War Hero and Public Servant
William Henry Harrison joined the military in 1791 and served until 1798, fighting in the Indian Wars in the Northwest Territory. In 1794, he led his men at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. During this battle, U.S. forces faced a confederacy of about 1,000 Native Americans including members of the Shawnee, Miami, Ottawa, and Chippewa tribes, among others. The tribes were forced to retreat.
This victory led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, for which Harrison was present. This treaty required the tribes to give up claims to lands in the Northwest Territory in exchange for money and the right to hunt in the territory. Harrison was commended for his actions at the battle and promoted to captain.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
William Henry Harrison, in addition to being hailed as a war hero, was well respected by his men. Major Richard M. Johnson, who would later become Martin Van Buren's vice president, said in 1812: “He has the confidence of the forces without a parallel in our History except in the case of General Washington in the revolution.”
Harrison left military service in 1798 to become first the secretary of the Northwest Territory and then the governor of the Indiana Territory.
Even though Harrison was not in the military in 1811, he led a force against the Indian Confederacy in Indiana. Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet, were Shawnee leaders of this confederacy. The Native Americans launched a surprise attack on Harrison and his men while they slept at Tippecanoe Creek, but Harrison was able to rouse his men and stop the attack. They then moved against the confederacy, burning their village, which was called Prophetstown. This is how Harrison came by his nickname: “Old Tippecanoe.”
War of 1812
Harrison did not officially rejoin the military until he decided to fight in the War of 1812. He began the war as a major general of Kentucky militia and by the war's end was named a major general of the Northwest Territories. His forces were able to retake Detroit from British colonel Henry Procter. He then became a national hero at the Battle of the Thames where his forces defeated the British and their Indian allies, including the Shawnee leader Tecumseh. He resigned from the army in May 1814.