James G. Webb to the Editors of The Old Soldier, 2 March 1840To the Editors of the Old Soldier:
Still keeping in mind the scenes and events of 1812 and '13, it is with pleasure I bear testimony to the humanity and bravery of our General—Wm. H. Harrison,—being as well acquainted with him and his conduct, as any private soldier in his army. At the first address he made to his officers and soldiers at St. Mary’s Block House, on the St. Mary’s river, four regiments were formed in solid column around the Hero of Tippecanoe. I never can forget that on that occasion, he told his soldiers if there was any of them who could not stand the privations of a soldier’s life—hard fighting, cold, hunger and nakedness— if he would make it known by hoisting his musket, he would give him an honorable discharge. But to the honor of ‘Old Kentuck’ only one man shouldered his musket. This was an evidence of his humanity, in giving to such as were unable to perform a soldier’s duty, the privilege of returning to their homes. In that address to his soldiers, he said, that he would be with them in all their dangers—that he wanted to meet the enemy on equal terms, and to beat them, and save the lives of his brave soldiers. He also said it did not show good generalship in a general, although he beat his enemy, to get his army cut up. At the close of that speech the boys from ‘Old Kentuck,’ made the frontiers of Ohio ring with their shouts. For the present, I shall close my notice of this part of the campaign. But to you my companions, who bore arms, and were in the several memorable battles, where cannon roared, where shells flew, where muskets and rifles carried death before them—in which our brave General was always victorious—I would say, as we once flocked around him in victory, in “days that tried men’s souls,” we will gather round him again, spread our banners to the breeze, and contend for another glorious victory! There is no danger of being defeated. Our gallant commander never lost a battle!
Lift up your heads, my old worn out brother Soldiers! Your general is in the field—again rally around him. Do your duty, and your general at your head, on the 4th of March next, will mount the bastions, at the City of Washington, with the watch-word, “the White House is ours!” Defend the cause of your country, and its liberties. Remember [our forefathers] fought and bled for the freedom we now enjoy, and let our determination be never to surrender our rights to men who will not administer the government right, and who care for nothing but office. You hear the abuse lavished on our beloved commander by his enemies. You know that their statements against him are false. Contradict them. Testify to the truth. Be brave as on the field of the battle.—You once did your duty and prospered, and you will prosper again. Load and prime—Be always ready.1JAMES G. WEBB.Lick Creek, Sangamon County,
March 2, 1840.
1Amos Kendall, director of Martin Van Buren’s re-election bid in 1840, instead of trying to defend the president, who had become increasingly unpopular due to his stumbling response to the Panic of 1837, launched a newspaper campaign attacking Harrison’s physical fitness for office, military exploits, and civic achievements. Harrison had only a sparse legislative record, so Kendall and the Democratic press often focused on his military career, where there was more grist for the mill. In particular, critics charged Harrison with cowardice and incompetence during the Battle of Tippecanoe.
Gail Collins, William Henry Harrison (New York: Times Books, 2012), 109-10.
Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), The Old Soldier (Springfield, IL), 14 March 1840, 3:1.