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In Georgia, at the end of the Revolutionary War, the wealthy Gen. Darby, lying on his deathbed, asks his friend, Dr. Carlos Morales, to take over Sangaree, his estate, and establish an experimental program designed to give slaves and indentured servants their freedom. Carlos, the son of indentured servants, is grateful to Darby for providing him with an education, and accepts the responsibility, which calls for the creation of free clinics and schools for the children of slaves. Though Carlos proudly accepts the charge, Roy Darby, the general's son and a friend of Carlos, knows that his sister Nancy will contest the terms of the will and fight to gain control of the estate. Roy's prediction proves accurate, but before Nancy begins to wage her battle, she disguises herself as a country girl and boards the boat taking Carlos to Savannah to get a look at him. Introducing herself as "Dolly Lake," Nancy asks Carlos about his plans, and when he tells her that he intends to take over the plantation the following day, she warns him that "Miss Darby" and her fiancé, the attorney Harvey Bristol, will fight him. By the time he and Nancy reach Savannah, Carlos sees through Nancy's ruse, but plays along with her and steals a kiss before she leaves. In Savannah, Carlos attends an elegant party hosted by his former sweetheart, Martha Darby, who, although she is now married to Roy, still carries a torch for him. During the festivities, Martha tells Carlos that she intends to expose Nancy as an accomplice to Felix Pagnol, a French pirate who has been harassing ships off the coast of Savannah. Carlos urges Martha to suppress the information when he realizes that she intends to use it to blackmail Nancy into dropping her legal challenge to Carlos' inheritance. When Roy arrives with news of a plague outbreak, Dr. Bristol rudely dismisses the announcement as nonsense, and concurs with his son's belief that Carlos and Roy are merely using the threat of plague to generate interest in Darby's free clinic. During the trial to contest her father's will, Nancy renounces her fiancé when he tries to prove that her father was "insane." As a result, the judge rules in Carlos' favor, and the provisions of the will remain intact. Later, at a tavern, Bristol challenges Carlos to a fight, but Carlos trounces both Bristol and his henchman. Having broken off her engagement to Bristol, Nancy begins pursuing Carlos in earnest. After overhearing two pirates discussing plans to intercept a Darby ship, Carlos accuses Nancy of betraying her own company, but she denies the accusation. Carlos and his friend, Gabriel Thatch, later explode the pirate ship on its way to menace the Darby cargo. Later, as Carlos prepares to fight as Gabriel's second in his duel with Pagnol, Pagnol tells him that Bristol is behind the piracy. Carlos finds the stolen Darby cargo in the Bristol warehouse, and when he also discovers that the warehouse is the source of the plague, he orders it burned. Martha contracts the plague, but before dying, she confesses to having been Bristol's accomplice after she shoots Bristol and tells Carlos that she joined the pirates to get at the Darby fortunes. Free to resume their romance, Nancy and Carlos look forward to running Sangaree as husband and wife.