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Soon after the Civil War, Confederate soldier Ed Shirley returns to Missouri and is greeted by his headstrong, beautiful sister Belle, who has been managing their plantation on her own. Belle furiously rejects Ed's assertion that the South has lost the war, and is cold to Union major Thomas Crail, who was Belle's sweetheart before the war. Crail has returned to Missouri to stop the Confederate guerrillas who are plaguing Union soldiers. Wanting to restore his friendship with Crail, Ed invites him to dinner, although Belle declares that she would prefer the company of Sam Starr, one of the bandits whom Crail has been ordered to capture. One of Sam's compatriots overhears Belle's remarks, and Sam joins the dinner party that evening. Sam and Belle are attracted to each other, and later that night, after Sam is wounded while trying to escape from Crail's men, Belle hides him in her room. Crail finds Sam, however, and is also forced to arrest Ed, as he is the head of the household, and to burn the Shirley mansion, as punishment for aiding the renegades. Belle then accompanies Sam's right-hand man, Blue Duck, to Sam's hideout, and the next night, Belle and Blue Duck engineer the jailbreak of Sam and Ed. While Ed maintains that they must return, Belle announces her intention to join Sam's outfit. Ed tries to persuade Belle that Sam is fighting purely for the love of fighting, but Belle, honestly believing that Sam is trying to preserve the South she loves, orders her brother to leave. As time passes, Belle is branded an outlaw for participating in Sam's raids, but their love for each other grows. On the night they are married, Sam makes a speech to his men that makes Belle wonder about his motives, and when he invites Jim and John Cole to join the group, she becomes even more worried. One afternoon, while the Coles and Sam are leading a train robbery, Ed visits Belle and tells her that Sam's actions are tearing Missouri apart. Explaining that the Coles are hurting innocent people, Ed makes Belle promise to question Sam about their activities. As he is leaving, Ed is shot by Jim Cole, and a tearful Belle confronts Sam, who promises to give up his bandit lifestyle after one more job. Sam plans to kidnap Missouri governor Johnson, who will be speaking in town, so that he can dictate his terms to him. Unhappy with the plan, which was orchestrated by the Coles to get ransom money, Belle returns her wedding ring to Sam and tells him that she cannot wear it if they no longer think alike. Intending to turn herself in, Belle goes to her faithful servant, Mammy Lou, for help. Mammy Lou goes to town, and there learns that the governor's appearance is a trap to capture Sam. Hoping that giving herself up will save Sam, Belle rides to town, but on the way, she is shot by Jasper Tench, a horse thief who holds a grudge against her. Tench takes her body to Crail to claim the reward offered for her, but when Sam and Mammy Lou arrive, they state that the corpse is not Belle's so that Tench cannot receive the money. Sam and Mammy Lou then bid Belle a last farewell, after which Sam turns himself in to Crail. As Sam and Crail discuss Belle, they overhear two black men state that Belle can never be killed because she is a legend.