9th President William Henry Harrison: Kentucky Militia, Major General; Virtually all of Harrison’s life, there had been armed conflict somewhere in America—the Revolution, skirmishes with Native Americans, land disputes with the Spanish and French. The military offered an opportunity for a bright, aspiring young man to make a name for himself. Soon after leaving medical studies, Harrison used his family’s connections with the Lee and Washington families to procure an officer’s rank in an infantry division. The eighteen-year-old Harrison rounded up about eighty thrill-seekers and troublemakers off Philadelphia’s streets, talked them into signing enlistment papers, and marched them to his assigned post, Fort Washington in the Northwest Territory.
The young man had entered the army as an ensign, the lowest officer’s rank, but he made a strong impression and quickly won promotion to lieutenant. The fort’s commander, General Mad Anthony Wayne, made the handsome, polished Harrison his aide after a little more than a year of service there.
Mad Anthony commanded Fort Washington, near present-day Cincinnati—an installation established to protect settlers against Native Americans and the British agents who incited them. By 1794, matters had reached the boiling point, and General Wayne readied the fort for a large-scale assault by Indian forces. Harrison fought bravely and well, winning a citation from General Wayne for his valor: “I must add the name of my faithful and gallant Aide-de-camp . . . Lieutenant Harrison, who . . . rendered the most essential service by communicating my orders in every direction . . . conduct and bravery exciting the troops to press for victory.” The rousing victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers ended the strong Native American presence in that part of the Northwest Territory, opening it for colonization. After Wayne’s death in 1795, Captain Harrison took command of Fort Washington.