THE PROJECT: In some ways, this project is fairly simple. It will be a short documentary tentatively titled Revealing the real Rhett Butler. It will be about a little known Charleston banker and shipping magnate named George Alfred Trenholm, who's Civil War blockade running efforts made today's equivalent of over three billion dollars in gold. He was brilliant, tall and handsome, and even President Davis praised his bravery.
DON'T WORRY: The documentary will be shot with experienced cameramen, good quality digital movie cameras, proper lighting and scripts. The attached video plea was shot spur of the moment, with no script, and with an older model, inexpensive digital still camera only meant to take snippets. Your cel phone could probably do a better job. I am just excited and wanted to get this underway.
THERE's TREASURE: Among other things, this documentary will reveal where I believe the legendary "missing gold of the Confederacy" was hidden by Trenholm. Perhaps you might remember — in GWTW, Rhett was accused of stealing it. Trenholm, who was similarly accused and imprisoned, was not only head of the South's most successful blockade running company, he was Treasurer of the Confederacy and in charge of that gold when Richmond fell.
Could the missing Confederate gold have been hidden here?
BACKGROUND: As a teenager in the 1960s, I had found one of Trenholm's wrecked blockade runners, the Georgiana. I salvaged much of its wartime cargo of munitions, medicines and merchandise. While researching the steamer's cargo, I quickly realized that Trenholm was the historical basis for Rhett Butler. That excited me, but what I did not know for another quarter of a century was that I had stumbled on a closely guarded secret that Margaret Mitchell had taken to her grave.
When I finally realized that it was important literary discovery, and in some ways more important than the shipwreck and its multi-million dollar cargo, I spent two solid years doing nothing but researching George Trenholm, Margaret Mitchell and virtually every aspect of her Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
Quite simply, by the time I announced my discovery to the world, I had proved the Trenholm/Butler connection beyond any reasonable doubt. That was in 1989. My announcement sparked news stories all around the world. Although I was approached by numerous Hollywood production companies wanting to do a documentary, they all more or less wanted my research and participation for free. They thought I should be happy with the "free" publicity. But that didn't seem fair to me, so we never reached a workable deal, and nothing was ever done. And, since that was before the World Wide Web, the story eventually petered out.
I hope this documentary will correct that.
These are just some of my many treasures. They are displayed on and next to some posters that were used in a museum display of my work. Note the pile of white glass buttons from the Georgiana, just to the left of the photo of me in my hat.
Here I am out on the ocean after just finding another shipwreck.
Here is a sonar image that I made of the Georgiana wreck site using a Humminbird 1198-C. There is a second wreck, the blockade runner Mary Bowers, sitting across the Georgiana.
At one point, Trenholm offered a reward to anyone who sank one of the Federal Blockaders. This old print shows the Housatonic being sunk by the submarine Hunley. The reward would have made the men rich for life. Unfortunately, the Hunley's crew was also lost. The Hunley's location remained unknown until I discovered it over a century later.
BETTING ON PUBLIC INTEREST: Although low budget, I now have friends who have the necessary equipment and skills and can do much of the work for a share down the road. So I know at least the basic story can be preserved through my documentary. And, if enough money is pledged (meaning far more than the minimum level), I can expand the scope, do some historically accurate reenactment, and tell Trenholm's story in the way it truly deserves. If I do that, the enhanced documentary could even win some awards and run for years on cable. I believe that's exactly what will happen. I am betting on it because I am offering some great rewards and I know that besides those who loved the romance of Rhett and Scarlett in GWTW, there is now immense interest in the missing Confederate gold, shipwrecks, sunken treasure, blockade running and the Civil War in general.
After the War, Rhett was a banker, as was Trenholm. Here is Trenholm's bank.
BACK TO THE DOCUMENTARY (and how I will do it): Trenholm was involved in over 100 pieces of real estate and almost as many ships. Under my basic plan, I plan to use some of his more interesting mansions and plantations (and even some of his shipwrecks), as a backdrop, as I reveal more about the man who I have identified as the "real Rhett Butler." If the funding well exceeds the minimum needed, I plan to turn it into an hour long documentary, with recreations of scenes like the meeting between Rhett and Scarlett in jail — only in real life it was Trenholm in jail and, despite being under threat of execution, who comforted the beautiful young widow (with the "fast" reputation) as tears rolled down her face.
This is the Old Charleston jail where Trenholm was temporarily imprisoned.
These ships, known as the "Stone Fleet", were old whaling ships that had been loaded with stone and purposefully sunk in the approaches to Charleston Harbor by the Federal Fleet as part of their efforts to stop the blockade runners.
IMPORTANT: After reading this, please check out all the pledge options. Not only can you be listed as an Associate Producer, you can get some authentic Civil War shipwreck buttons to wear on your shirts. Just imagine, you can actually wear an exciting part of history! I salvaged the buttons from the Georgiana. Have fun with them. You can truthfully tell your friends that they were once owned by the "real Rhett Butler."
These are some of my Rhett Butler artifacts.
ABOUT ME: For those who don't know me, I found my first shipwrecks at age 12 and went on to become one of the pioneers of underwater archaeology. I am president of the Sea Research Society and VP of the International Diving Institute. I find shipwrecks and sunken treasure for a living. My discoveries have ranged from the Spanish pirate ship Diamonde to the Civil War submarine Hunley. I have worked on all types of wrecks, ranging from Spanish galleons to Great Lakes freighters. To learn more about my work, look me up in Wikipedia or just Google "E. Lee Spence."
NOTE: My original Facebook page is already maxed out at 5000 friends, but you might want to look at my pictures of treasure, etc. and if you pledge via any option, I will be glad to confirm friend you on my new Facebook page.
TWEET THIS: I am a newbie on Twitter, so I desperately need your help to get the word out. Please follow me on Twitter. I am HunleyFinder. If this project isn't fully funded you won't be charged but you also won't get your reward. So, don't just lay around like the guy pictured above, hit the Tweet button for this project and encourage others to pledge. Please do so now.
Here is a picture of the reward you will get with just a pledge of just $30. These certificates normally retail for $100 to $125, plus shipping.