Harriet Lovejoy Leavenworth began her life as an army wife the day she became the third wife of Major Henry Leavenworth. Her traveling days with the Army began the day after her wedding when she accompanied her husband and 430 men from Delaware County, New York to campaign against the British the winter of 1814-1815.
In 1817 Colonel Leavenworth was sent to the Northwest Territory as an Indian Agent. Two years later, Harriet and their daughter, Alida began their frontier existence when they joined Henry in Prairie de Chien, Wisconsin and later at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. On the journey to join her husband, she and Alida traveled from New York to New Orleans then up the Mississippi to St. Louis. At St. Louis they were met by 14 Indians sent by Colonel Leavenworth to accompany his family along the last leg of the journey. For 33 days they traveled in an Indian palanquin. Harriet was the first white woman to cross through that remote wilderness.
Harriet became a hostess on the frontier for visiting government officials and travelers. She added style and grace to the mundane life of the frontier. Though the Leavenworth’s time at Fort Snelling was short, Henry chose to leave a tribute to his wife. At Minneapolis, Minnesota, Lake Harriet continues to remind us of this Frontier Army Wife.
In 1820 the Leavenworth’s left for Jefferson Barracks. Frequent separation resulted from expeditions and Indian affairs. Seven years later, Colonel Leavenworth crossed the Missouri River to establish “Cantonment Leavenworth”. There is no evidence that Harriet and Alida accompanied him on the trip. Later the post was renamed Fort Leavenworth in 1832.
Harriet’s life as a Frontier Army wife ended in 1834 with the untimely death of General Henry Leavenworth while he was on an expedition in Indian Territory. She and Alida returned home to live in her native New York State bringing with her the remains of her husband. General Leavenworth’s remains were later transferred to the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth.
Alida died only 5 years after her father at the age of 24. Harriet did not follow her family in death until 1854 at the age of 63. Harriet and her daughter are both buried in Newburgh, New York.
Harriet was remembered as a kind and consoling nurse to the wounded and dying soldiers during the War of 1812. Of the 420 men she accompanied the morning after her wedding only 28 survived to return home with Henry and Harriet Leavenworth.