William Henry Harrison – Nineth President of the United States – Shortest Presidency – Died on 32nd day at the Office

William Henry Harrison (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841) The President Who Wasn’t

William Henry Harrison is mainly noted in American History as having served the shortest term as president. Harrison died on the 32nd day of his term (1841-1841) as President from complications from pneumonia, which he contracted during his inauguration address which he gave in a driving blizzard. Harrison followed Martin Van Buren and his vice-president, John Tyler, completed the majority of Harrison’s four year term in office. Before rising to the Presidency, Harrison served as Governor of the Indiana territory and later as a Congressman and then Senator from Ohio. His reputation stemmed from his service in the Battle of Tippecanoe and subsequent War of 1812. William Henry Harrison was enjoying a life of retirement in Ohio before he was nominated by the Whig Party to represent them in the 1840 presidential elections.

Daguerreotype of William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the United States

William Henry Harrison – Early Life on the Virginia Plantation

William Henry Harrison was born into a wealthy family in Charles City County, Virginia. One of seven children, Harrison followed in the foots of his father, Benjamin Harrison V, who served in the first Continental Congress and who was a signatory to the Declaration of Independence. William’s older brother also went into politics, serving as a Congressman representing Virginia. Harrison intended to study medicine and went along that path until his father died, and when the money ran out, William Henry Harrison instead turned to a military career.

William Henry Harrison – A Successful Frontier Soldier

William Henry Harrison began his military career in the Northwest Territory, fighting in the skirmishes against the various Native tribes. He came under the wing of General Anthony Wayne, who William Henry Harrison served as aide-de-camp. It was during these campaigns that Harrison met his wife, Anna, with whom the future president would have ten children. William Henry Harrison was also noted by his biographer, Walter Francis White, as having sired six children with a family slave, Dilsia.

William Henry Harrison – National Portarit Gallery, Washington

William Henry Harrison – Turning War Into Politics

Seven years after beginning his service, William Henry Harrison decided to resign his post and convert his success in war into a lucrative political career. He lobbied family friends and associates to assist him in obtaining a post in the Northwest Territory government. William Henry Harrison began as territorial secretary but quickly rose to acting governor and then to a seat in Congress at the ripe age of 26. By 27, Harrison was promoted again, this time to Governor of the newly created Indiana Territory, a post William Henry Harrison held until the eruption of war in 1812.

William Henry Harrison – Early Days

William Henry Harrison – War of 1812 and the Battle of Tippecanoe

The fiercest Native resistance to Manifest Destiny came from two brothers, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa who managed to unite many of the Native tribes against the American expansion. William Henry Harrison, leader of the frontier, mustered an army to oppose the brothers. Harrison was selected by President Madison to lead the Army of the Northwest in battle against the Native tribes. His victories, including in the Battle of the Thames, which proved to be a decisive victory in the northern front, catapulted William Henry Harrison to national fame and led to his eventual presidential nomination.

William Henry Harrison – Sketch of Younger Days

William Henry Harrison – The Short Lived President, Death and Memorial

Death of William Henry Harrison, April 4, 1841

By 1840, Harrison was retired to his estate in Ohio. A newly formed political party, The Whigs, were divided and in need of a compromise candidate, which led to their selection of the frontiersman, William Henry Harrison, as their leader.

William Henry Harrison Presidential $1 Coin

Harrison was able to defeat the incumbent, Martin Van Buren, due to Van Buren’s lackluster response to the Panic of 1837. Harrison was 68 years old when he took the oath of office on March 4, 1841, and on that day William Henry Harrison gave a 2 hour speech in a driving snowstorm, without wearing a hat or overcoat.

William Henry Harrison Tomb Memorial

The president contracted pneumonia shortly thereafter and 32 days later he was dead.

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