William Henry Harrison
| After a brief stint
in the army, Harrison became the territorial Governor of Indiana at the
young age of twenty-seven. In an effort to extend U.S. sovereignty westward,
he negotiated several treaties with neighbouring First Nations.
In 1810, Harrison invited the Shawnee leader Tecumseh to his estate in Vincennes, Indiana. Harrison was impressed by the Shawnee chief's eloquence and determination to protect native lands. Harrison was equally determined to acquire more territory, and he had the power of the U.S. government. The talks dragged on for days to no avail.
Following another unfruitful meeting in July of 1811, Harrison began to plan a military expedition against Prophet's Town, Tecumseh's stronghold on the Tippecanoe Creek. Tecumseh was away recruiting the southern tribes when Harrison's forces approached. The Prophet, Tenskwatawa, (Tecumseh's brother) was well aware of Harrison's intentions and directed a surprise dawn attack on the sleeping soldiers. The warriors put up a stiff fight but their courage was no match for the white soldiers' superior weapons. Although the engagement was by no means a clear cut victory for Harrison's force, the Battle of Tippecanoe won him instant celebrity among the white settlers.
Harrison returned to Vincennes to resume his governorship. He was increasingly wary of the "Native problem" because he knew that Tecumseh was in contact with British forces in Canada. He shared his concerns with the Madison administration which responded by increasing its military presence in the northwest shortly before the war began.
William Hull's embarrassing surrender at Detroit was one of the first of a series of US military debacles. Secretary of War William Eustis wanted to replace Hull with James Winchester, however, this older man was quite unpopular with the militia. Ultimately, the ambitious and popular Harrison was given the command of all forces in the Northwest and Winchester was assigned to be his second-in-command.
In early 1813, Harrison was told to maintain a defensive position. He began constructing a chain of forts, including Fort Meigs on the Maumee River. In of May 1813, the British-First Nations Army under Henry Procter and Tecumseh bombarded Fort Meigs. The British siege was not successful.