William Henry Harrison Biography

(The First U.S President to Die in the Office and Had the Shortest Presidency in the U.S. History)

Birthday: February 9, 1773 (Aquarius)

Born In: Virginia, United States

Way before becoming the ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison had become a household name and a military hero. He managed to gain such reputation as a result of the victory that he achieved after winning the Battle of Tippecanoe, against the Native American forces. His warring escapades earned him the nickname "Tippecanoe" or the "Old Tip". His military accomplishments paved way for a colorful political career. Prior to presidency, he served as the first congressional member representing the Northwest Territory, became Indiana’s governor and also served as the U.S. senator from Ohio. His was the shortest presidential term, as he passed away in office after contracting pneumonia. He was the oldest man to take the presidential post and the first to die in office. Due to his untimely death, several questions regarding the presidential succession were debated on; this caused the 25th Amendment to be included in the American constitution. Despite sudden death, Harrison left behind a remarkable legacy, which came full circle when his grandson, Benjamin Harrison became the 23rd President of USA. Further reading of this article will unravel many other aspects of this phenomenal personality’s life and career.

Quick Facts

Died At Age: 68


Spouse/Ex-: Anna Harrison (m. 1795–1841)

father: Benjamin Harrison V

mother: Elizabeth

siblings: Carter Bassett Harrison

children: John Scott Harrison

Born Country: United States

Presidents Political Leaders

political ideology: Whig

Died on: April 4, 1841

place of death: Washington, D.C., United States

Ancestry: British American

Cause of Death: Pneumonia

U.S. State: Virginia

More Facts

education: University Of Pennsylvania

awards: 1812 - Gold medal

Childhood & Early Life
William Henry Harrison was born in an aristocratic and well to do planter family, to father, named Benjamin Harrison V and mother named Elizabeth (Bassett).
His father was one of the signatories of Declaration of Independence and member of Continental Congress (1774-1777); he also held the post of governor of Virginia from 1781 to 1784.
Out of his six siblings, Harrison’s elder bother, Carter Bassett Harrison served as the member of United States House of Representatives.
William Henry Harrison studied Latin and basic French at the Presbyterian Hampden-Sydney College, between 1787 and 1790.
In 1790, he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania and studied medicine under the guidance Dr. Benjamin Rush.
He switched career streams in 1791, after his father’s death and joined the Army’s First Infantry division; he was posted to Cinicinnati in the Northwest Territory.
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Harrison’s military superior was General Anthony Wayne and under his command Harrison played an active role in fighting the Northwest Indian Confederation.
He participated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, in which the Union forces were able to defeat the native armies in August 1794.
In 1795, he became one of the signatories of the Treaty of Greenville, which made it possible for European Americans to settle in the Ohio territory.
In 1798, Harrison resigned from the Army commission and tried his hand at various jobs in the public sector.
From March 4, 1799, to May 14, 1800 he served as the member of the Sixth United States Congress; he was the first representative of the Northwest Territory to do so.
He served as the governor of the Indiana territories from 1801 to 1803; he had helped carve these out during his congressional term.
Being the governor of the Indiana region, the task of protecting and assisting the European American settlers against the hostilities meted out by Native American population, fell on his shoulders.
By 1809, the Native Indians began to organize as a fighting force, under the leadership of Tecumseh.
In 1811, he became a national hero after beating back a vicious attack by the Native Indian forces on his army camp; this incident came to be known as the Battle of Tippecanoe.
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He was promoted to the rank of brigadier general during the War of 1812 and successfully commanded the Army operations in the Northwest.
On October 5, 1813 he fought bravely in the Battle of the Thames, in it the Indian Confederation was completely uprooted.
With the Battle of the Thames behind him, Harrison returned to the civilian life and once again began to concentrate on his political career.
From 1816 to 1819, he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, then served in the Ohio Senate between 1819 and 1821 and from 1825 to 1828, successfully essayed the role of a U.S. Senator.
He contested the US presidential elections of 1836 but lost to Martin Van Buren.
In 1840, he again contested the US presidential elections and this time he swept the Electoral College, 234 to 60.
At the age 68, on March 4, 1841 he took oath of office and fell ill with a cold on March 26, which developed into pneumonia and he never recovered from it.
Major Battles
On November 7, 1811 the Indian confederation attacked Harrison's camp on the banks of the Tippecanoe River, while he was preparing to confront Tecumseh, after receiving permission from the government to do so.
This battle was a surprise attack, meted out by huge force of Indians on around thousand unsuspecting army men and despite suffering heavy causalities (190), under Harrison's leadership the attack was repulsed; this earned him the nickname Tippecanoe.
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The Battle of Tippecanoe became the cornerstone for Harrison’s political career and his claim to fame as it inspired and captured the imagination of the general public at large.
In the Battle of the Thames (1813), Harrison attained his biggest ever military win by defeating the combined British and Indian forces; he also managed to kill Tecumseh, which led to the complete disbanding of the Indian forces.
Personal Life & Legacy
Harrison met his future wife Anna Symmes, in 1795. She belonged to a wealthy family and her father, named Judge John Cleves Symmes was man of great influence.
Due to the disapproval of Anna’s father, she and Harrison eloped and got married on November 25, 1795. The couple had 10 children, out of which nine survived to see adulthood.
It is believed that Harrison had illicit relationship with Dilsia, his female slave and fathered six children with her.
Between 1853 and 1857, Harrison’s son John Scott Harrison was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and his grandson Benjamin Harrison served as the 23rd President of the United States (1889 to 1893).
Several places have been named after him like Harrison, New Jersey; Harrison, Ohio; Harrison County, Indiana etc.
His statue has been erected at Monument Circle in Indianapolis.
His was the longest inaugural address read by any president in the history of America.
He served the shortest term as the American president till date, which lasted from March 4 to April 4, 1841. It totals up to 30 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes.
He became the first sitting president of the U.S. whose photograph was clicked on his Inauguration Day.
He passed away with an almost nil bank balance and his wife received a Presidential widow's pension of around $25,000.
It is believed that the famous black civil rights activist Walter Francis White was his great grandson.

See the events in life of William Henry Harrison in Chronological Order

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