War and American society, the individual experience of combat, technological change and warfare
Christopher Hamner’s first book, Enduring Battle: American Soldiers in Three Wars, 1776-1945, was published by the University Press of Kansas in spring 2011 as part of its Modern War series. The book examines the changing experience of ground combat from the War for Independence to the Civil War to the Second World War, focusing on ways that individual soldiers’ motivations to withstand the trauma of combat evolved as technological advances recast the battlefield. He is currently at work on two projects. The first, tentatively titled The Weight of War: American Soldiers in Post-Industrial Combat from Vietnam to Iraq, picks up some of the themes of soldiers’ experiences on the ground, examining the changing nature of battle from the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War to the twenty-first century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, focusing on the ways that the experience of combat changed on the increasingly asymmetrical, irregular battlefield. A second project, The Shoals of Defeat: Abraham Lincoln, Union Strategy, and the 1864 Overland Campaign, explores the connections between politics, popular will, and strategy during the two brutal months of fighting that characterized the Union's Virginia campaign in May and June of 1864.
His teaching interests include war and American society, the individual experience of combat, and the effects of technological change on the experience of warfare. He has served as Lead Historian for two Teaching American History programs in Virginia and Maryland, working with public school teachers to develop more effective ways to incorporate primary sources into the history classroom. Currently, he serves as lead historian for the American Battle Monuments Commission's Understanding Sacrifice program, which helps teachers use a unique set of resources to enrich their students' appreciation of the ways the Second World War affected individuals and families.
In addition, Hamner serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Papers of the War Department 1784-1800, an innovative online archive that seeks to reconstitute the files of the original War Office, destroyed by fire in autumn 1800. By collecting and uniting surviving sender and recipient copies of documents destroyed in the conflagration from hundreds of archives, the archive helps open a window to a critical part of early American history long believed lost to posterity. Mason’s Center for History and New Media has hosted the site, which features a growing index and high-resolution images of more than 45,000 documents from early American history, since 2006.
Hamner is spending the 2015-2016 academic year as a Visiting Professor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
HIST 370: War and American Society
HIST 373: The Civil War Era
HIST 610: The Study and Writing of History
HIST 615: Readings in the Civil War Era
HIST 615: Readings in Military History
“‘Treason, Stupidity, or Cowardice’: The Union Defeat at Ball’s Bluff and the Formation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.” Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Conference, Spring 2014.
“‘Of Course You’ll Be Scared’: Changing Attitudes toward Combat Fear in the U.S. Army from the Civil War to World War II.” Society for Military History Annual Meeting, Spring 2012.
“‘An Act of Charity’: Benefits for Widows and Orphans in the Files of the Early War Department, 1784-1800.” Society for Military History Annual Meeting, Spring 2010.
“Teaching the ‘New’ Military History: New Subjects, New Techniques.” National History Education Clearinghouse, American Historical Association Annual Meeting, Winter 2010.
“Taking Documentary Editing Online: Launching the Papers of the War Department Website,” Association for Documentary Editing Annual Meeting, Fall 2009.
John Lillard, Playing War: Wargaming and US Navy Preparations for World War II (2013)