On this day in history, William Henry Harrison was born to a distinguished family in colonial Virginia. (Harrison was the last president born as a British subject before American Independence.) His father, Benjamin Harrison V, was a delegate to the Continental Congress who signed the Declaration of Independence. The senior Harrison was Governor of Virginia between 1781 and 1784, during and after the American Revolutionary War.
Harrison himself served as the first territorial congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory, Governor of the Indiana Territory, and as a U.S. representative and senator from Ohio. He gained national fame for leading U.S. forces against American Indians at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, where he earned the nickname “Tippecanoe”. As a general in the subsequent War of 1812, he participated in the Battle of the Thames in 1813, which resulted in the death of Tecumseh, the Native American leader of the Shawnee.
After the war, Harrison moved to Ohio, and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and then to the Senate. He was elected as 9th President of the United States in 1840, but died after just 32 days in office. The President gave the longest inaugural speech ever – one hour and 45 minutes – and went to bed that night with a cold. The cold lingered and worsened, and in a matter of weeks John Tyler became the 10th President, the first to reach that office upon the death of a sitting President.
Harrison was 68 years old when he was inaugurated, the oldest president to take office until Ronald Reagan in 1981. He was grandfather to Benjamin Harrison, who became the 23rd President of the United States.
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