William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison by James Reid Lambdin, 1835.

William Henry Harrison by James Reid Lambdin, 1835.

“Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” became the campaign slogan of the ninth President of the United States (1841), William Henry Harrison, who had been nicknamed “Tippecanoe.” A Western statesman from Ohio and renown frontier Indian fighter, Harrison was born at the family estate, Berkeley Plantation, in Virginia, on February 9, 1773, to Benjamin Harrison V and Elizabeth Basset. His father was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, and his brother was a member of the United States House of Representatives. Both Ohio and Virginia claim him as a native son.

Harrison was an offshoot of the Virginia planter aristocracy. He studied classics and history at Hampden-Sydney College, then began the study of medicine in Richmond. That same year, 1791, Harrison suddenly switched interests. He was commissioned as an ensign in the First Infantry of the Regular Army, and headed to what was then regarded as the Northwest Territory, where he spent much of his life.

After resigning from the Army in 1798, he became Secretary of the Northwest Territory, and was its first delegate to Congress. He helped obtain legislation dividing the Territory into the Northwest and Indiana Territories, and in 1801 he became Governor of the Indiana Territory, serving 12 years. His primary task as territorial governor was to obtain title to Indian lands so settlers could settle in the wilderness. Harrison was responsible for defending the settlements when the Indians retaliated. One such uprising in 1811, known as the Battle of Tippecanoe, the one upon which much of his fame rests, was fought against Native Americans under the leadership of Tecumseh.

Tecumseh was an eloquent and energetic chieftain, who, along with his religious brother, the Prophet, began to strengthen an Indian confederation in order to prevent further encroachment upon their lands. Harrison received permission to attack the confederacy. In a battle that began before dawn, Harrison repulsed the Indians who attacked his camp, suffering 190 men dead or wounded.

Indian uprisings were diminished but not quelled. In the War of 1812 Harrison was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and won more military laurels when he was given the command of the Army in the Northwest. 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 a serious threat in that region of the country.

After resigning from the army in 1814, Harrison began a career in politics and diplomacy. He did serve in both the House of Representatives (1816-1819) and the United States Senate (1825-1828). He also served as Minister to Columbia. He was the Northern Whig candidate for President in 1836, but lost the election to Martin Van Buren, in spite of running surprisingly well.

He was a candidate again in 1840, when he won largely because of his heroic military record and the fact that the United States had suffered a severe economic downturn under the Van Buren administration. He won by a majority of less than 150,000, but swept the Electoral College, 234 to 60. His vice president was John Tyler. Their campaign slogans of “Log Cabins and Hard Cider” and “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” are among the most famous in American politics

Harrison was still the stalwart hero of Tippecanoe when took the oath of office on a cold and windy day, March 4, 1841. Despite the extreme cold he faced the weather with no coat on, and delivered the longest inaugural address in American history, at nearly two hours. It would have been longer had Daniel Webster not edited it.

This proved to be his undoing, however, as during this address he caught a cold, which developed into pneumonia. He passed away a month later on April 4, 1841, becoming the first American president to die in office. John Tyler succeeded him to the Presidency shortly thereafter.

Legend has it that Harrison’s death was brought about by a curse placed on him by Tecumseh in his dying breath. Interestingly enough, after Harrison every President elected on a year ending in a zero (nicknamed “the zero factor”) died in office from 1840 until the 1960’s. The chain was broken by Ronald Reagan who was elected in 1980 and lived to serve out two terms in spite of the fact that he himself had an assassination attempt on his life while in office.

In spite of his short tenure in office, Harrison is responsible for several ‘firsts’. He was the first president to die in office. He served one month, the shortest term of any president. He gave the longest inauguration speech of any president (8,445 words). He was the first candidate to have a campaign slogan—“Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too.” The only year of his presidential term (1841), two other presidents– Van Buren and Tyler– also served.

He is the first and only ‘grandfather-grandson team’ to serve as President. Harrison’s grandson, Benjamin Harrison of Ohio, became the 23rd president in 1889. (There have been two father-son pairs: George H. W. Bush – George W. Bush, and John Adams – John Quincy Adams). It was a Harrison family tradition to name the first born son of each generation Benjamin.

Harrison was married to Anna Symmes, who was known for her compassion and beauty. Together, they had 10 children.

The last known words spoken by Harrison on his deathbed were, “I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.”

William Henry Harrison Facts

  • President No.: 9th
  • When did William Henry Harrison serve?1841
  • What was William Henry Harrison’s party?Whig
  • Where was William Henry Harrison from? Ohio
  • Who was William Henry Harrison’s wife? Anna Tuthill Symmes Harrison
  • When was William Henry Harrison born? February 9, 1773
  • Where was William Henry Harrison born? Charles City County, Virginia
  • When did William Henry Harrison die? April 4, 1841 a month after taking office. He was the first president to die in office.
  • Where did William Henry Harrison die? Washington D.C.
  • What did William Henry Harrison die of? Pneumonia
  • Which college did William Henry Harrison attend? University of Pennsylvania Medical School
  • What was William Henry Harrison’s Jobs Before President? Army Officer, Governor of the Territory of Indiana, Ambassador to Columbia, U.S. Senator, Congressman
  • What was William Henry Harrison’s height? 5 feet, 8 inches
  • What was the population when William Henry Harrison was president? 17,069,453
  • What pets did William Henry Harrison keep? A goat and cow
  • What transportation did William Henry Harrison use? Train
  • How did William Henry Harrison communicate? Letter


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