William Henry Harrison's Early Life

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

William Henry Harrison was born into a very well-off family and seemed destined for greatness. But the pinnacle of his political career was cut short. Who was he? What happened? Find out more about him and his early life in this lesson.

William Henry Harrison

When you think of US Presidents, you might assume each one spent at least four years in the country's highest office. Well, William Henry Harrison was the ninth President of the United States, but surprisingly, he was only in office for about a month.

31 days after becoming the president, William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia. Not surprisingly, he served the shortest tenure of any U.S. President (March 4, 1841 to April 4, 1841).

Let's learn more about the early life of this president.

Birth and Family

William Henry Harrison was born on February 9, 1773. He was born in Charles City County on a plantation near Richmond, Virginia. He was the baby of the family, and the youngest of seven children.

His dad was Benjamin Harrison V, a close friend of the Washington family. If you were alive back then you'd know his father's name. His dad served in the House of Burgesses, Continental Congress, as a governor of Virginia, and signed the Declaration of Independence.

His mom, Elizabeth Bassett Harrison, hailed from one of the most prestigious families in the country. Not too shabby, right? Long story short, his family was well-off and well-connected, so William definitely won the birth lottery.

Early Life

In his early years, William was home-schooled. But at age 14, he entered Hampden-Sydney College where he studied classics and history. In 1791, he entered the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. He studied under noted physician (and Founding Father) Benjamin Rush, for whom Rush University is named. Like William's dad, Rush also signed the Declaration of Independence.

Not long after, Harrison dropped out of medical school because his father had passed away, he ran out of money (as he didn't inherit much), and he didn't really like medicine all that much anyway.

Harrison eventually joined the Army as an ensign, the lowest officer's rank. He ended up serving under General Anthony Wayne and fought against the Northwest Indian Confederation.

By 1792, he had become lieutenant and served a key role in helping Wayne 'pacify' Native American tribes such as the Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa and Pottawatomie. In August of 1794, Harrison fought at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Here he held the line against the opposing indigenous forces and received an official commendation from Wayne as a result.

A young William Henry Harrison.
William Harrison

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