Golden Nuggets from U. S. History

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William Henry Harrison, -- "Old Tippecanoe"

As with many early pioneers Teddy Roosevelt and Daniel Boone were not red-necked, sod-busting farmers looking for thrills. They were educated men with a vision. So was a man from Berkeley, Virginia, who studied the classics and history at Hampden-Sydney College and medicine in Richmond. Then, at 18, he gave it up for a pioneer's life which led to the White House.

"Old Tippecanoe," William Henry Harrison was the 9th President of the United States and the first one to die in office.

Considering the times -- he had everything. Born into a well-to-do family who could afford to give him a fast start in life, he chose instead the life of a pioneer by accepting an appointment as lieutenant in the army and heading West. The Northwest Territory in 1791 was all of that area of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and on westward as far as the white man could push.

He served as aide-de-camp to General "Mad Anthony" Wayne in the campaign against the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which opened most of the Ohio area to settlement. He became Secretary of Northwest Territory after temporarily resigning from the Army in 1798 and as the Northwest Territory's first delegate to Congress (1799-1801) helped establish legislation dividing the Territory into the Northwest and Indiana Territories.

In 1801 he became Governor of the Indiana Territory and served for 12 years. As Governor, his primary responsibility was to obtain title to Indian lands, to permit further settlement, and to defend settlements against Indian attacks.

Leaders of the Indians he faced were the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, who lived from approximately 1768 until 1813, and Tecumseh's brother, the Prophet.

In 1809, Tecumseh and the Prophet joined a confederation to prevent further expansion of settlements. This was not a declaration of war but a unification of forces to peaceably resist and to make some effort to stop individual tribes from selling their land rights to the white man.

On August 12, 1810, Tecumseh sent a communication to Governor Harrison pleading an understanding that:

"...The being within, communing with past ages, tells me that once, nor until lately, there was no white man on this continent; that it then all belonged to red men, children of the same parents, placed on it by the Great Spirit that made them, to keep it, to traverse it, to enjoy its productions, and to fill it with the same race, once a happy race, since made miserable by the white people, who are never contented but always encroaching..."

The letter did not get results and in 1811, near the Tippecanoe River, Tecumseh and the Prophet attacked. Harrison became famous for repelling the attack but it was a bitter victory because 190 of Harrison's men were killed and wounded.

Harrison was a brigadier general during the War of 1812. At the Battle of Thames on October 5, 1813, he defeated a combined British and Indian force and Tecumseh was killed. The Indians never again offered serious resistance in the Northwest Territory.

Although the action by the Tippecanoe River was not a resounding victory his later successes earned him the nickname of "Old Tippecanoe." He was U.S. Congressman from Ohio, (1816-1819), United States Senator, (1825-1828), and Minister to Colombia, (1828-1829).

In need of a national hero for the 1840 election the Whigs nominated Harrison for President.

To allow a balanced ticket the Whigs tacitly supported John Tyler of Virginia for Vice President. Tyler was a strong states rights advocate with support in the South for the concept that the federal government had very limited authority. Their opponents, made an effort to twist the Harrison campaign slogan of "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" into derisive phrases but Harrison swept the Electoral College, 234 to 60.

Harrison had married Anna Tuthill Symmes (1775-1864), on November 25, 1795 and they had been blessed with ten children. She was a quite woman who enjoyed her family and her solitude. Yet, she had dutifully followed him from place-to-place, spent long months apart from him, traveled to Columbia, and lived in Washington. She resented his attempt to become President and was not happy when he won. As the inauguration approached she refused to go, declaring that she was content living in the West. After much pleading and many concessions she agreed to join him after the inauguration and so, Harrison went alone to take the oath on March 4, 1841.

Anna began preparing for another move as soon as her husband departed. She had finished packing, said her goodbyes, and was ready to travel when word came that Harrison had died in the White House on April 4, just one month after taking office. It still ranks as the shortest term ever served by a President.

Historians love to rank Presidents. Most of them usually do so with blinders; ignoring public opinion, ignoring national security, and especially ignoring whether the President acted in the best interest of the country.

Historians generally are ultra-liberal politically and socially, and must advance their ideology to promote the sale of their textbooks, writings, and speeches. In one survey Theodore Roosevelt is ranked 3rd; (he was an environmentalist) George Washington 4th(!); Jimmy Carter 25th; William H. Harrison 28th(!); and George H. W. Bush 31st. Why is W. H. Harrison, who served only thirty days, ranked 28th? How else could historians make room to move Republicans DOWN?

For a glimpse of rankings nonsense see Presidential Rankings.

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