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In the late 1860's, a former Union Army sergeant, Yellowleg, hunts down a Rebel deserter, Turk, who tried to scalp him as he lay wounded on a battlefield. He finds him in a bordertown cantina and, without revealing his true motive, persuades him and his trigger-happy sidekick, Billy, to join forces with him in robbing the bank in Gila City, Arizona. Once there, however, the men discover that other outlaws are in town for the same reason; a gun battle breaks out, and Yellowleg accidentally kills the 9-year-old son of dancehall hostess Kit Tilden. When the woman decides to bury her child next to her husband's grave in Siringo, a ghost town, the remorseful Yellowleg forces his companions to join him in accompanying Kit through the Apache-inhabited desert; but en route, Billy is thrown out of camp for attempting to rape Kit, and Turk deserts. Shortly after arriving in Siringo, Kit and Yellowleg are rejoined by the two outlaws, who have just robbed the bank at Gila City. Yellowleg, despite his growing love for Kit, decides to take his revenge on Turk, but a shoulder wound causes him to miss his mark; instead, it is Billy who shoots Turk. The old man is only wounded, however, and is able to turn on his former friend and kill him. A posse arrives to take Turk back to Gila City as Kit and Yellowleg ride off together.