William Henry Harrison
The last American president to be born a British subject, William Henry Harrison grew up in the backdrop of Berkeley Plantation, one of Virginia’s oldest estates. His father, Benjamin Harrison, was a prominent political figure and signer of the Declaration of Independence. After his father’s death in 1791, the 18 year old Harrison enlisted in the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Regiment. Harrison, who had previously studied medicine, found military life to be far more satisfactory. He served in what was then the Northwest frontier, present-day Great Lakes region. Harrison excelled while in the Army because of his sharp nature and attention to detail. He saw action at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, defeating the Shawnee, Delaware and Miami tribes. By age 28, in 1801 Harrison was the governor of Indiana. His administration focused on populating the recently vacated lands with American settlers. Harrison gained national fame following his defeat of Tenskwatawa and a Native American confederation at the Battle of Tippecanoe on November, 7 1811. He continued to improve his public image during the War of 1812 by leading successful campaigns against British and Native American forces in the northwest. Harrison re-entered the public spotlight by serving in the House of Representatives from 1816 through 1819 as well as in the Senate from 1825 through 1828. In 1840, Harrison began his second attempt at a presidential campaign as a Whig poised to defeat the incumbent Martin Van Buren. Although born from Virginia aristocracy, the Whigs painted Harrison as a rugged frontiersman and Indian fighter--the image of a log cabin became synonymous with his presidential campaign. This was juxtaposed with President Martin Van Buren, who was chastised as eccentric and out of touch with the common man. Harrison won the election of 1840 but had little time to impact the nation because upon his inauguration he contracted a cold and died of pneumonia a month later on April 4, 1841, the first commander in chief to die in office.