No good deed should go unrecognized. The President of the United States receives a salary of $400,000 per year, of which President Trump pledged to take zero for himself. As a billionaire, this is a small sacrifice, but it’s notable where Trump has chosen to direct the money he’s not taking.
As chief executive, Trump can direct his funds (less taxes and withholding) to any legal purpose or line-item in the federal leviathan. In early April, Trump donated $78,333–his first quarter’s salary, to the National Park Service. Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that money, plus other donations, will be used to preserve the historic Civil War Antietam battlefield.
“The Civil War Trust and the National Park Foundation, and Save Historic Antietam Foundation have also pledged funds bringing the total gift to $263,545.”
The Park Service has plans for the money.
The money will go toward restoring the historic Newcomer House on the Antietam battlefield, while providing underwriting to replace 5,000 feet of rail fencing that has deteriorated along the Hagerstown Turnpike “where some of the most intense fighting of the battle occurred,” the agency said.
I applaud the president’s choice. Our Civil War battlefields are uniquely American and uniquely hallowed ground. Antietam in particular was a kind of turning point in the war, many historians agree. While it was far from a total military victory for the Union forces, it was a benchmark for the Army of the Potomac’s commitment to winning the war.
The north took 12,410 casualties/killed/missing, with 2,108 dead, and inflicted 10,316 casualties on Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Until that battle, nobody really trusted Gen. McClellan’s troops to win a battle when faced with massive casualties. It wasn’t until the Battle of Fredericksburg’s bloody assault on Marye’s Heights did the north suffer such a large number of casualties.
By the time the Army of the Potomac was called to defeat Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson at Chancellorsville, it was clear that the Union was willing to spend its own blood, in stunning quantities, to obtain victory.
The casualties at Antietam (at 22,726 combined, the highest of the entire war, including 3,675 killed) should be honored by our country’s efforts to preserve the hallowed ground on which they fought.
President Trump deserves kudos for his very good deed, though a small amount to him, which attracted other donors and raised awareness of the deteriorating condition of many of our most sacred battlefields.