Birth of William Henry Harrison – February 9, 1773

02-09-William Henry Harrison born

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.

Battle of Fredericksburg – December 13, 1862

In the unsuccessful 1862 Northern campaign to capture the Southern capital of Richmond, Union and Confederate armies clashed at the small town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. As part of the Army of the Potomac, The Old Guard served in the division of U.S. Regulars commanded by General George Sykes.

Excerpt from Lieutenant Dangerfield Parker, Company D, 3rd Infantry:
“At Fredericksburg the 3rd with the Division it was attached to [2nd Division, 5th Corps] acted as support to the fruitless attack on Marye’s hill. It took up position at dark in the cemetery and during the night was ordered out upon the plank road taking up position behind a tannery which was immediately upon this road and from the windows of which the entrenchments of the enemy could be commanded – they being but a stone’s throw off. Skirmishers were thrown out on the right flank from the 3rd and 4th Infantry and in the morning at early dawn it was, of course, necessary to relieve them. In doing so our losses were heavy from the fire of the enemy’s sharp-shooters. Our men ran to cover behind the tannery as quickly as possible, but some were killed and others wounded within a few feet of cover.”

In the battle of Fredericksburg, the Regiment lost 3 men killed and 12 wounded.

On December 15, as the Union forces retired, the 3rd Infantry was the last unit to cross the pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock River out of the devastated town of Fredericksburg and back to safety. The 3rd Infantry would go on to fight at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg before moving to New York City to recruit and rest, while also assisting to quell the draft riots.