidable (Hatch 1864b).
The Maple Leaf's loss to a Confederate torpedo caused a public outcry against the Federal occupation of Palatka. There was no military advantage in holding the position and Confederate torpedoes were continually found in the river (NYT 13 April 1864). Palatka's garrison evacuated the town on April 12, 1864 and moved to Picolata on the east side of the river. Ostensibly, the town would be supplied overland from St. Augustine but supplies continued to be delivered by transport ships. On April 16, a second torpedo in Bryan's barrier across Mandarin Point sent another army transport, General Hunter, to the bottom very close to the wrecked Maple Leaf. By the end of June 1864, two more vessels, the Harriet A. Weed and the Alice Price, struck torpedoes placed in the river (Scharf 1887:763-764). Although the river war hampered Federal operations in northeast Florida and the defeat at Olustee blunted the Florida expedition, the Union maintained a presence in Jacksonville for the rest of the war.
Events Subsequent to Sinking
On the morning of April 2, a small contingent of Confederate cavalry arrived off McIntosh Point, opposite the wrecked steamer. A few cannon shots were fired at the exposed superstructure before Captain E. Pliny Bryan went aboard to survey damage. Before leaving the ship, he set fire to the upper works (Bryan 1864). It was still smoking when the patrolling U.S.S. Norwich passed by the site at 11 a.m. (Log of the U.S.S. Norwich 1864).
Apparently, damage to the Maple Leaf was so extensive that refloating the ship was never seriously considered. The lost cargo of sutler stores and soldier's personal effects did not impact the Federal war machine so no plans were made to salvage these materials. However, a steamer was sent to the wreck on April 9 to recover ship equipment and anchors (Hatch 1864c). Although there is no record of salvage by local civilians, the wrecked steamer certainly attracted attention. To the destitute local population the ship represented a gold mine of food and supplies.
For years the sunken Maple Leaf threatened river navigation on dark nights and during fog. The gallows frame and walking beam still rose above the water and marked the site in 1870 (Driggs 1870). That fall, the Treasury Department advertised for its removal as well as several other wrecks (Florida Times-Union 20 September 1870). However, no bid was made to remove the Maple Leaf (Lowry 1872).
On November 25, 1873 George E. Chase and two partners contracted with the Federal Government to purchase and remove the Maple Leaf and Columbine from the river. Chase posted a $2000 bond under the contract stipulation that the wrecks would be removed within five years (Chase 1873). There are no records relating whether or not Chase actually removed the wrecks but it is certain that he did not meet his obligations and probably lost the $2000 bond.
Although Chase's contract presumably remained in effect until 1878, the Federal Government sold the wreck a second time in 1877. O. E. Malthy, of Norfolk, Virginia, bought the Maple Leaf on January 23, 1877 for twenty-five dollars (Morrill 1877). Like Chase, Malthy's activities on the site are not documented and he did not completely remove the obstruction. This resulted in forfeiture of the contract and loss of Malthy's title to the vessel.
The Maple Leaf continued to menace river traffic although its location was "marked by a cluster of piles placed near its bow, and a red day beacon a short distance to the west, and slightly astern". The wreck first appears as a hazard on river navigation charts in 1876 and again in 1884 (Figures 6 and 7). The U. S. Army's Engineer Office in New York advertised for the vessel's removal again on September 1, 1882 (Gillmore 1882). The contract was awarded to Roderick G. Ross of Fernandina, Florida. Under terms of the agreement, Ross collected $3,800 to remove the vessel as a navigation hazard but did not receive title of ownership (Articles of Agreement 1882).
Ross commenced work on February 8, 1883. An examination by divers:
found that nearly the whole wreck was below the required depth [of eighteen feet] and the contractor only had to remove the wheels, hog and gallows frame, and shaft. The work was promptly and satisfactorily performed except some delay caused by trouble on obtaining explosives. The shaft was broken and unshipped when it sunk to a depth of 30 feet below water. The rest of the wreck was removed and either burned or placed on shore above high water. In placing these pieces on shore permission to do so was first obtained from the riparian owners.
Soundings at the site indicated a minimum depth of nineteen feet and no projections above the bottom (Russell 1883).
When work was completed, the beacons and piles marking the site were removed. However, a river transport struck something at the location in March 1885. As a result the Lighthouse Board placed a second class danger buoy on the wreck (Lamberton 1885). A site inspection made in March 1888 confirmed the obstruction and Ross received a second contract for its removal.
Complaints of debris threatening river traffic continued. Army engineers inspected the site again in January and February 1890 and found several obstructions. Divers removed an iron rod, a hogging truss timber, and a piling used to mark the site before 1883 (Black 1890). Navigation charts eventually stopped showing the area as a fig 6 fig 7 hazard in 1911 (Figure 8).
The legal ramifications of the Maple Leaf's loss took years to settle. The vessel's last army charter, signed June 22, 1863, took effect retroactively April 22, 1863. The charter rate was reduced to $250 a day with the war risk assumed by the government. Under the circumstances of the loss, the Army Quartermaster General's Office awarded the owners, Charles Spear and J. H. B. Lang, $19,887.93 on June 9, 1864. This figure was derived by deducting the net profit received by the owners from the appraised value of the vessel and operating costs (Clary 1864).
Lang relinquished his claims to the vessel in 1866. In December 1868, Spear brought two lawsuits against the government in the U. S. Court of Claims. In one case Spear charged that the first charter, effective from September 3, 1862 to August 19, 1863, was unfairly terminated early on April 22, 1863. The Army Quartermaster reduced the charter from $550 to $250 per day for the second charter agreement effective April 22, 1863. Spear sued for $32,650, the difference in expected profit for the four months lost in the first charter (Spear and Lang v. United States 1868a).
The second case claimed the army did not pay the owners the Maple Leaf's appraised value of $50,000 assumed under the war risk clause of the charter agreement. Spear sued for $31,000 in addition to the $19,000 paid in 1864 (Spear and Lang v. United States 1868b). The Court of Claims dismissed both cases. Spear then appealed, unsuccessfully, to the Supreme Court (Spear and Lang v. United States 1868a,b).
Spear's family apparently harbored some animosity toward the government based on the court ruling. After Charles Spear died in 1890, his son, Frank Palmer Spear, made fig 8 a final attempt to win compensation for the Maple Leaf's loss (Dudley 1895). Massachusetts Congressman William Lovering introduced House Bill H. R. 2362 to Congress on March 27, 1897. The Bill for the Relief of Charles Speare (sic) was referred to the War Claims Committee. Apparently no action was taken and the bill died in committee (United States Congress, House 1897, HR2362).
After Ross completed demolition work on the wreck in 1888 and limited work in 1890, the Maple Leaf remained undisturbed. It no longer posed a threat to navigation and the moldering soldier traps were not valued by anyone. Eventually the site location was forgotten as the wreck slowly settled into the muddy river bottom.