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River of Blood: The Memorial to a Civil War Battle That Never Took Place

In the greens overlooking the Potomac river, between the 14th hole and the 15th tee at the Trump National Golf Club in Lowes Island, Northern Virginia, stands a stone pedestal with a flagpole and a plaque commemorating a forgotten piece of American Civil War history—the battle that turned the Potomac red with blood. The inscription reads:

Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot, “The Rapids”, on the Potomac River. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as “The River of Blood.

It is my great honor to have preserved this important portion of the Potomac River!  – Donald John Trump.

A touching tribute, except the battle the plaque attributes to never took place.

trump-river-of-blood

“No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,” said Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, to the New York Times in a story that ran in 2015 during Trump’s presidential campaign.

The only Civil War battle in that area, that could have colored the Potomac red, was the Battle of Ball’s Bluff where more than two hundred Union soldiers were killed and another two hundred injured. Many were drowned and their bodies floated downriver to Washington and even as far as Mt. Vernon in the days following the battle. But that battle took place 11 miles up the river, and that site is already a National Historic Landmark. The only other blood shed on Lowes Island, according to local historian Craig Swain, was from two Union Soldiers who were killed by citizens, in 1861.

But Mr. Trump, who has a history of fabricating stories, maintains that his golf course—which he acquired for $13 million in 2009—was the site of an important river crossing during the battles. “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,” he said.

The information was reportedly gathered by Trump’s people from some other people, who Trump said are historians, but whose name he doesn’t remember.

There was an actual river crossing, a short distance away from Trump’s golf club, in Rowser’s Ford, where an official historical marker notes that during the Battle of Gettysburg, some 5,000 Confederate cavalrymen crossed the river into Maryland. But as opposed to Trump’s “river of blood”, no one died in that crossing.

When confronted with these facts, Trump tried to dismiss the historians saying, "How would they know that? Were they there?”

“Write your story the way you want to write it,” Mr. Trump had finally said to NYT, when they pressed too hard for evidence. “You don’t have to talk to anybody. It doesn’t make any difference. But many people were shot. It makes sense,” he said.

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