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George Upfold.

The life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames online

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Online LibraryGeorge UpfoldThe life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames → online text (page 8 of 9)
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service far removed from any post of danger, and inferior
to that which he had a right to expect. Regardless of the
memorable victories which this gallant and experienced officer
had won, and unmindful of the various and important services
which he had rendered to his country, the Secretary of War,
(Armstrong,) saw fit to assign to him the command of a district
where he would be compelled to remain inactive, while others
were appointed to those more arduous duties which he had
heretofore performed with so much honour to himself and to
the nation. As if still unsatisfied with this egregious insult
which he had offered to General Harrison, Secretary Armstrong,
on the 25th of April, 1814, appointed a subordinate officer to a
separate command within his district, and at the same time
opened a correspondence with the subalterns of the army under
his command ; and even went so far as to issue orders to them
directly, instead of communicating his orders through the com-
mander — a course which good discipline required to be observed,
and which all previous practice had sanctioned. On the receipt
of this intelligence, General Harrison instantly addressed a letter
to the Secretary, tendering his resignation, with a notification
thereof to the President.

These measures, on the part of the Secretary, were regarded
with disgust by the whole American people, and were viewed
with equal abhorrence and contempt by the army.

To show the feelings with which they were received by
the army, we will give an extract of a letter to Harrison, by
Ckoghan, the hero of Fort Stephenson.



GENERAL HARRISON. 79

" Major Holmes has been notified by the War Department that he is chosen to
u)iamand the land troops, which are intended to co-operate with the fleet, against the
enemy's fleet, on the Upper Lakes. So soon as i max be directed by tou,
(Harrison,) to order Major Holmes on that command, and to furnish him with
the necessary troops, I shall do so ,• but not till then shall he or any part

OF MY TROOPS LEAVE THE SOD."

For this unjustifiable and outrageous course on the part of
Secretary Armstrong, no sufficient apology has ever been
assigned by him, and conjecture is baffled by the inquiry, why
a General, who, by the force of his military genius, had expelled
the enemy from our shores, had subdued a hostile territory,
who was neither accused nor suspected of any impropriety,
should be deprived of the command of the field where his
arms had triumphed. The second measure of the Secretary,
independent of the indignity offered to Harrison, was calculated
to destroy all discipline in the army.

It was well known that General Armstrong had long viewed
with acrimonious jealousy, the imperishable laurels won by
Harrison. Well might he regard with bitterness, therefore,
every new occasion for adding splendour to the halo which en-
circled the head of the gallant chief, who had already "fought

MORE BATTLES THAN ANY OTHER AMERICAN GENERAL, AND

never eost one." Few, however, deemed his envy of so
malignant a character, as to be able to impel him to a course
calculated to disgrace the service, tarnish the national honour,
and cast the apple of discord into the army.

It will be difficult, at this period, to trace out the true mo-
tives that induced the Secretary of War to the unjustifiable
course he pursued in this affair. But some knowledge of those
events of the war in which he bore a part, with a little insight
into human nature, would suggest that the leading causes
which prompted him, were the envy and jealousy which a
narrow-minded man would naturally feel, on contrasting his
own feeble efforts, and abortive attempts, with the consummate
skill and brilliant victories, and the almost uniform successes
of another. That he had acted in an arbitrary and unwarrant-
able manner, was afterwards clearly proved. And in the in-
vestigation which took place in Congress in the winter of
1816-17, it became so evident that General Harrison had been
treated with great injustice by the war department, that a re-



80 THELIFEOF

solution giving him a gold medal and the thanks of Congress,
was passed unanimously by the Senate, and with but one dis-
senting voice by the House of Representatives.

Mr. Secretary Armstrong was shortly after expelled from
office by the indignant Madison; and his name is now almost
forgotten, or if remembered is only kept alive by the suspicions
which attached to him, of having been accessory to the treason
of Hull ; whilst William Henry Harrison, the wronged
object of his violent opposition, has recently been nominated,
by an exalted body of his most distinguished fellow-citizens,
as a candidate for the highest office in their gift.

