Mysterious Civil War Photo Was Really Teenage Hoax

April 13, 2015 - photo frame

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — For 3 decades, a stained and becloud sketch presented a good poser to Civil War historians.

It was a pattern taken of another print in a peeling, gilded frame. In a forehead stood a man, his behind to a camera, wearing an overcoat and a hat. In a center, manifest amid stains and apparent H2O damage, was a ship.

Did this pattern uncover a usually famous sketch of a ironclad Confederate warship a CSS Georgia?

The 1,200-ton boat armored with strips of tyrannise iron never discharged a shot in fight after it was built to urge a Georgia seashore in a Civil War. Confederate sailors sunk their boat in Dec 1864 as Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union infantry prisoner Savannah.

No blueprints survived and duration illustrations sundry in their details. The print would endorse sum of a Georgia’s design, if usually it could be authenticated. Records uncover John Potter donated a duplicate of a pattern of a print to a Georgia Historical Society in Mar 1986.

As a Army Corps of Engineers embarked this year on a $14 million plan to lift a Georgia’s disadvantage from a river, archaeologists publicized a design online and in news stories — including an Associated Press story — anticipating to lane down a strange photo.

Robert Holcombe, former curator of a National Civil War Naval Museum, told a AP in Feb that while a strange sketch would be indispensable to endorse if a design was authentic, he believed it was real.

“Most people seem to consider so,” he said. “Or else it’s an extremely good fake.”

Now a male who took that print of a print all those years ago says he wants to transparent a record: It is a fake.


Here was a story John Potter told 30 years ago:

The Savannah local was during a yard sale when he found a sketch in an antique frame. Inscribed on a behind of a support was “CSS Georgia.” He couldn’t means it, so he took a print and mailed it to chronological groups in Savannah.

Here is his new story, that he told exclusively to The Associated Press:

When he was a teen in Savannah, Potter, his hermit Jeffrey and a crony shot a brief 8mm film about a CSS Georgia. They built a 2-foot model.

At some point, Potter motionless to exam either he had a skills to turn a Hollywood special effects artist.

Potter’s younger hermit put on a cloak and straw shawl and went out to a mire with a shaft fishing stick and Potter took a photo. He took another print of a model. He glued a boat’s design onto a print of his brother, afterwards used mud and glue to “age” a photo.

Potter sent a print to chronological groups, environment off a occasionally hunt for a CSS Georgia print that he now says never existed.


The gilded support that once hold a doubtful print now binds a mural of Potter’s defunct pug, Puggy Van Dug.

Potter, 50, lives alone in a cluttered, one-story residence in a North Carolina mountains. He never became a successful special effects artist.

He once owned a Savannah antiques store and supposing props for cinema filming in a area. He had a army as a upkeep male for a beacon and museum on circuitously Tybee Island. He spent nights celebration Pabst Blue Ribbon during Huc-a-Poos, where a ridicule military mop shot of him hangs with a words: “Tybee Record — 77 PBRs in one night.”

“Potter’s a crazy guy,” pronounced Eric Thomas, Huc-a-Poos’ owner. “He’s also a friendly guy.”

After their father died in 2011, Potter and his hermit Jeffrey changed to North Carolina.

Last month, Jeffrey, a usually chairman who common a secret, killed himself during age 48.

Potter pronounced he’d lost about a print and had no thought a bitch it had caused until he saw it recently on a Army Corps website.

First, he motionless to play along. But after his brother’s death, he contacted AP to come clean.

“I’m not in good health. we didn’t wish to dump passed and lift that to my grave,” he said.

Potter pronounced he never profited from his hoax.

“I didn’t intend to harm or confuse anybody, since we unequivocally adore history,” he said. “But there’s still a doctrine there: Do your dang homework.”


But is Potter now revelation a truth?

He gave a AP his aged 8 mm film along with aged photos. One showed a immature male he pronounced was his hermit in a mire wearing a cloak and straw shawl and carrying a fishing stick — most like a figure in a ironclad photograph. Another showed a child holding a indication of a ship.

Potter pronounced a strange got broken prolonged ago when he attempted to mislay it from a frame.

After his brother’s death, Potter told Thomas about a hoax. Yet a bar owners suspected a ironclad print might be genuine and Potter has it.

“I said, ‘What are we going to do with it?’ And he said, ‘Do with what?'” Thomas recalled. “And we said, ‘The picture.’ And he said, ‘I’m going to sell it.'”

Potter seemed to advise to AP that maybe he was pulling an elaborate double hoax.

Then he discharged that as “too wacky.”

“That’s crazy talk,” Potter said.


Weiss reported from Lenoir, North Carolina. Associated Press publisher Alex Sanz contributed to this report.

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