The American Revolution was, like many conflicts that inflame the world today, multifaceted. An expeditionary force sent across the ocean by England implied a foreign war, the more because of the Hessian mercenaries. The Revolution was also a civil war, on not one but various levels. The patriots were revolting against their "rightful sovereign." In America, there was conflict between the loyalists and the rebels. The various states, which had as colonies always been kept by British policy politically independent of each other, did not find cooperation easy. And over all hung the perpetual danger of bloody confrontations inside the patriot cause between the haves and the have-nots, the conservatives and the radicals.
Toward victory in this multitude of conflicts, the determining battle- fields were not those we read about in history books: Brooklyn Heights, Germantown, Saratoga, or even Yorktown. The determining conflicts were tens of thousands of invisible engagements fought within the tiny compass of human skulls.
As could be foretold from the confusion of issues, the allegiance of the American people was far from settled when the war began, and it fluctuated as events unrolled. There were at the two extremes loyalists or revolutionaries so absolutely committed that they could not be budged, but the vast majority were pulled this way and that like small boats caught in a succession of whirlpools.
George Washington dreamed, of course, of a military stroke that would drive the invaders out of the continent, but he came to realize that, in the militarily indecisive conflict, the winning or losing of battles--unless one was decisive was primarily important for building up or losing public confidence. And, in the long run, the predominance of American popular opinion would determine the outcome of the war.
The British recognized only to a minor degree the importance of holding or securing popular allegiance to the Crown. The ruling class suf