Patrick Swan is a Podcast host and researcher on the three Seminole Wars of the first half of the 19th century. He is a U.S. Army-trained-and-certified historian and instructor, and book reviewer of military histories. Military Command Historian author and editor. Former Deputy Command Historian, U.S. Central Command, MacDill AFB, Tampa, FL. He has over 35 years of public relations experience, and he has served as the Director of News Operations for the Army News Service at the Pentagon and as a Strategic Plans Officer at the U.S. Army War College.1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
Probably as a youth, looking at photo books of WW2 with the battle images. My father served in the war and I played with GI Joes. So I had a sense of history as something that happened before me and that it was something important.
It is my “what I’d rather be doing” role. I study it because I want to, not because I have to for a degree program. When you have a natural interest in a subject, studying it is not a chore; it is a joy.
3. How will history play a part of your professional life/career?
I parlayed it into work as military historian with the Army. I now employ the skills I learned to host a podcast examining the Seminole Wars in Florida in the 1800s.
4. Why is studying/knowing history important?
It is a trite observation but a true one: if we don’t know what came before us we will have trouble navigating where to go to. In addition, ignorance of what came before us can lead to tragic misunderstandings or worse. In the case of the Seminole, new residents in Florida may wonder why the Seminole get “special” privileges. The short answer is because the U.S. government stole everything else from them (removal policies) and this is what they have left. The government agreed not to take that. We can then discuss how we got from there to here.
5. What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
I have a masters certificate in ancient history to go with my masters degree in history (facts/figures) and in public history (applied). When I travel overseas, I seek out ancient battle sites. It lets me understand better what happened. It provides a fusion to the textbook knowledge I’ve gained.
As the Deputy Command Historian at US Central Command at MacDill AFB in Tampa, I assisted with military staff rides to the Dade Battlefield in Bushnell. The staff rides allow military leaders (officers and NCOs) to apply their training knowledge against an actual battle to see how they themselves may have waged the battle differently in a different. Are there timeless concepts one can employ? That lead me to dive in more deeply and I found it a fascinating as well as a neglected period in US military history. Many people study the Civil War or World War II. Those are too broad for me to get my arms around. But the Seminole Wars are ideal for exploration of what happened, why, and how it affects us today. They offer lessons that are applicable to today’s asymmetric or irregular warfare. One can see it is relatively to get into such a conflict and a terrible chore to get out of one. In the 2nd Seminole War, Colonel William Worth removed as many Seminole to Oklahoma as he could find and then declared victory and went home. About 200 Seminoles remained and the US government had a tacit understanding that it would leave them alone if they left settlers alone. No one asked the question at the onset, it is feasible to remove ALL Seminoles from Florida? And if not, is this a worthwhile undertaking?
7. What is the Seminole Wars podcast and how can people find it?
The Seminole Wars podcast looks at Seminole resistance efforts to US Government attempts to remove them from Florida in the 1800. We look at all facets of these, including its legacy today. I’ve interviewed contemporary musicians about songs they’ve written about it. Other guests include children’s books authors; authors of books about what the soldiers ate on the march; archaeologists on what they find in the ground; military theorists about how the wars were waged; and living history reenactors who teach by showing, among others. I cast a wide net and each episode always captivating. One can subscribe from your favorite podcaster or visit us at www.seminolewars.podbean.com or www.seminolewars.us. The Seminole Wars Foundation, a nonprofit, sponsors us. This year the Foundation sponsored a virtual march to recreate an Army’s column trek intended from Tampa to Ocala, Florida, but which Seminole ambushed near Bushnell. It allowed one to envision the length of their march and to learn about the U.S. Army and Seminole back in 1835. We did this by sending trekkers digital postcards with historical descriptions of milestones one passes along the way. One gets in shape physically and learns important things along the way. It helped making learning fun.