The River of Blood just off the 15th tee

Let’s go back a couple of years, to November 2015.

STERLING, Va. — When Donald J. Trump bought a fixer-upper golf club on Lowes Island here for $13 million in 2009, he poured millions more into reconfiguring its two courses. He angered conservationists by chopping down more than 400 trees to open up views of the Potomac River. And he shocked no one by renaming the club after himself.

But that wasn’t enough. Mr. Trump also upgraded its place in history.

Between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the club’s two courses, Mr. Trump installed a flagpole on a stone pedestal overlooking the Potomac, to which he affixed a plaque purportedly designating “The River of Blood.”

Snopes has a close-up.

The Times continues:

“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 inscription, beneath his family crest and above Mr. Trump’s full name, concludes: “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!”

You can tell what’s coming. It’s not true. The Times asked local historians and they said no, it’s not true.

In a phone interview, Mr. Trump called himself a “a big history fan” but deflected, played down and then simply disputed the local historians’ assertions of historical fact.

“That was a prime site for river crossings,” Mr. Trump said. “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.”

But the plaque doesn’t say “This was a popular river crossing, so it stands to reason that a lot of soldiers were shot crossing it during the Civil War.” That would look ridiculous on a plaque, so instead Trump just made shit up.

Also, notice “Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South” – i.e. there were good people on both sides. He’s consistent on that point, at least.

The historians said it is true that Confederate soldiers crossed the river at a nearby ford (which has its own, accurate marker), but no soldiers were killed crossing the river.

“How would they know that?” Mr. Trump asked when told that local historians had called his plaque a fiction. “Were they there?”

Aha, he can do skepticism when it’s someone else’s claim…just not when it’s his.

Mr. Trump repeatedly said that “numerous historians” had told him that the golf club site was known as the River of Blood. But he said he did not remember their names.

Also that they’d eaten his homework.

Then he said the historians had spoken not to him but to “my people.” But he refused to identify any underlings who might still possess the historians’ names.

“Write your story the way you want to write it,” Mr. Trump said finally, when pressed unsuccessfully for anything that could corroborate his claim. “You don’t have to talk to anybody. It doesn’t make any difference. But many people were shot. It makes sense.”

No, not really. Armies can’t be everywhere. If the Union troops were massing at Gettysburg, then they weren’t also staking out the Potomac. It “makes sense” to think the Union army could have picked off Confederate troops on their way to Gettysburg if conditions had made that possible and useful, but that’s not at all the same thing as asserting that they did.

Which is obvious, of course, but it’s interesting how childishly crude his thinking is.

In its small way, the plaque bears out Mr. Trump’s reputation for being preoccupied with grandeur, superlatives and his own name, but less so with verifiable facts, even when his audience is relatively small.

Members of what he renamed the Trump National Golf Club, and some former employees, said the plaque generally drew laughter or eye-rolls, much as when Mr. Trump periodically descends from his helicopter to walk one course or the other.

Pause to sigh for the good old days – two years ago, when we could laugh and roll our eyes at him.

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