Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Henry Thomas Harrison, born April 23, 1832

Henry Thomas Harrison, the son of Henry Hargrove Harrison and Rebecca Pearson Harrison, was born near Nashville on April 23, 1832.

He was 29 years old when the Civil War began.

Beginning of Civil War, 1861
At the start of the Civil War in spring 1861, Harrison joined the Mississippi State Militia as a private.  In November 1861, Harrison was discharged from the Militia.

He eventually became a spy for Confederate Secretary of War, James Seddon.

James Seddon
In April 1863, Harrison met James Longstreet during the Battle of Suffolk.  From that point on, Harrison provided information for Longstreet, which usually proved to be reliable. Also, to maintain the loyalty of his prized spy, Longstreet frequently paid Harrison in U.S. gold coins.
James Longstreet
On the night of June 28, 1863, Harrison came to General Robert E. Lee with information about the Union positions. 

Robert E. Lee

Lee had never heard of Harrison before, but Longstreet had known Harrison since the beginning of that year.  No one on Longstreet's staff even knew Harrison's first name. (Longstreet must have known because he obtained a photograph of Harrison for his published memoirs, From Manassas to Appomattox, published in 1896.)

Harrison's information was plausible enough for Lee to halt his entire army. Harrison reported that the Union had left Frederick, Maryland and was moving northward, which was true. As a result of Harrison's information, Lee told all of his troops to concentrate in the vicinity of Cashtown, Pennsylvania, eight miles from Gettysburg, thereby triggering the events that led to the Battle of Gettysburg.
Battle of Gettysburg
After Gettysburg, Harrison operated mostly in the North, gathering intelligence.  

Harrison married Laura Broders on September 28, 1863 in Washington, D.C.  They had two daughters, Elizabeth (Bessie), born November 6, 1864, and Mary Irene, born July 27, 1866.  
They lived in New York.  None of his subsequent intelligence ever matched the importance of his discovery in the days before Gettysburg.

Laura Broders Harrison
After the war, Harrison took his wife and daughters to Mexico. In 1866, facing marital difficulties, Harrison left Mexico to prospect for gold in Montana.  

For the period of 1867 to 1892, Harrison's exact whereabouts remain unknown.  His wife, Laura, assumed that he was dead and later remarried. 

Cincinnati, ca. 1890s
In 1893, Harrison moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Late in 1900, Harrison traveled to Fairfax, Virginia in an attempt to visit his daughters.  His overture was rebuffed by his daughters' family.
Photograph of Harrison in his sixties
published in Longstreet's Memoirs in 1896
In 1901, Harrison got a job in Cincinnati as a detective for the Municipal Reform League.  He was the agent for the League, an organization which began crusading against gambling and other forms of vice in the city.  Harrison also obtained the conviction of a man who was exhibiting a "lewd" picture machine. This person drew the largest fine ever assessed in Police Court, $2,000.

In 1912, he moved to Covington, Kentucky and applied for a Confederate pension. 

On October 28, 1923, Harrison died in Covington at the age of 91. 

He was buried at Highland Cemetery in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.  

Harrison's Grave
A Confederate Veteran headstone was set up at his grave on May 18, 2003. 

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