History books often portray the American Revolution as a simple fight between right and wrong. Colonists were "right," and the British were "wrong." Setting up the war in this way makes it easy to glorify the colonists and vilify the British. George Washington becomes a hero, almost god-like, and the colonial army a group of dedicated and honorable young men.
McCullough's book presents an image of the war and the war's principal players in a more open view. In reading this book, understand that he wants to show the most accurate picture of the first year of the war that he can—flaws and all. He sets out to show that war and independence was not a universal goal of all colonists. He paints George Washington as a snob and a dilettante who, although talented, often missteps in his military planning.
McCullough does not paint over the truths of the time period and writes about the slovenly and often drunken nature of the soldiers. He casts a shadow on the belief that all men were diligently fighting for their right to freedom—many deserted not believing in the cause or not eager to be soldiers.
This book should be read as one version of "truth" surrounding the start of the American Revolution and look for areas in each chapter where McCullough challenges the pretty picture painted by history books.