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In 1878, Ed Bannon, a civilian scout for Fort Clark, a U.S. Cavalry post in the heart of Texas Apache country, spoils the government's attempt at a peaceful reconciliation with the Indians when he and his pal, Sandy Mackinnon, kill three Chiracahua Apache go-betweens. Bannon warns Col. Weybright that Chief Chattez' agreement to move Apaches onto a Florida reservation is a dangerous Indian ploy and insists that Indians are not to be trusted. Having lived among the Apaches as a boy, Bannon claims to know the way Indians think, and when he learns that Chief Chattez' son Toriano will be arriving from the East Coast, he suspects a trick. Weybright fires Bannon and, soon after, is mortally wounded in an Apache ambush. Bannon returns to the post to resume his romance with widow Lela Wilson, but Lela, who is now being courted by Capt. North, rejects his advances. Sgt. Stone and other cavalrymen blame Bannon for creating trouble with the Indians and try to force him out of the post, but Bannon refuses to leave. Having been rejected by Lela, Bannon courts Nita, the half-Mexican, half-Apache laundress at the post. Toriano arrives at the post just as the Indians are being given identification tags and placed in a holding area. Bannon's suspicions about the Apaches prove justified when Toriano leads a group of rebellious Indians in a late-night raid of the post. The next day, Bannon and Sandy kill Nita's brother Spanish, who has shown his loyalty to Toriano. Bannon, in an impassioned speech to the cavalry officers, again warns of the dangers of believing that peace with the Indians can be attained. Later that night, Bannon catches Nita as she attempts to kill him, and accuses her of being a spy for Toriano. When Bannon orders Nita's imprisonment, she grabs his knife and kills herself. Toriano, meanwhile, has led the army into a trap, and the Apaches ambush North and his men on their way to negotiate a peace settlement with the Indians. A bloody gun battle ensues, during which half the men in North's command are killed. Realizing that Bannon has been right about the Apaches all along, North relinquishes his authority and lets Bannon lead an attack on Toriano. Bannon uses his knowledge of Indian fighting tactics to give the army the upper hand in the battle, and the Indians are defeated. Toriano is killed by Bannon in a hand-to-hand fight, and with his death, the Apaches denounce Toriano and his ways, and vow to seek peace with the whites.