William Henry Harrison is one of two Old Guard veterans to become President of the United States. Harrison was born on February 9, 1773, in what today is Charles City, VA.
Harrison served in the Army at multiple times in his life. He first joined the Army at the age of 18, just after his father died in 1791. He served in the First Infantry, a forerunner of the 3d Infantry Regiment. He was able to secure a commission as an ensign, a rank today that would equate to a third lieutenant. As an ensign, he was in charge of about 80 men that he enlisted to serve on the Northwest Frontier. He rose to Aide-de-Camp for General “Mad Anthony” Wayne and then to Captain. Wayne mentioned Harrison by name for bravery at the Battle of Maumee Rapids, in 1794. General Wayne died in 1795, and Harrison took command of Fort Washington (present-day Cincinnati, OH). While serving at Fort Washington, Harrison met his future wife, and would resign his commission in 1798.
Between 1798 and 1812, Harrison was appointed secretary of the Northwest Territory, elected as a congressional delegate on behalf of the Territory, and appointed Governor of the newly created Indiana Territory. As governor, he waged a war against a confederation of Native American tribes led by the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh. The war resulted from Harrison using fraudulent means to negotiate treaties with Miami tribes.
The outbreak of the War of 1812 saw Harrison appointed as a Brigadier General. He resigned again after winning victories and seeing his command split. The split found Harrison commanding an area of no strategic importance, and he resigned in 1814. Harrison would serve in numerous public and private roles until 1836, when he ran unsuccessfully for President.
Another campaign, in 1840, was successful. He ran with the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!” Tippecanoe was one his most decisive battle against Tecumseh. Tyler was his vice-presidential running mate. Harrison won, invoking his experience in the military and his “man of the people” roots.
Harrison was the shortest serving President in American history. Shortly after taking office, Harrison caught a cold that progressed into pneumonia. Many at the time attributed his illness to a long inaugural speech, over 2 hours, and the cold, damp weather. His term as President of the United States lasted only one month.