No sooner had the venerable and chivalrous Shelby, the
hero of King's Mountain, heard of the resignation of General
Harrison, than he addressed a letter to President Madison to
prevent his acceptance of it.* In this letter, dated May ISth,
IS 14, he remarked : —

" I feel no hesitation to declare to you, that I believe General Harrison to be one
of the first military characters that I ever knew, and in addition to this, he is capable
of making greater personal exertions than any officer with whom I have served. I
doubt not but it will be hereafter found that the command of the North-western army,
and the various duties attached to it, has been one of the most arduous and diffi-
cult tasks ever assigned to any officer in the United States."

Unfortunately for the interests and honour of the Republic,
President Madison was absent from the seat of government,
on a visit to Virginia, — the resignation of General Harrison
and the letter of Governor Shelby were forwarded to him, but
the latter was not received until after Secretary Armstrong,
without his knowledge or consent, had assumed to himself the
high prerogative of accepting the resignation. " The Presi-
dent/' says Mr. Dawson in his biography of Harrison, "ex-
pressed his great regret that the letter of Governor Shelby had
not been received earlier, as in that case the valuable services
of General Harrison would have been preserved to the nation
in the ensuing campaign." The vacancy created in the army

* It is worthy of note, as affording in itself conclusive evidence of his views in
regard to the conduct of Armstrong, that just before his death and during the Presi-
dential campaign of 1836, Mr. Madison requested his accomplished wife to search
among his papers for this letter of Governor Shelby, and transmit a copy to a friend
in Cincinnati for publication. This request she promptly complied with, and it is to
this incident that we are indebted for the above extract.



GENERAL HARRISON. 81

by the resignation of an officer so distinguished as General
Harrison, was not easily to be supplied. It was, however,
soon after filled by the appointment of General Jackson.

In this resignation, General Harrison evinced the true patriot-
ism and disinterestedness, which have always marked his con-
duct. He would cheerfully have devoted his services to his
country, even in an appointment inferior to that which should
have been assigned to him ; but he was too high-principled to
regain his rank, by yielding assent to measures which he con-
sidered to be subversive of military order and discipline ; and
though his own fortune had been shattered by the neglect of his
private affairs, for the benefit of the public, yet he scorned to
receive the pay and emoluments of his office, when he was no
longer permitted to perform its duties actively and honourably.

Soon after his resignation, in the summer of IS 14, Mr.
Madison evinced his unabated confidence in the abilities and
integrity of General Harrison, by appointing him to treat with
the Indians, in conjunction with his old companions in arms,
Governor Shelby and General Cass. And in the following
year, he was placed at the head of another commission, ap-
pointed to treat with the north-western tribes. The advan-
tageous treaties made in both these cases, afforded new instances
of the unfailing success, that has always attended General Har-
rison's negotiations with the Indians.

The leading events in the campaigns of 1812-13, — the gal-
lant defence of Fort Meigs, and the decisive victory of the
Thames, are lasting memorials of General Harrison's military
genius. Yet, for these achievements, he deserves far less praise
than for the skilful operations and the Fabian policy, which
led to these and other successes. The prudent care and inde-
fatigable exertions, by which he provided for his army in a
wild and devastated country — the promptness and unwearied
activity, with which he met and defeated the schemes of his
antagonists — and the admirable skill, with which he held in
check an enemy far superior in numbers, and with a small force
protected an extended line of frontier, and guarded the lives
and property of thousands of his fellow-citizens, betokened a
genius of the highest order, with a vigorous mind constantly
en the alert.

11



82 THELIFEOF

Thus closed the military career of Major-General Harrison,
one of America's most upright and successful commanders.
We hazard nothing in saying, that as an officer, he has had
but few equals ; in one particular, at all events, he seems to
have had no parallels — in securing and retaining the affections
of his officers and men. In an army of republicans, the love
which a soldier bears his commander, and the confidence he
places in him, are, at all times, the chief incentives to exertion.
The Americans, on becoming soldiers, never divest themselves
wholly of the character of citizens. Discipline may modify
their habits ; suffering and absence from home may for a time
estrange their domestic affections; still, they know and feel
that, in all the essential rights of man, they and their official
superiors are equals ; that the authority of the commander is
but a trust granted on account of superior knowledge or saga-
city, but which he holds, and is bound to exercise, for the
benefit of the whole. They know that when the invader shall
be expelled from the soil of freedom, they and their general
shall stand on the same level, enjoying the same rights, pro-
tected by the same laws, and obliged to render to society the
same duties.

