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Jack McCall enters a saloon in Deadwood City, throws an Indian necklace on the table in front of Marshal Bill Hickok, and, when Hickok draws his gun, shoots him dead. Later, on trial for murder, McCall explains his reasons for killing Hickok: During the Civil War, McCall, a wealthy Southerner, joins a Union Army unit that includes his cousin, Bat McCall, who envies McCall's wealth, and Hickok. Knowing that rebel soldiers are in the area, McCall, who grew up nearby, offers to meet the reinforcements that the unit anticipates and guide them past the rebels. Along the way, McCall meets some men in Union uniforms and draws them a map to headquarters on a scrap of paper. Unknown to McCall, the men are really Confederate spies and by the time he returns with the additional soldiers, headquarters is under attack. After the rebels are driven off, Hickok discovers the map, which has McCall's name on the back. Before he can explain, McCall is arrested for spying. Later, he escapes to his parents' plantation, but barely has time to relate the preceding events to his parents, before the Union soldiers, led by Bat, arrive. When McCall's father attempts to prevent the soldiers from searching his house, Hickok kills him. Bat then shoots blindly at an open door and kills McCall's mother, his aunt. Meanwhile, distrusted by both the Union and the Confederacy, McCall goes into hiding for the duration of the war, but continues to search for a southern soldier who can clear him of the charges against him. When the war ends, McCall learns that the man he seeks is named Spargo, but the former soldier refuses to testify until McCall offers him $1,000. On their way to the authorities, the men encounter Rose Griffith, a young woman whose horse has bolted, and McCall offers to escort her to town. When McCall turns off the road toward the plantation, however, Rose becomes extremely uneasy. The reason for her uneasiness soon becomes clear. Bat and Hickok have taken over the plantation and allowed drunks and rabble-rousers free reign. Upon their arrival, Rose is accused of theft. From Sam, an old retainer, McCall learns for the first time of his parents' deaths. When McCall demands the names of the killers, Hickok turns him over to the authorities and pays Spargo to change his story. Rose overhears the transaction and helps McCall escape. After robbing a stagecoach of money and clothing, McCall and Rose follow Bat and his men to Kansas City. There, McCall is about to confront Bat when the stagecoach arrives, and the passengers identify Rose as the woman who robbed them. McCall and Rose escape their pursuers and head for Deadwood City, which they have learned is Bat's final destination. Meanwhile, Hickok has become marshal and is plotting to take over gold fields belonging to the Sioux. When Red Cloud, the Sioux leader, complains to Hickok about raids by white men, Hickok advises him to sell the lands. A short time later, McCall and Rose witness a raid and rescue Grey Eagle, Red Cloud's son. Grey Eagle describes the situation and gives McCall a beaded necklace to show that he is a friend to the Indians. When McCall asks Hickok what he is doing to protect the Indians, Hickok deputizes him and assigns him to organize a Sioux attack against Bat's men. Although Red Cloud does not want to break his treaty with the U.S., he allows a few warriors to participate. Under Hickok's orders, the whites ambush the Indians, and during the ensuing battle, a dying Bat tells McCall that Hickok killed his father. When the battle is over, McCall confronts Hickok in the saloon and kills him. After he tells his story, McCall is acquitted. Later, McCall and his new wife Rose return to the plantation.