The war was not going well, despite a surge in troop levels augmented by privately contracted military support. In the halls of government, the opposition party declared that those members who supported an expensive and unjust war were criminally responsible for its mismanagement and that the public had been "deceived and misled" by the administration. Casualties were on the rise and the cost of waging the war was becoming ruinously expensive.
It was widely believed that the insurgency, which had dragged on for years, would be impossible to suppress, for there simply were not enough troops available and the hit and run tactics used by the enemy were very difficult to counter. They were often indistinguishable from civilians, and the insurgency was daily taking on the character of a bloody civil war pitting neighbor against neighbor. Those who supported the occupying forces were especially targeted, assaulted and dispossessed. While some of these who remained loyal to the government fought the insurgency alongside the regular troops, their numbers fell well below expectations and with a few notable exceptions they were unreliable in battle. Atrocities were regularly committed on both sides, and the economy of the occupied territories was in shambles. Nearly 1/3 of the buildings in one of its major cities were fire-gutted shells.
The war had stretched the country's military capacity very thin, emboldening its enemies and raising the specter of wider conflict. Some of these enemies were known to be covertly supporting the insurgents with war material and foreign fighters. There was increasing pressure to start drawing down troops and redeploying them where the real threat lay.
This was the situation facing Great Britain in the winter of 1778.