Political campaigns can turn the nation into a veritable battleground. Perhaps it is fitting then, that the place where the modern political campaign is said to have been launched is the town of Battle Ground, Indiana. Just outside of Lafayette, Battle Ground was so named as the site of a definitive showdown in 1811 between Shawnee Indians and American forces under the command of William Henry Harrison, then Governor of the Indiana Territory.
The Battle of Tippecanoe, as the conflict is remembered, effectively decimated the native stronghold and fueled Harrison’s military reputation and political career. Proceeding to distinguish himself in the War of 1812, “Old Tippecanoe,” as Harrison came to be known, went on to represent Ohio in the House and the Senate before running for president on the Whig ticket in 1836. Although he failed to defeat Martin Van Buren that year, in 1840 Harrison chose a spot at the convergence of the Wabash and the Tippecanoe Rivers to rally support for his second bid for the presidency. More than 30,000 supporters journeyed to the Tippecanoe Battlefield on May 29, 1840 to join in festivities that included bands, floats, copious refreshments, stump speeches and songs, branded with the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!”
Having co-opted his opponents’ criticism that the elderly candidate wanted only “a barrel of hard cider… a pension of two thousand [dollars] a year…and…to sit the remainder of his days in his log cabin,” Harrison and running mate John Tyler parlayed their Log Cabin campaign into victory. Although Harrison’s White House tenure would prove fleeting, Old Tipp’s battlefield rally has set the tone for every campaign since.