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Trump once built a Civil War monument at one of his golf courses, but …

Trump golfing in 2005.
Image: Fiala/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Donald Trump gave an interview over the weekend in which he pretty much asked why the Civil War was fought. (The answer, of course, is mainly slavery.)

Trump was widely criticized and mocked for the gaffe, which seemed to bely (yet again) a shocking level of ignorance about American history for someone serving as president of the United States of America.

But it turns out Trump has some history with revisionist Civil War history.

Back in 2009, Trump bought a golf course in Virginia. He renovated it and rebranded it as one of his “Trump golf” clubs. Between the 14th and 15th holes, according to a New York Times report from November 2015, Trump had a flag pole, stone surface and plaque built to commemorate something called “The River of Blood.”

Ooooh! “The River of Blood”!? Sounds intriguing. What’s the deal?

“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,” the plaque read, per the Times. “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 section of the Potomac River!” reportedly read a second inscription above Trump’s name.

The takeaway, if you take all that at face value: Trump “preserved” a historic section of the Potomac River, one that was a famous and brutal Civil War site that became known by a dramatic nickname, “The River of Blood.”

Except here’s the problem: The Times called at least one local history expert who who had no idea what Trump was talking about.

“No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,” said Richard Gillespie, executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, which educates about and preserves the history of the region that includes Trump’s golf course.

The Times then called Trump back for more explanation. He did not exactly provide receipts. He said he got the information on the plaque from “my people.” Here are a couple quotes from Trump, who is now president of the United States, defending his course’s “River of Blood” plaque.

  • On the site itself: “That was a prime site for river crossings. 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.”

  • On local historians debunking his plaque: “How would they know? Were they there?”

  • On the Times asking questions: “Write your story the way you want to write it. You dont have to talk to anybody. It doesnt make any difference. But many people were shot. It makes sense.”

The mental contortions required to parse these arguments will make you weep.

Some people were maybe shot at a river crossing, so now we just name it “The River of Blood” 150 years later? Historians, whose profession is studying history, have no credence if they weren’t alive centuries ago to witness that history? Simply saying “it makes sense” is a valid rebuttal for what appears to be a fabricated historical site?

*Rubs temples*

That sort of disjointed thinking and obtuse insistence was weird enough when Trump was seen as little more than a reality TV star and sideshow in the Republican primary.

But now that he’s president and now that his latest Civil War gaffe prompted this trip down memory lane it’s something else entirely. Something much stranger, and something much more sinister.

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