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John Potter, Associated Press
This undated photo provided by John Potter of Lenoir, N.C., shows a framed image that historians have long thought might be the only existing photograph of the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia, which sank 150 years ago near Savannah, Georgia. Potter initially said he discovered and photographed the original image at a yard sale in the 1980s when he couldn’t afford to buy it. Now he says the created the image as a hoax three decades ago as a teenager, using a model and his brother posing as a soldier.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A photograph that for three decades posed a Civil War mystery appears to be a long-surviving hoax.

The photograph of what appeared to be a far older photo — showing a figure in a coat and hat and the blurred image of a warship — surfaced in 1986. Some historians believed it might be a photo of the CSS Georgia, a Confederate ironclad that sank 150 years ago in Georgia as Union troops captured Savannah.

The man who photographed the picture, John Potter, initially said he found it at a yard sale but couldn't afford to buy it. Now Potter tells The Associated Press the photo is a fake he made as a teenager using a 2-foot model of the ship and his brother in costume standing in a marsh.