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At 18 years of age Harrison recruited a company of 80 men and persuaded them to fight indians in the western wilderness for two dollars a month. He made a strong impression and quickly won a promotion to lieutenant. After little more than a year the Fort Washington Commander, General Mad Anthony Wayne, made Harrison his aide.

Harrison was cited for bravery at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (August 20, 1794). This battle ended the strong Native American presence in the area, opening it for colonization.