President Trump famously said the presidency was hard. Guess history is too. The President raised more than a few eyebrows over the weekend when he wondered, out loud, why the Civil War started.
Turns out the President’s Civil War confusion dates back further than just a few days ago. A couple of years ago, Trump installed a monument to a Civil War battle that historians say never happened.
The monument, first reported by The New York Times in 2015, is at the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Virginia. It’s a stone pedestal with a flagpole between the 14th and 15th hole. On the pedestal is a plaque that says “The River of Blood.”
“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,’ ” reads the inscription.
Problem is, a Civil War battle didn’t take place there.
“Yeah, there was a battle fought near there, but it wasn’t there,” local historian Rob Orrison told CNN. He grew up in the area, is a site manager for a historic courthouse in Virginia and is the vice president of the Virginia Association of Museums.
Orrison said the Battle of Ball’s Bluff was fought in the area in October 1861, but it was about 12 miles north of where the golf course now sits. Some bodies from the Battle of Ball’s Bluff did float down the Potomac River, he said, but it didn’t turn red, as the plaque says.
The spot where the plaque is located on the Potomac was the site of a river crossing during the Civil War, Orrison said. Troops on both sides marched through this area during the entire war, and there were even a few skirmishes where bullets were fired.
“But there wasn’t a lot of fighting that went on in that spot,” he said. “We historians don’t quantify that as a battle.”
Orrison explained that the National Park Service has a system set up to rank different battlefields and the few skirmishes that happened near where the marker sits “doesn’t fall within their criteria” to be called a Civil War battle.
He visited the golf course a few years ago with some other historians and came across it. He remembered that it seemed to be “embellished” a little bit.