Not only did the metal of such men as he commanded stand fire on the seventeenth of June, 1775, at Breed’s Hill, but when he followed up the expulsion of the garrison of Boston by the equally aggressive demonstrations at New York, he gave assurance of the thoroughness of his purpose to achieve independence, and thereby inspired confidence at home and abroad. The failure to realize a competent field force for the issue with Howe, and the circumstances of the retreat and evacuation, do not impair the statement that, in view of his knowledge of British resources and those of America, the occupation and defence of Brooklyn and New York was a military necessity, warranted by existing conditions, and not impaired by his disappointment in not securing a sufficient force to meet his enemy upon terms of equality and victory. It increases our admiration of that strategic forethought which habitually inspired him to maintain an aggressive attitude, until the surrender at Yorktown consummated his plans, and verified his wisdom and his faith.
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Twenty-six miles northwest from Boston, on the banks of the Merrimack at its confluence with the Concord, is situated the city of Lowell,—the Spindle City, the Manchester of America. The Merrimack, which affords the chief water-power that gives life to the thousand industries of Lowell, takes its rise among the White Mountains, in New Hampshire, its source being in the Notch of the Franconia Range, at the base of Mount Lafayette. For many miles it dashes down toward the sea, known at first as the Pemigewasset, until finally its waters are joined by the outflow from Lake Winnipiseogee, and a great river is formed, which, in its fall of several hundred feet, offers immense power to the mechanic. Past Penacook the river glides, its volume increased by the Contcocook; through fertile intervales, over rapids and falls, past Suncook and Hooksett, it comes to the Falls of Amoskeag, where Lowell’s fair rival is built; thence onward past Nashua, to the Falls of Pawtucket, where its waters are thoroughly utilized to propel the machinery of a great city.
The men are still living who have witnessed the growth of Lowell from an inconsiderable village to a great manufacturing city, whose fabrics are as world-renowned as those of Marseilles and Lyons, or ancient Damascus.
[Illustration: LOWELL AS IT APPEARED IN 1840.]
With the dawn of American history, the Penacooks, a tribe of Indians, were known to have occupied the site of Lowell as their favorite rendezvous. Here the salmon and shad were caught in great abundance by the dusky warriors. Passaconaway was their first great chief known to the white man, and he was acknowledged as leader by many neighboring tribes. He was a friend to the English. Before the coming of the Pilgrims a great plague had swept over New England, making desolate the Indian villages.