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After the Civil War, drifter Logan Cates travels through Apache desert lands on his way to Yuma, Arizona. Logan stops when he hears the muffled cries of a woman and finds young Junie Hatchett, the sole survivor of a wagon train massacre who has been left to die by the Indians. Logan helps the traumatized Junie onto his horse and with little water left, they head for the oasis at Apache Wells. At the wells, they find Lonnie Foreman, a nineteen-year-old whose friends had also been killed by the Apaches. They are soon joined by Grant Kimbrough and his fiancée, Jennifer Fair, on their way to Yuma to take the stage East. Kimbrough, who led a Confederate cavalry detachment during the war, bristles at following Logan's suggestion that they wait until dark before leaving. Logan and Jennifer had once been sweethearts, but he left her because he felt that the life of a drifter was not for a woman. After the group is joined by six cavalry soldiers, Sgt. Sheehan and Pvts. Zimmerman, Graves, Conley, Styles and Webb, survivors of an Apache attack, Logan realizes that Churupati, a renegade chief, is on the loose again. The soldiers, having experienced their first Apache skirmish, question the wisdom of staying, but Sheehan, formerly a desk sergeant from St. Louis, adheres to Logan's advice. Soon Churupati and his men have the group boxed in. Rather than attack, the Indians fire and snipe at them. When Lugo, a half-Pima Indian, sneaks into the oasis on the run from the law, Zimmerman wants to kill him because he's an Indian, but Logan, knowing that the Pimas and Apaches are enemies, asks Lugo to stay and help fight. Sheehan objects that Lugo is wanted for the murder of a soldier, but Lugo claims that the killing was done in self-defense after the soldier tried to steal his gold. He then shows the group of bagful of nuggets that he mined from the hills. Lugo senses that a dust storm is approaching, which Logan thinks could serve as a cover for them to break out. After Sheehan is killed by an Apache bullet, Zimmerman challenges Logan's authority and tries to assume command of the group. The two men fight, and after Zimmerman is bested by Logan, he plots with Kimbrough to leave that night. Meanwhile, Lonnie, who plans to build a ranch house in California, nearly proposes to Junie, but his shyness prevents him. Later, Zimmerman attacks Lugo, steals his bag of nuggets and is about to kill him when Lonnie appears and stops him. Jumping on his horse, Zimmerman gallops out of camp and is shot and killed by the Apaches. Lugo then reveals that he had filled the bag with rocks and hidden the gold. Jennifer then confesses to Logan that she and Kimbrough were planning to leave with Zimmerman and says she is glad that Logan is strong, but then criticizes him for "barricading himself from everyone." Because the group is low on food, Logan leaves and brings some back, suffering a flesh wound from the Apaches. Since the well is starting to dry up, they begin to ration water. As Webb worries that he will never see his children again, Lonnie gets up the nerve to ask Junie to go to California with him. When Jennifer asks Logan if he regrets assuming responsibility for them all, he replies that the only thing he regrets is losing her. After the Indians shoot a flaming arrow into the camp, Graves is killed and Webb, losing his control, runs out and dares the "heathens" to show themselves. He is dragged off and tortured to death slowly. His screams unnerve the group, especially Junie, who reveals that the Apaches also tortured her father. When Jennifer asks Logan to put an end to Webb's suffering, Logan slips into the Indian camp and shoots him. As he returns, the wind starts howling, signaling an impending storm. Logan then instructs the others to fill their canteens with blasting powder, thus creating a homemade bomb. Leaving Lugo behind to protect the women, Logan then leads Lonnie, Kimbrough and Conley on a raid of the Apache camp. Kimbrough, however, turns back, hoping to escape with Jennifer, but she refuses to go, saying she does not want to spend her life with a coward. When Kimbrough attempts to leave alone, Lugo refuses to let him take a horse and then kills him in self-defense. After Conley is slain, Lonnie and Logan hurl their handmade bombs at the Indians, killing many and scattering the rest. Before leaving, Lugo gives Lonnie some gold for him and Junie to buy a house in California. When Jennifer tells Logan good-bye and wishes him luck, he catches up to her and the two then ride off together.