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A small Alabama town celebrates Confederate day as middle- aged housewife Lavinia Hubbard watches from the nearby woods. As part of the celebration, which is led by Colonel Isham, a monument commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the betrayal and slaughter of twenty-seven local soldiers during the Civil War is dedicated. During the ceremony, the colonel asks Lavinia's son Oscar, who is accompanied by his dance-hall girl friend Laurette Sincee, to leave. In town, meanwhile, Lavinia's husband Marcus ignores the proceedings and is joined in his merchantile shop by his oldest son Ben, who has just returned from an unsuccessful business trip to Birmingham. Having been unable to purchase valuable Birmingham coal stock, Ben hopes to interest wealthy Horace Giddons in supporting his business venture by arranging a marriage between Giddons and Ben's younger sister Regina. Marcus, who acquired a fortune profiteering in salt during the war, refuses to give Ben money, and dismisses the idea of an arranged marriage for Regina. Regina, meanwhile, meets her lover, John Bagtry, a veteran still haunted by the war, who she hopes will marry her and take her to Chicago. That evening at dinner, only the maid, Coralee, remembers it is Lavinia's birthday, as Marcus and Ben are busy arguing about Giddons, and Oscar is relaying the news that Northern carpetbagger Sam Taylor is offering to make a loan to the Bagtry family. Lavinia reminds Marcus that he has promised repeatedly to give her money to start a hospital for the town's poor, but Marcus ignores her and takes a walk with Regina, who asks to go to Chicago. Later, Marcus orders Oscar to stop Taylor from proceeding with the Bagtry loan, hinting that he will give Oscar the money he needs to marry Laurette if he does. Oscar arranges with the Ku Klux Klan to beat up Taylor, who then leaves town. The next day at the store, John's sister Birdie asks Ben about the possibility of a loan, as her family's cotton business is failing and John needs money to join a war in Brazil. Ben invites the two for dinner and when he tells Marcus about Birdie's request, raises the loan amount, intending to pocket the difference. Oscar convinces Marcus to allow him to bring Laurette to dinner and that evening as Ben spikes Laurette's punch and negotiates separately with Marcus and Birdie, Regina confronts John about marriage. After John admits he is waiting for the loan so he can join the fighting in Brazil, Regina, realizing why Ben is anxious to lend the money, angrily informs Marcus that her brother has lied about the amount. Despite Birdie's pleadings, Marcus turns down the request. When Laurette, now drunk, becomes shrill and insulting, Marcus then tells Oscar he will give him a thousand dollars to leave the house for good. In retaliation against Regina, Ben tells his father about her plans to marry John and, over Lavinia's protests, Marcus demands that Ben leave the house too. The next day Lavinia again pleads with Marcus not to break up the family, and when he resists, she intimates she can blackmail him. Ben forces her to confess that Marcus was an informer during the war, and was responsible for sending the town soldiers to their death. Threatening to reveal the truth to the entire town, Ben gets Marcus to sign over the entire family fortune to him. Oscar and Regina quickly switch their alliances to Ben, and when Lavinia realizes he is as selfish and cruel as Marcus, she leaves to return to her family.