So long as they continue bound to him by the silken chain
of affection, their obedience will be cheerful and implicit ; but
let them but once suspect his capacity or integrity, and the
voice of discord and insubordination will be heard, even amid
the din of battle or the plaudits of victory.

To these considerations Harrison seemed to have been fully
alive; and accordingly, we at all times find him, like Washing-
ton, scrupulously respectful of the rights and even feelings of
those who had enrolled themselves for the defence of their
country; willing, nay anxious to nullify the severity of military
discipline, and render it as consistent and conformable as pos-
sible with those civil rights for which they were contending.
He never caused a militia soldier to be punished during the
whole period of his military career. Few commanders can
say as much ; and yet no one ever enjoyed the confidence,
admiration and obedience of the militia to so great an extent.

It is scarcely necessary to state the estimation in which he
was held bv the officers under his command. In no instance



GENERAL HARRISON. 83

which has reached us, has the voice of one of them been raised
to discredit the commander who led them to victory: but to
their and his honour be it said, whenever he has been attacked
by the voice of calumny, they have, as by a common impulse,
rallied in his defence ; thus proving themselves worthy of the
laurels which they wear.

We cannot better illustrate the esteem and veneration with
which he has ever been regarded by the many brave officers
who are at all times proud to boast of having been his pupils,
than by copying the following eloquent remarks of Colonel
Richard M. Johnson, now Vice-President of the United
States, delivered in Congress, March 2d, 1S31.

" Who is General Harrison ! The son of one of the signers of the Declaration of
Independence ; who spent the greater part of his large fortune in redeeming the
pledge he then gave, of his ' fortune, life and sacred honour,' to secure the liberties
of his country. Of the career of General Harrison I need not speak ; the history of
the West is his history. For forty years he has been identified with its interests, its
perils and its hopes. Universally beloved in the walks of peace, and distinguished
by his ability in the councils of his country, he has been yet more illustriously dis-
tinguished in the field. During the late war, he was longer in active

SERVICE THAN ANT OTHER GENERAL OFFICER; HE WAS, PERHAPS, OFTENER ITS
ACTION THAN ANT ONE OF THEM, AND NEVER SUSTAINED A DEFEAT."

Although General Harrison had retired from the army, it
could not be expected that talents such as he possessed, would
long remain unemployed in a government based upon and sup-
ported by public opinion alone. Accordingly in the year 1816,
he was triumphantly elected by the people of Ohio, to fill a seat
in Congress, at that time vacated by the resignation of the Hon.
John McLean. To enable our readers to form some idea of
the feeling which pervaded the West in his favour at the time,
we will only state, that although there were six opposing can-
didates, the votes received by him exceeded the number polled
by the whole of them, more than one thousand. A more
triumphant vindication of his claims cannot well be conceived.
Republics have long been famed for ingratitude. The reproach
has at length become a by-word ; but we feel confident, that
in no case, where the merit of an individual has been known,
has it ever been unappreciated by the people, however it may
have been disregarded by their faithless servants.

Shortly after he took his seat in Congress, one of the army



84 THELIFEOF

contractors, whose unlawful aims had been defeated by the
rigid supervision of Harrison, uttered language which insinu-
ated against him and Richard M. Johnson, a charge of miscon-
duct, whilst the former was in command of the army. General
Harrison boldly met the charge, and solicited an investigation
by Congress.

A committee of Congress was appointed on the subject, who
reported that "General Harrison and Richard M. Johnson
stood above suspicion." At a subsequent stage of the inquiry,
the matter was referred to the Secretary of War, who reported
that General Harrison had been guilty of no impropriety of
conduct ; that upwards of a million and a half of dollars had
passed through his hands during the. war, no part of ivhich
had been applied to his oivn use ; that from the evidence fur-
nished to him, it appeared that General Harrison tvas poorer
at the end of the war than he teas at the beginning of it. In
relation to this subject, Mr. Hulbert (one of the committee)
remarked as follows : " In fine, I feel myself authorized

TO SAY, THAT EVERY MEMBER OF THE COMMITTEE IS FULLY
SATISFIED THAT THE CONDUCT OF GENERAL HARRISON, IN
RELATION TO THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THIS INQUIRY, HAS
BEEN THAT OF A BRAVE, HONEST AND HONOURABLE MAN."

