Contributor Close-up: Patrick H. Hannum


April 16, 2018
by Editors Also by this Author


Journal of the American Revolution is the leading source of knowledge about the American Revolution and Founding Era. We feature smart, groundbreaking research and well-written narratives from expert writers. Our work has been featured by the New York Times, TIME magazine, History Channel, Discovery Channel, Smithsonian, Mental Floss, NPR, and more. Journal of the American Revolution also produces annual hardcover volumes, a branded book series, and the podcast, Dispatches

About Patrick H. Hannum
Patrick H. Hannum is currently serving as an associate professor in the Joint and Combined Warfighting School, Joint Forces Staff College, National Defense University, Norfolk, Virginia where he specializes in operational-level warfare and Phase II Joint Professional Military Education. He completed twenty-nine years of active service in the United States Marine Corps as a ground combat officer; his service included battalion command. He researches the American Revolution to convey to his students the relevance of and enduring nature, conditions, and human elements of warfare as linked to contemporary security operations. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in education.

Could you give us a little background?
As a retired U.S. Marine, and a former battalion commander, I currently serve as a civilian professor at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC), National Defense University, Norfolk, Virginia, where we specialize in Phase II Joint Professional Military Education, mandated by the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. We at the college have a tremendous opportunity to interact with military professionals, primarily field grade officers and civilian equivalents, from around the globe. Because the profession of arms necessitates an understanding of history, the environment is conducive to the study of the American way of warfare and the American Revolution. We include the Yorktown Campaign as part of the JFSC curriculum, highlighting the enduring nature of military campaign design and execution. An example of this relevance relates to our current Secretary of Defense, James N. Mattis. In 2010, along with three other JFSC faculty members, we spent a day leading a staff ride [a tour of a battlefield to study the influence of terrain and other factors] on the Yorktown Battlefield with then, General Mattis, USMC, and his subordinate commanders. General, and now Secretary of Defense Mattis, constantly reminds us that success in today’s dynamic security environment begins with a foundational knowledge of history.

What inspired you to start researching and writing about the Revolution?
It is a bit of a long story. I have always had an interest in American history and specifically American military history. I grew up in a small town in eastern Ohio, Negley, a town of about 300 people. My grandfather told me the town was named for a Civil War general from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As an undergraduate student I researched General Negley and his Civil War service. While serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and as a student at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC), I continued my research on the general, participating in a formal staff ride course where I presented a detailed analysis of his actions during the Chickamauga Campaign of 1863. Because of my passion, my professor, Dr. Glenn Robertson, selected me over other students to participate in a documentary addressing the Army’s staff ride program, which was filmed by the local, Kansas City, PBS affiliate. This was quite an honor considering I was a Marine at a U.S. Army school.

While attending CGSC I also enrolled in a master’s degree program and researched and published a thesis titled, “Henry Bouquet, A Study of Three Military Campaigns in North America, 1758-1764.” Later in my military career, and as a direct result of my previous research on the British Army in North America during the French and Indian War, I was asked to research and refine a lesson in the JFSC curriculum on the Yorktown Campaign of 1781, while serving as a member of the military faculty. My interest in the Revolution blossomed and later, while serving as a civilian faculty member, the topic eventually evolved into the subject of my dissertation, blending history, curriculum development, and educational theory into a product deemed worthy of a doctorate in education.

What historians or books have most influenced your work? Why?
I was inspired to study American history by my father, a World War II U.S. Army combat veteran (Pacific Theater) who had to drop out of high school during the Great Depression, and mother, a Kent State University graduate and elementary school teacher who taught over the course of five different decades. Three different undergraduate history professors at Youngstown State University during the 1970s, James P. Ronda (Professor Emiratis, University of Tulsa) Frederick J. Blue (Professor Emiratis, Youngstown State University), and Hugh Earnhardt (my Civil War mentor), encouraged my interest in people and their role in history. Several local historians also fueled my interests in people and events. If I could go back in time and meet one historian, it would be William B. Willcox, Sir Henry Clinton’s only biographer. His analysis of Clinton, a very complicated man, is insightful.

