William Henry Harrison: Ninth President of the United States

William Henry Harrison
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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 before him serving in political office before 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 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). After the War of 1812, he was elected US Representative (1816-19) 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, which was headed by Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet. The Native Americans counterattacked Harrison and his men at Tippecanoe Creek. Harrison led his men to thwart the natives then burned their town, Prophetstown, in retaliation. Many would claim that Harrison's death as President directly related to Tecumseh's Curse, placed on him as a result of this incident.

Election of 1840

Harrison had unsuccessfully run for President in 1836; he 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, and he got caught in the rain. As a result, he quickly came down with a cold. His illness worsened until he died on April 4, 1841. He did not have the time to accomplish much during his presidency, spending most of his time dealing with job seekers.

Historical Significance

William Henry Harrison's presidential term was only month long, from March 4 until April 4, 1841. Though he was not in office long enough to have a significant impact from his service, he was the first president to die in office. In accordance with the Constitution, John Tyler was then the first Vice President to take over the presidency following the death of his predecessor.