William Henry Harrison - Ninth President of the United States

William Henry Harrison. Getty Images

William Henry Harrison's Childhood and Education:

William Henry Harrison was born on February 9, 1773. He was born to a politically active family with five generations previous to him serving in political office. His home was attacked during the American Revolution. Harrison was tutored as a youth and decided to become a doctor. He attended an Academy in Southampton County before entering the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. He eventually dropped out when he could no longer afford it and joined the army.

Family Ties:

Harrison was the son of Benjamin Harrison V, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Elizabeth Bassett. He had four sisters and two brothers. On November 22, 1795, he married Anna Tuthill Symmes, a well-educated lady and from a wealthy family. Her father initially disapproved of their marriage feeling that the military was not a stable career choice. Together they had five sons and four daughters. One son, John Scott, would be the father of the 23rd president, Benjamin Harrison.

William Henry Harrison's Military Career:

Harrison joined the army in 1791 and served until 1798. During this time, he fought in the Indian Wars in the Northwest Territory. He was hailed as a hero at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 where he and his men held the line. He became a captain before resigning. After that he held public offices until he joined the military again to fight in the War of 1812.

War of 1812:

Harrison began the War of 1812 as the Major General of the Kentucky militia and ended as Major General of the Northwest Territories. He led his forces to retake Detroit. He then defeated a force of British and Indians including Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames. He resigned from the military in May, 1814.

Career Before the Presidency:

Harrison left military service in 1798 to become the Secretary of the Northwest Territory (1798-9) and then became the Northwest Territory delegate to the House (1799-1800) before being appointed Governor of the Indian Territories (1800-12). This was when Tippecanoe occurred (see below). After the War of 1812, he was elected US Representative (1816-19) and then State Senator (1819-21). From 1825-8, he served as a US Senator. He was sent as US Minister to Columbia from 1828-9.

Tippecanoe and Tecumseh's Curse:

In 1811, Harrison led a force against the Indian Confederacy in Indiana. Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet were the leaders of the Confederacy. The Native Americans attacked Harrison and his men while they slept at Tippecanoe Creek. Harrison quickly led his men to stop the attackers and then burned their town called Prophetstown. Many would claim that Harrison's death as President directly related to Tecumseh's Curse.

Election of 1840:

Harrison had unsuccessfully run for President in 1836 and was renominated in 1840 with John Tyler as his Vice President. He was supported by President Martin Van Buren. This election is considered to be the first modern campaign including advertising and more. Harrison had gained the nickname "Old Tippecanoe" and he ran under the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too." He handily won the election with 234 out of 294 electoral votes.

William Henry Harrison's Administration and Death in Office:

When Harrison took office, he gave the longest inaugural address ever talking for one hour and 40 minutes. It was delivered in the cold during the month of March. He then got caught in the rain and in the end came down with a cold. His illness got worse until he finally died on April 4, 1841. He did not have the time to accomplish much and spent most of his time dealing with job seekers.

Historical Significance:

William Henry Harrison was not in office long enough to really have a significant impact. He only served one month, from March 4 until April 4, 1841. He was the first president to die in office. In accordance with the Constitution, John Tyler took over the presidency.