A Child of the Revolution
Kent State University Press ($50.00)
The American Revolution created a new nation but destroyed or damaged lives in the process. Young Billy Harrison, a planter's son with his boyhood world in shambles, abandoned the luxury and slavery of Virginia to serve his new country on the frontier, fighting the Indians and the British. He became a warrior and a student of Indian culture, the youngest white man to sign a major treaty. And he found a wife.
Thomas P. Slaughter, University of Rochester: "The author is a magician who pulls the youthful, and all but invisible, William Henry Harrison from an Ohio Valley hat. The rabbit is an entertaining surprise, and the trick displays the practiced skill of a talented writer and researcher."
David Curtis Skaggs, author of Oliver Hazard Perry and other books: "Using a thorough analysis of the social, intellectual, economic, geographic, political, and military environments in which young william Henry Harrison lived, Rik Booraem explains, as no one has before, the factors creating the personality of a future president."
Thomas G. Kuhn, Ross County Historical Society, in Northwest Ohio History: "Booraem is a masterful writer, and his latest book is enjoyable to read."
"All indications are that imposing discipline on his men was the weakest part of Harrison's performance in his early years as an officer. It is easy to understand why: he was younger than most of the men he commanded and not physically imposing, even if did manage to master the 'loud and distinct voice' Steuben prescribed. His cheerful, easygoing personality may have played a part as well: soldiers who served under him then and later recalled him as a considerate commander who took an interest in their problems. Such recollections may also explain the comment of the Indiana political adversary who said that Harrison could imitate a blackguard as well as any man he ever saw: Harrison was thoroughly familiar with the lingo of disreputable lower-class men because he had no difficulty relating to them. Sympathy of this kind could interfere with command relationships. At a fairly early date, General Wayne took Harrison out of the chain of command and put him on his staff, where his handwriting, his education, and his manners could be of most use -- and where discipline was not an issue.
Harrison himself seems to have been thoroughly happy with his adaptation to military life. His conduct displayed one of the hallmarks of the military personality as it was understood in the eighteenth century -- a casualness about receiving or inflicting pain. In a letter to his brother in 1794, he declared himself ready to personally flog an army doctor who had cheated him in a money transaction. A couple of phrases in that letter eloquently express Harrison's satisfaction with his position: 'I have been long enough a soldier to have learned, that there is no disgrace in a well meant & well conducted enterprise, even if it should fail of its object,' and, even more telling, 'while I wear [an officer's] sword & the livery of my country I will not disgrace them by owning myself inferior to any person.'" (from Chapter 11,"Legionville and a Trip East")