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In 1861 at the Portobello plantation in Mississippi, Valette Bedford is in love with her cousin Duncan and flirts incessantly with him to draw his attention. Duncan plays cool, however, treating her as if she were a young child. Out of spite, Valette pretends to fall madly in love with her brother Edward's Texan friend, Archie Pendleton. When Archie proposes to her, she is flabbergasted and does not respond definitively, but as he is dashing off to the Civil War, he assumes that she will be waiting for him. Edward stays behind at the urging of his family, but later comes to regret his decision when he finds out Archie has been honorably killed in battle. Edward then leaves with his father's blessing. Duncan, however, refuses to fight his Northern neighbors on the grounds that many of them are friends and Americans should not fight Americans. Valette becomes disgusted by his attitude and believes it only covers cowardice. After some Yankees kidnap Valette's father Malcolm as a guide, he returns determined to go to war. After Malcolm leaves, his wife Sally has a vision of her son Edward dead on the battlefield, and accompanied by Duncan and her faithful black slave, she goes to find his body. Prior to his leaving, Valette had apologized to Duncan and had pledged her love for him. Moved by the sight of the battlefield strewn with slain Confederate soldiers, Duncan marches off to war with a battle cry, leaving Sally and William to return Edward's body. News reaches the Bedford slaves that General Ulysses S. Grant has taken Vicksburg, and their excitement leads them to revolt against their work. A wounded Malcolm then arrives home and dies, after which Sally, heartbroken, frees their slaves. Sally, her little son Middleton, Valette and their cousin Mary maintain the house, helped by William, until Yankee soldiers invade the mansion. Valette takes pity on one young Yankee soldier who, although originally intending to rob them, has been injured and is being hunted by Confederate soldiers. She dresses him in her brother's uniform and puts him to bed, and is astonished to discover that one of the pursuing Confederate soldiers is Duncan. Duncan has changed markedly--he is no longer a pacifist--and Valette must plead for the boy's life. Although Duncan protects him, the boy dies and the family is thrown out of their own house when the Yankees set fire to it. Duncan then rejoins his troops. By the war's end, the much-reduced family is living in a small house and cooking on an outdoor stove. One day, Valette hears Duncan calling to her, and they reunite in the woods.