William Henry Harrison (February 9 , 1773 - April 4 , 1841) was the
ninth (1841) President of the United States and the first to die while
|Term of Office:
||March 4 , 1841 - April 4 , 1841
||Martin Van Buren
|Date of Birth
||February 9 , 1773
|Place of Birth:
|Date of Death:
||April 4 , 1841
|Place of Death:
|First Lady :
||Anna Tuthill Symmes
|Political Party :
|Vice President :
Harrison was in fact a scion of the Virginia planter aristocracy. He
was born at Berkeley in 1773. He studied classics and history at Hampden-Sydney
College, then began the study of medicine in Richmond.
Suddenly, that same year, 1791, Harrison switched interests. He obtained
a commission as ensign in the First Infantry of the Regular Army, and headed
to the Northwest, where he spent much of his life.
In the campaign against the Indians, Harrison served as aide-de-camp
to General "Mad Anthony" Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which opened
most of the Ohio area to settlement. After resigning from the Army in 1798,
he became Secretary of the Northwest Territory, was its first delegate
to Congress, and helped obtain legislation dividing the Territory into
the Northwest and Indiana Territories. In 1801 he became Governor of the
Indiana Territory, serving 12 years.
His prime task as governor was to obtain title to Indian lands so settlers
could press forward into the wilderness. When the Indians retaliated, Harrison
was responsible for defending the settlements.
The threat against settlers became serious in 1809. An eloquent and
energetic chieftain, Tecumseh, with his religious brother, the Prophet,
began to strengthen an Indian confederation to prevent further encroachment.
In 1811 Harrison received permission to attack the confederacy.
While Tecumseh was away seeking more allies, Harrison led about a thousand
men toward the Prophet's town. Suddenly, before dawn on November 7, the
Indians attacked his camp on Tippecanoe River. After heavy fighting, Harrison
repulsed them, but suffered 190 dead and wounded.
The Battle of Tippecanoe, upon which Harrison's fame was to rest, disrupted
Tecumseh's confederacy but failed to diminish Indian raids. By the spring
of 1812, they were again terrorizing the frontier.
In the War of 1812 Harrison won more military laurels when he was given
the command of the Army in the Northwest with the rank of brigadier general.
At the Battle of the Thames, north of Lake Erie, on October 5, 1813, he
defeated the combined British and Indian forces, and killed Tecumseh. The
Indians scattered, never again to offer serious resistance in what was
then called the Northwest.
Thereafter Harrison returned to civilian life; the Whigs, in need of
a national hero, nominated him for President in 1840. His campaign emphasized
his frontier exploits and the election slogan was "Tippecanoe and Tyler
Too!" He won by a majority of less than 150,000, but swept the Electoral
College, 234 to 60.
When he arrived in Washington in February 1841, Harrison let Daniel
Webster edit his Inaugural Address, ornate with classical allusions. Webster
obtained some deletions, boasting in a jolly fashion that he had killed
"seventeen Roman proconsuls as dead as smelts, every one of them."
Webster had reason to be pleased, for while Harrison was nationalistic
in his outlook, he emphasized in his Inaugural that he would be obedient
to the will of the people as expressed through Congress.
But before he had been in office a month, he caught a cold that developed
into pneumonia. On April 4, 1841, he died--the first President to die in
office--and with him died the Whig program.
Harrison's grandson, Benjamin Harrison , became the 31st president in
1889, making the two of them the only grandparent-grandchild pair of presidents