Monday, February 22, 2010
William H. Harrison
William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) served as President of the United States for the shortest period of time. He caught cold on the day he was inaugurated and died 30 days later, becoming the first President to die in office. Harrison is best remembered for a catchy political campaign slogan: "Tippecanoe and Tyler too." He gained the nickname of "Tippecanoe" in 1811 after defeating the Shawnee Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Harrison was the first President from the Whig Party, and the only President whose grandson (Benjamin Harrison) also became President. Harrison was born on February 9, 1773, on his father's plantation, Berkeley, in Charles City County, Virginia, the youngest of seven children. His parents were from prominent Virginia families. His father, Benjamin Harrison, served in both Continental Congresses, signed the Declaration of Independence, and was a friend of George Washington. Harrison was educated at home, studied at Hampden-Sydney College in 1787 and later went to the University of Pennsylvania to study medicine. After his father died in 1791, he dropped his study of medicine and joined the Army. As a captain, he commanded Fort Washington Ohio. There he met and married Anna Symmes, the daughter of a judge and wealthy land investor. The Harrisons had ten children, six of whom died before Harrison became President. Harrison resign from the Army and was appointed secretary of the Northwest Territory by president John Adams. Later he was elected the first delegate to Congress from the Northwest Territory. In Congress he convinced the lawmakers to pass a bill dividing western lands into sections small enough for a poor person to buy. Harrison was named by Adams to be governor of the Indiana Territory and served in that position for twelve years. He negotiated a treaty with Indian leaders to transfer 2,900,000 acres of land to settlers. Many Indians did not like the treaty, and a war started. Harrison commanded the territorial militia that defeated the Indian forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Harrison was appointed a brigadier general by President James Madison when the War of 1812 began and was promoted to major general in 1813. He commanded the Army of the Northwest and won a brilliant victory in the Battle of the Thames in southern Ontario. Harrison was elected to the United States House of Representatives fro Ohio. He later served as a state senator and then elected to the United States Senate. President John Quincy Adams appointed him as the United States Ambassador to Columbia but was recalled by President Andrew Jackson after only one year. Harrison was elected as President of the United States in 1840. His became very ill just before he left for Washington so his widowed daughter-in-aw served as White House hostess during his term. The weather was cold and rainy as he gave his inauguration speech. He caught a cold that day and was still fighting it a month later when he got a bad chill. His cold developed into pneumonia. He died on April 4, 1841, 12 1/2 hours short of 31 full days in office. He was buried in North Bend, Ohio. (As a note of interest, his wife who was too sick to travel to Washington lived until February 25, 1864.) Facts and information for this post came from an article by Steven Mintz, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 9, pp 74-76.