WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON
As the Whig Party candidate for President, Harrison devotes 3 pages
to defending his conduct at the Battle of the Thames (War of 1812). He is so
anxious to vindicate his military record that he is traveling to Cincinnati to
have copies of depositions made and published! Harrison's signature is rare,
especially so close to the date of his brief Presidency!
Autograph Letter signed: "W. H. Harrison", 3 pages with
integral address leaf, 7¼x12½. North Bend (Ohio), 1840 February 14.
To Moses B. Corwin, House of Representatives of Ohio. In full:
"Your letter of the 10th was brought to me yesterday from Cincinnati.
I had seen an article in the journal that Flood was charged with having written
in his place, an assertion that I was not in the sortie of the Thames. I
immediately addressed a note to him which I enclosed to General [Joseph] Vance
demanding to know whether he had made such an assertion and the ground upon
which it was made. In answer to my letter to him, the general expressed an
opinion that I gave too much importance to the matter and declined delivering my
note to Flood until he would hear from me again. By the late mail, I wrote to
him to destroy my note to Flood. Your letter gives a new aspect to the affair
and I enclose another note to Flood which I will thank you to deliver to Genl. V
& ask him to deliver it ask for an immediate and explicit reply particularly
as to the ground that the accusation was made. I think that it is absolutely
necessary to probe this matter to the bottom and it shall be done. If we
were passed over when the charge was made and in such a place as the House of
Representatives of Ohio it would be referred to everywhere as conclusive
evidence of its truth. Are you aware that 'McAffees history of the late war',
published in Kentucky directly after the war for which you have no doubt known
was written by one of [General Washington] Johnston's Captains who was present
in the battle? That he has ever been an administration man. Lt. Gov. of Ky &
Minister to Columbia appointed by Genl. Jackson? Another history has been
written in Kentucky by [Edward] Mann Butler of Louisville when he treats of the
battle in the same way with McAffee. But to the particular object of your
letter, there are four distinguished men now alive who were by my side during
the whole of the battle & who knew everything that I saw or did from the
commencement to the end of the action. They are 1st Col. Charles Todd who
resides near Shelbyville KY. He was during the campaign acting inspector Genl of
the Army. 2nd Genl John O'Fallon of St. Louis he as my first aide de camp then
later was a captain in the regular army & highly distinguished. 3dly Honbl.
John Chambers of Washington Kentucky Many years a Member of Congress & 4th
John Speed Smith many years a Member of the Congress & Speaker of the H
of R of Ky.
The two had joined me as Volunteers, and I appointed them Volunteer Aides de
Camp. All of them are opposition men but Smith. He has always heretofore been of
the Administration and I understand that he was to become their candidate for
Gov. ... [They are of such] high standing that no man will ever impugn
their testimony. Smith will be as decided as any of them. They were
[illegible phrase] by Dawson at Cincinnati when he was writing his work.
They answered his questions I think in the shape of Depositions. They are to
be found at the end of Dawson's work, but as you may not have it at Columbus I
shall go to Cincinnati today and will cause them to be copied and sent to Athens
to be immediately published. I beg you in the meantime to write to each of
the above men any questions you think necessary to ask. [phrase illegible]
Ask if Col. Johnston had any other hand in it than that of leading his own
Regt., as other Cols. did theirs. [phrase illegible] the Army was not a
combination of the new European tactics with those accepted by General Wayne.
When on the day of the Action not a man in the Army but understood what I had
taught. What was my audience and where was I through the action and together
Capt. Perry did one or two [last 2 lines on page illegible] myself in the
manner I did. Col. Johnston led his Regt. as I directed him as well as any
man could but he could no more have [led the whole army] at this time
than you who I think to have been a child at the time. In sum he did not know
what the plan was. How could I [?] to him as it was to the General
Officers. & I am certain that he was not acquainted with the manner in which
the troops were drawn up with the exception of his own Regt., until he saw my
letter to the Secy. of War many weeks after the event. [signature] P.S.
Show this letter to Gen. Vance that he may know the grounds upon which
communication is based. You may rely upon the facts stated as having been
supported by ample and impartial testimony." William Henry Harrison
(1773-1841), the ninth US President, was also the last born before the
Declaration of Independence, and the shortest survivor in office. Harrison
had a respectable political resume as a US Representative (1816-1819), US
Senator (1825-1828), Ambassador to Columbia (1828-1829), and territorial
governor of the Northwest Territory, of Louisiana, and of Indiana,
successively. However his successful Presidential campaign of 1840 - his
second bid for the office - was based more on his military record, particularly
his victory over an American Indian coalition at the Battle of Tippecanoe (1811)
and against the British and Indian force in the Battle of the Thames, War of
1812. His prospects benefited from both the unpopularity of President Van
Buren, and his Whig Party's image-oriented campaign for "Tippecanoe and Tyler
too," falsely championing the wealthy Harrison as the "log cabin and hard cider"
candidate. Without his war record, however, Harrison would have lost much of
his claim to leadership, so his quick and active response in this letter to any
questioning of his military record was essential. Harrison delivered the
longest inaugural address in history on a bitterly cold March day, caught
pneumonia, and died one month later (April 4, 1841). This elevated to the
Presidency John Tyler, who opposed most of Harrison's Whig policies. Heavily
toned and creased. Edges frayed with multiple notches. Multiple mailing folds.
Corners and edges worn and creased. Multiple soiled spots throughout letter.
Torn at lower right edge on page 3. Seal at center right edge page 3. Top edge
heavily frayed. Mounting residue on verso. Sticker at top right corner.
For more documents by these signers click the names below:
PRESIDENT WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON
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