Historians dispute a civil war monument on Trump National Golf Club. Facebook Screenshot from BucketBoy Graphics
Historians dispute a civil war monument on Trump National Golf Club. Facebook Screenshot from BucketBoy Graphics

Nation & World

On a Trump golf course, there's a monument for a civil war battle that never happened

By Donovan Harrell

dharrell@mcclatchydc.com

August 17, 2017 2:45 PM

President Donald Trump reportedly installed a Civil War memorial on one of his golf courses that he bought in 2009 without properly fact checking it, historians say.

A 2015 New York Times story about the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia, resurfaced this week following Trump’s widely condemned comments on violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia last Saturday.

Trump repeatedly blamed “both sides” for violence that broke out in the area where white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members gathered in protest of the removal of a confederate monument.

Trump says 'both sides' are to blame for Charlottesville violence

During a press conference about infrastructure held at Trump Tower on Aug. 15, President Donald Trump said that “both sides,” including the “alt-left” were to blame for the violent rally in Charlottesville, VA.

The White House

Counter protesters also attended, including Heather Heyer, who was killed when a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right?” Trump said. “Do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump added

Trump then denounced the removal of confederate monuments.

“This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down,” Trump said. “I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You.....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017

...can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also...

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017

...the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017

According to The New York Times, the memorial on Trump’s golf course sat between the 14th hole and the 15th tee.

A stone pedestal with a flag pole attached to the top of it holds a plaque reading “The River of Blood” in gold letters underneath Trump’s family crest. All of this is within clear view of the Potomac.

“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,” the inscription reads. “The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood,’” the plaque read according to The New York Times.

The plaque then concluded “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!” followed by Trump’s full name.

A representative for the Trump National Golf Club simply said “no comment” when asked if the plaque was still on the course today. A photo from Facebook user BucketBoy Graphics posted April 27 showed the plaque was there at the time.

Historians told The New York Times that no such battle took place there.

“No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,” said Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, a historical preservation and education group that focuses on a 1,800-square-mile section of the Northern Virginia Piedmont, according to The New York Times.

Gillespie told the Times that there was only one battle “remotely close” to the site 11 miles up the Potomac at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in 1861, where hundreds were killed.

“The River of Blood?” Gillespie said. “Nope, not there.”

Another historian, Alana Blumenthal, the curator of the Loundoun Museum in Leesburg, Virginia, backed Gillespie’s account, the Times reported. There was also an anonymous third local expert who told The New York Times that he tried to contact Trump in an effort to provide historically-backed text.

Trump told The New York Times that he was “a big history fan” and challenged the historians.

“That was a prime site for river crossings,” Trump told The New York Times. “So, if people are crossing the river, and you happen to be in a civil war, I would say that people were shot — a lot of them.”

The historians said there weren’t any deaths at that crossing, nor was there a noteworthy battle, but Trump didn’t back down.

“How would they know that?” Trump told The New York Times when told historians disputed the plaque. “Were they there?”

Trump said he did fact check the validity of the plaque with “numerous historians” but didn’t remember their names.

“Write your story the way you want to write it,” Trump told the Times after the reporter continued to challenge his claims. “You don’t have to talk to anybody. It doesn’t make any difference. But many people were shot. It makes sense.”

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