Title Reviewed:
A Child of the Revolution: William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798

Author Reviewed:
Hendrik Booraem V

Anita Morgan


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 109, Issue 3, pp 278-279

Article Type:
Book Review

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A Child of the Revolution
William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773-1798

By Hendrik Booraem V
(Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2012. Pp. vii, 252. Maps, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $45.00.)

Hendrik Booraem makes clear from the beginning of this impressive work that “the reader can expect to find a great deal about Harrison’s world and less about the young man himself” (p. viii). This disclaimer will not surprise anyone familiar with Booraem’s other books on the early lives of Andrew Jackson, Calvin Coolidge, and James Garfield. Setting the context is an essential part of all of Booraem’s carefully crafted biographies.

Combining letters and other primary sources penned by Harrison and those who knew him with a variety of public documents, Booraem recreates the worlds of the Virginia tidewater and the Ohio territory, essentially dividing the book into two sections. He guides the young Harrison through his childhood at the end of the Revolutionary era and his father’s decision to send his son to an obscure academy where—apparently to his father’s displeasure—young Harrison dabbled in the Methodist faith. These contacts probably led to Harrison’s later decision to join a Virginia abolitionist society. Then, just as Harrison prepares to enter into the study of medicine in Philadelphia, his father dies, leaving him with the first real opportunity to determine his own destiny. In spite of the admonitions of many of his father’s friends, he opts for a life in the military. At this point, the second half of his story begins, and readers spend the rest of the book in the Ohio country as Harrison settles into military life, learns about Native American diplomacy and warfare, and marries. The book ends with a twenty-five-year-old Harrison about to leave the military for a career in politics.

At times, the details used to describe Harrison’s personal relationships, the machinations of the military, and frontier diplomacy overshadow the man himself. Given the scant resources available for Harrison’s early childhood and adolescent years, Booraem makes plausible connections, and ties together the sources into well-reasoned conclusions. For example, the author handles Harrison’s introduction to Methodism with skill, never straying far from the sources. Booraem’s historiographical arguments stay in the well-written, informative footnotes—a bonus both for the scholarly reader and for those who just want to find out more about Harrison. The scholar will find interesting discussions about Methodism and anti-slavery societies in Virginia in the notes, while the narrative gives enough detail to inform the reader without the distraction of side discussions.

This book should find a wideranging audience, including historians interested in biographical writing, undergraduates in classes on the Old Northwest and post-revolutionary America, as well as the general public.

ANITA MORGAN is Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of History at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.