Such testimony as this, in the hour of victory, when the
bosom of every American beat high and warm with the ex-
ultations of triumph, might derive a part of its weight from
the enthusiasm of national feeling; but let it be recollected
that this was some three years after the eclat of his victories
had pervaded the land. The report was made at a time of
profound peace, by a committee of Congress, acting under the
solemn obligations of an oath.

It was during the pendency of this inquiry that a resolution
was introduced into the Senate of the United States, by Mr.
Barlow, of Virginia, to grant to General Harrison and Governor
Shelby, a gold medal, commemorative of the services they had
rendered to the country. This resolution, on motion of Mr.
Laycock, of Pennsylvania, was postponed. The postponement
has lately been held up, by the opponents of General Harrison,
as a mark of disapprobation. But the reader will perceive, at
a glance, that it was impossible to pass it without prejudging



GENERAL HARRISON. 85

the questions submitted, at the instance of General Harrison,
to the committee of inquiry. Had it been passed, it was such
an evidence of the approval of Congress, as would have ren-
dered the inquiry useless. Had it been negatived, injustice
would have been done a brave and patriotic man. The only
course was to postpone it, and, at a day subsequent to the re-
port of the committee, the resolution came up and passed tkc
Senate unanimously, and the House of Representatives with
but one dissenting voice. The medal thus presented, was
worthy of the donors, and not less of him who was the reci-
pient of the honour.*

As a better opportunity will not be presented in the progress
of this hasty sketch of General Harrison's life, for relating the
following anecdote, and as we have just explained his triumph-
ant vindication from the calumny of one foe, we will here
take occasion to recount another.

A fellow, whose name was Mcintosh, feeling aggravated at
some restriction imposed on his traffic with the savages, openly
asserted that Governor Harrison had cheated the Indians in
the treaty at Fort Wayne, by which the United States had the
year before obtained so large a cession of lands from the Mi-
amies, Delawares, Pottawatomies and Kickapoos. As this ca-
lumny was industriously circulated, Governor Harrison thought
it due both to his own character, and to that of the general
government, that the charge should be fully and judicially in-
vestigated, while the subject was still fresh, and the testimony
in relation to the treaty at Fort Wayne was still within reach.
An action for slander was therefore brought against Mcintosh,
in the Supreme Court of the Territory, and every possible
measure was adopted to obtain a fair and impartial decision.
To insure this, two of the judges left the bench during the
trial— one being a friend of the governor, and the other of the
defendant; leaving the case to be adjudicated by the third
judge, who had but recently arrived in the Territory, and was
but slightly acquainted with either of the parties. All the
facts connected with the negotiation of the treaty of Fort

* It is not unworthy of remark that General Laycock, who, pending the inquiry,
moved the postponement of the resolution, supported General Harrison when a can-
didate for President, in 1835-6.

H



86 THELIFEOF

Wayne, were critically inquired into, and the defendant was
allowed every opportunity to examine all the persons engaged
in the Indian Department, or who were acquainted with the
circumstances attendant upon the making of this treaty. But
the more this subject was investigated, the more clearly did it
manifest the strict honour and integrity of Governor Harrison ;
vuitil, at length, convinced of this, the counsel of Mcintosh
abandoned all plea of justification, and asked only for a miti-
gation of damages. The jury returned a verdict of four
thousand dollars against the defendant ; a heavy verdict in a
new country, where money is always scarce, and damages
given by juries in such cases are generally very small. A
large amount of the defendant's property was sold the following
year to satisfy this judgment, and was bought in by the agent
of the governor while he himself was absent in command of
the army. Two-thirds of this property Governor Harrison
afterwards returned to Mcintosh, and the remainder he dis-
tributed among the orphan children of some of his gallant
fellow-citizens ivho fell in battle during the last war! Such
acts need no comment : while magnanimity, disinterestedness
and generosity are prized among men, the tongue of praise
even can scarcely do them justice.

