Fact Check

Did a Trump Golf Course Commemorate a Civil War Battle That Never Happened?

A historically inaccurate plaque on a Trump-owned golf course commemorates a Civil War battle along the banks of the Potomac that never took place.

Published May 3, 2017

 (AP Photo)
Image Via AP Photo
A plaque displayed on a golf course owned by President Trump commemorates a Civil War battle that never happened.

In a May 2017 interview, President Trump hypothesized that President Andrew Jackson (1829-37) could have prevented the Civil War if he had been President at the time the war broke out (1861), and Trump went on to wonder aloud why the issues leading up to the war could not have been "worked out." Those comments led to renewed interest in a 2015 news item about an historically inaccurate Civil War monument put up on a Trump-owned golf course:

On 2 May 2017,  Golf Digest republished a 2015 article on this subject drawn largely from a New York Times article reporting that after Trump bought the Lowes Island golf course in Virginia in 2009, he installed a plaque commemorating a Civil War "River of Blood" slaughter on the banks of the Potomac River, a battle that historians said never took place:

Mr. Trump also upgraded [the golf course's] 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.”

“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!”

Like many of Mr. Trump’s claims, the inscription was evidently not fact-checked.

“No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,” said Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, a historical preservation and education group devoted to an 1,800-square-mile section of the Northern Virginia Piedmont, including the Lowes Island site.

“The only thing that was remotely close to that,” Mr. Gillespie said, was 11 miles up the river at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in 1861, a rout of Union forces in which several hundred were killed. “The River of Blood?” he added. “Nope, not there.”

Mr. Gillespie’s contradiction of the plaque’s account was seconded by Alana Blumenthal, the curator of the Loudoun Museum in nearby Leesburg. (A third local expert, who said he had written to Mr. Trump’s company about the inscription’s falsehoods and offered to provide historically valid replacement text, insisted on anonymity because he did not want to cross the Trump Organization by disclosing a private exchange.)

When the Times contacted Trump for a response, he was typically defensive while providing no useful information to back up what was stated on the Civil War plaque:

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

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.

Then he said the historians had spoken not to him but to “my people.” But he refused to identify any [employees] 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.”


Weinman, Sam.   "Donald Trump Has Plaque at His Golf Course Commemorating Civil War Battle That Never Happened."     Golf Digest.   2 May 2017.

Fandos, Nicholas.   "In Renovation of Golf Club, Donald Trump Also Dressed Up History."     The New York Times.   24 November 2015.

Loewen, James W.   "‘Why Was There the Civil War?’ Here’s Your Answer."     The Washington Post.   2 May 2017.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.