Long before the current President praised President Andrew Jackson and said he could have stopped the Civil War from happening – bringing forth a barrage of outrage, mockery, and complaints about his fake version of history – Trump was also accused of being a civil war history-denier due to renovations he made at his golf club in Virginia.
Trump erected a plaque that designated a spot on one of his golf courses as a historic site where thousands of soldiers died. The only problem was that a number of historians told The New York Times what he claimed never happened at that location, or even nearby.
“How would they know that?” Trump responded in 2015 when asked about the fake designation. “Were they there?”
What then just seemed like the eccentric behavior of a flamboyant egomaniac can be seen in the light of recent history, as a warning sign of more lies to come from someone who doesn’t check facts or care about accuracy, but instead, plays to his own pompous grandiosity.
Since Trump then and now declared he is a “history buff,” it is worth recalling what happened on Lowe’s island because Trump was there, and these days returns to play golf, and one assumes, to admire a plaque playing out his version of history.
In 2009, the Trump Organization acquired a run-down golf club on Lowes Island near Sterling, Virginia, about 29 miles from Washington, D.C. for $13 million. Trump then spent million more renovating the club, which unsurprisingly he renamed the Trump National Golf Course.
One of Trump’s renovations which drew considerable local protests was to cut down more than 400 trees to improve the view from the course of the Potomac River.
Then, between the 14th and 15th holes on one of two courses at the club, Trump had a stone pedestal erected that looked out over a newly unobstructed view of the Potomac.
He put a plaque on the pedestal beneath the Trump family crest and above his name, it declared it was a historic site known as, “The River Of Blood,” and read:
“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.'”
Above Trump’s name, the inscription read: “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River.”
When asked about the veracity of his historical designation, Trump said that he had been told that by “numerous historians,” although he was unable to name any of them.
Several historians contacted by the New York Times told a different story. One of those was Richard Gillespie, executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, which helps preserve and provide education about the history of a 1,800-mile section of Northern Virginia:
“No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there. The only thing that was remotely close to that was 11 miles up the river at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in 1861, where several hundred Union soldiers were killed.”
“The River of Blood,” Gillespie said, “Nope, not here.”
Alana Blumenthal, curator of the Loudoun Museum in Leesburg, Virginia seconded what Gillespie, as did a third historian contacted by the newspaper who spoke anonymously.
Even when told what the historians had said, Trump refused to admit he might have been mistaken, offering up a version of his own tortured logic that has unfortunately become all too familiar since January.
“That was a prime site for river crossings,” Trump told the NY Times in 2015. “So, if people are crossing a river, and you happen to be in a civil war, I would say that people were shot – a lot of them.”
Trump quickly became frustrated when the reporter pressed the issue of historical accuracy: “Write your story the way you want to write it. You don’t have to talk to anybody. it doesn’t make any difference. But many people were shot. It makes sense.”
Actually, it doesn’t make sense, because unlike current events, the path of history can be reconstructed, examined and certainly, in this case, used to determine reality.
If this was an isolated case, it would be easy to shrug off, but it is a pattern that continues. Last month, Koreans were outraged when Trump took the word of the President of China that Korea used to be part of China. It never was.
Now he has a version of the Civil War that failed to recall slavery was a factor, or that Andrew Jackson was long dead by the time the first shots were fired at Ft. Sumter.
In Trump’s telling, history is one big fractured fairy tale that can be twisted to suit his purposes, sell his ideas or even promote a golf course. His tall tales make it impossible, however, to trust that what he tells the American people isn’t just another con job.