Mr. Hall remarks, that General Harrison had two objects in
view, in accepting the seat in Congress. They were,

1st The introduction of an efficient Military System.

2d. To procure relief for the veteran soldiers who had served in the two wars of
Independence.

He was placed at the head of the committee to whom the
organization of the Militia system was referred, and in due
time, introduced a bill accompanied with a report, in which he
endeavoured to establish these points :

1st. " That a government like ours should rely upon its militia for defence, rather
than on a standing army.

2d. " That the militia should be disciplined.

3d. " That a state of discipline adequate to the object, could only be obtained, by
a system of instruction combined with the ordinary education of youth."

Our limits will not permit us to furnish our readers with an
abstract of his arguments on this subject, the theory of which
\vas so ably sustained by the experience of its author, but will
content ourselves with remarking that it was "submitted to



GENERAL HARRISON. 87

the executive, and was approved by all the heads of depart-
ments, especially by Mr. Monroe and Mr. Crawford.''''

Whilst in Congress, Harrison warmly advocated the acknow-
ledgment of the independence of the South American Republics,
and made some of the most eloquent speeches delivered on the
subject.

At the expiration of his term of service in Congress, in 1819,
he was elected by the people of Ohio to the State Senate, in
which he served for some time with his usual eminent ability.

In the year 1S24, he was elected by the Legislature of Ohio,
to the Senate of the United States, in which body he succeeded
GeneralJackson as Chairman of the Committee on Military
Affairs. While serving in this high station, he commanded
universal respect. His views as a statesman were liberal and
extended; his remarkable readiness in debate soon rendered
him a prominent member ; and the nervous and impassioned
eloquence, and classical felicity of illustration, with which he
enforced his arguments, gained him irresistible influence. He
introduced a bill into the Senate to reduce the duty on salt, and
was the most zealous champion of a bill to confer the appoint-
ment of cadets at West Point on the sons of those who had
fallen in battle. He also warmly urged the claims of our vete-
ran soldiers upon government for support ; and although un-
successful in procuring a modification of our pension system,
his efforts on this subject cannot soon be forgotten by those who
were the objects of his humane interposition. The next dis-
tinguished station filled by Harrison, was that of Envoy Extra-
ordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary -to the Republic of Co-
lombia, to which he was appointed in the year 1826. The
difficulties which he found existing in that Republic, induced
him to write his celebrated letter to Bolivar, dated at Bogota,
September 27, 1829. We hazard little in saying, that in point
of sound republican doctrine, it is second to no document
extant.

Since his return from this mission, he has lived, like Wash-
ington and Cincinnatus, in comparative retirement, upon his
farm at North Bend, on the Ohio, about sixteen miles below
the city of Cincinnati. A visiter, unacquainted with the illus-
trious old patriot, would discern nothing in his demeanour,



88 THELIFEOF

habits, occupation or manners, to distinguish him from that
intelligent and industrious class of our countrymen to whom
Jefferson declared " we are to look for the preservation of our
liberties," — the yeomanry op America ! Plain and unosten-
tatious, hospitable to a fault, aud generous to all who claim his
bounty, his farm-house is the resort of the indigent and needy
from almost every quarter of the country. No soldier who has
served under him, ever passes his mansion without sharing his
hospitality. Though his resources are by no means inexhaust-
ible, no meritorious victim of misfortune has ever appealed to
his benevolence in vain. In addition to his own family, he is
rearing and educating two grandsons, who are also the grand-
sons of the gallant and glorious General Pike.

With the most enticing opportunities of accumulating wealth,
during his long government of Indiana and superintendency of
Indian affairs, he acquired none ; his honest and scrupulous
integrity were proof against the golden temptations. His time
and best energies were devoted to the service of his country, and
his own interests were ever with him a secondary consideration.
He even, when Governor of Indiana, greatly diminished the
usual emoluments of such an office, by refusing to accept any of
those fees, whether as Governor or as Superintendent of Indian


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Online LibraryGeorge UpfoldThe life of Major-General William Henry Harrison: comprising a brief account of his important civil and military services, and an accurate description of the council at Vincennes with Tecumseh, as well as the victories of Tippecanoe, Fort Meigs and the Thames → online text (page 8 of 9)