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.