William Henry Harrison was born in Virginia to a family with a long history of serving in political office. Harrison's father, Benjamin Harrison V, was a famous patriot. He served in the Virginia legislature for twenty-seven years before the Revolutionary War, where he was opposed to British policies including the Stamp Act. He signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. After the Revolution, he served in various offices including five years as the governor of Virginia during his son's youth. While little is known of Harrison's mother, Elizabeth Bassett, their home was attacked during the American Revolution and many of their belongings were stolen or destroyed. Luckily, he and his family fled before the attack.
Harrison was privately tutored and decided that he would like to become a doctor. He first attended Hampden-Sydney College and went on to the University of Pennsylvania Medical School in 1791 but had to drop out when he could no longer afford it. He then joined the military.