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William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison was born in Virginia in 1773, a child of the planter elite. He made his career as an Indian fighter in the Northwest Territory. In 1801 he began a term of twelve years as Governor of the Indiana Territory, which had been separated from the larger Northwest Territory. Harrison devoted himself to the task of removing Indians from their lands in order to facilitate white settlement. By 1809 Native Americans' resistance to this program had come together to represent a serious challenge to American expansion. In 1811 Harrison attacked the confederacy of tribes organized by the Shawnee chieftain Tecumseh and his brother, the religious prophet Tenskwatawa. At the Battle of Tippecanoe in north central Indiana, Harrison's forces dealt the Indians a severe blow, but failed to end their raids upon white settlements. It was only in the War of 1812, when Tecumseh's forces fought with the British Empire, that the confederacy met its end. Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames, north of Lake Erie. Despite taking a heavy beating from British armies, the United States survived the War of 1812 and the British retreated to Canada, leaving their Indian allies vulnerable to American settlement. In 1840 the Whig Party, seeking a heroic candidate for the presidency, drafted Harrison. Winning the election, he died after only a month in office.

For more information about politics in the 19th century, please look at Lincoln/Net's Getting the Message Out! National Political Campaign Materials, 1840-1860 Web site.


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