What are your go-to research resources?
I enjoy picking up a hard copy book or publication and digesting the words and consulting the citations. Most of my research begins with secondary source material containing good footnotes or endnotes. These provide an excellent place to start researching in more depth. The internet and digitization open up many more sources to the researcher. I use a combination of printed material and digital sources. Some of the most interesting sources are letters, correspondence, diaries, and various primary source records. All major historical events link back to individuals – identifying these people and finding their role in these events is extremely rewarding.

Which of your own JAR articles is your favorite or most rewarding? Why?
My first article, “New Light on Battle Casualties: The 9th Pennsylvania Regiment at Brandywine,” was my most rewarding. The research was quite original and involved hundreds of hours cross-referencing names against the surviving muster and pay records from the period. After his initial editorial review, Don Hagistwas very helpful in providing additional comments and material, courtesy of Todd Braisted’s research on Loyalists. It was obvious to me that JAR was a forum that embraced a team-centered approach for producing excellent articles, and the editors and contributors were willing to share their research in order to improve all the articles published in the journal, adding to the body of knowledge.

Other than your own contributions, what are some of your favorite JAR articles?
There are many fine articles in JAR. My favorites are those by Ian Saberton, editor of the Cornwallis Papers, and Don Hagist, both of whom provide a unique insight on the British. It is always great to obtain a British perspective on the Revolution.

What books about the American Revolution do you most often recommend?
If I had to recommend one very readable book on the American Revolution it would be Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independenceby John Ferling. Another classic addressing the war in the south is John Buchanan’s, The Road to Guilford Courthouse, an author I had the opportunity to meet and speak with in person. In mentoring new faculty members at the JFSC, I recommend Burke Davis’s The Campaign that Won America: The Story of Yorktown. The text is an excellent first exposure for individuals that have no background knowledge on Yorktown. Before reading more advanced texts on the Yorktown Campaign it is important to gain context for those who will one day teach our staff ride curriculum on the Yorktown Campaign of 1781, which is used as historical case to address the enduring nature of contemporary elements of operational design. I find Davis’s work very readable and a reasonably accurate account. Although the text has no footnotes or endnotes the narrative is an appropriate starting point for those with no background on the Revolution or the Yorktown Campaign and is an appropriate text for younger readers as well.

What new research/writing projects are you currently working on?
Among other projects, I’m currently researching several individuals who resided in Princess Anne County, Virginia, (modern day Virginia Beach) during the Revolution: one Patriot, who served as a county lieutenant and on the governing council of Virginia, and one Loyalist, who was hanged for theft. Both are interesting men with very different stories waiting to be told.

What other hobbies/interests do you enjoy?
My wife and I enjoy spending time with our four grandchildren, ages eight to fifteen, and some associated travel. I enjoy researching genealogy and linking individuals to larger historical events. For example, my wife’s tenth great grandfather was Cornelius Melyn (1600-1662), the first patroon Staten Island, New York, and a fascinating historical figure. With some research, someday I may be a member of the Sons of the American Revolution based on my fifth great grandfather’s active Revolutionary service as a member of the Pennsylvania Militia. I enjoy cutting and splitting my own firewood each year and firing up our wood burner on cold, damp Virginia nights. There is always the joy of home ownership: we cut grass in Virginia Beach until November and are still raking leaves in February, and every couple of years we get a big snow requiring the use of a snow shovel.

Why is Journal of the American Revolution important to you?
The Journal provides a forum of those with an interest in expanding knowledge about the American Revolution. The story is one we need to continue to advance.

Is there an article, or subject area, that you would like to see appear in JAR?
The war in the south provides a prime topic for more articles.


  • This is a great new addition to the JAR–featuring information about contributors. I enjoyed reading about Pat’s interests and research, particularly because he’s a regular at our annual conference on the American Revolution in Williamsburg.

    I agree with his assessment of Willcox’s biography of Sir Henry Clinton. It is one of the best biographies of any leader on either side—one of my favorites. Too bad it’s not more readily accessible. I’m also a big fan of Henry Bouquet who did an outstanding job at Bushy Run.

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