An impoverished southern aristocrat finds himself working for a Yankee woman on her stage-line but spies for the railroad.
In 1844 on a Maryland fox hunt Blake Cantrell (Robert Taylor) stops Yankee Susan Griffith (Florence Rice) to ask about her. His neighbor complains his tobacco was trampled. Blake auctions his property but sells his slave families together. House slave Enoch (Clinton Rosemont) is sad to leave. Susan comes downstairs and is kissed by Blake, but they argue. Blake has $850 and tries the railroad but has to help push. Susan and Amanda Griffith (Helen Broderick) see Blake. Captain Sharkey (Wallace Beery) greets Amanda and Susan, who are inspecting their Bullet stage-line. Abolitionist Arnold (Charles Bickford) says he helps fugitive slaves. Railroad boss Col. Webb (Jonathan Hale) asks Blake to catch Sharkey and Morgan for transporting fugitive slaves. Blake plays poker; but the man behind him causes him to lose $175, and Blake starts a fight. Sharkey says Blake cheated but pays his fine to get his labor. Blake demands to see the owner. Susan objects to hiring convicts but finds Blake in jail. Blake says he'll work to pay her the $300. Blake fights Sharkey and is beat.
Two months later Susan and Amanda arrive as slave Enoch is caught. Enoch tells Blake he was kidnapped with others by Crowder (Barton MacLane). Blake hides Enoch, and Susan lies to divert Crowder. Susan tells Sharkey to release Blake; but Sharkey quits to make her change her mind. Blake sends Enoch off on a horse and cleans up for Susan, who hopes he has changed. Davy (John Qualen) tells Blake that Enoch's horse came back. Blake and Davy find Enoch shot. Enoch says it was Morgan and Crowder and then dies. Sharkey questions Davy about Blake, who comes in and pays off Sharkey. Blake tells Col. Webb that Sharkey knows Arnold. Webb sends Blake after Arnold to find Morgan. Blake holds up Arnold but is shot in the arm. Arnold lets Blake join his men. Crowder blames Blake for freeing the slave, but Blake says he tried to capture him. Seven slaves try to escape from a Bullet-line wagon and are shot. Blake tells the Marshal that Susan and Amanda knew nothing, but they are charged with complicity, and Sharkey is jailed for murder. Susan and Amanda leave on bail, but a mob aims to lynch Sharkey. Old Puff (Charley Grapewin) blows up the jail so that Sharkey can escape.
Blake and a deputy find the wagon evidence and are ambushed by Arnold; but Sharkey captures Arnold and calls him Morgan. When Arnold runs, Sharkey shoots him. Sharkey fights Blake again but is beat. They walk in the snow and keep each other awake until they are found by the Marshal and Webb. Blake says it was not a Bullet-line wagon. Webb says his railroad bought the rights from Susan. Sharkey tells Blake they should buy the line, but Blake has no money. Sharkey asks Susan not to sell out, and she is persuaded to keep him on. Blake asks Susan to take the train west with him, and Amanda goes with Sharkey on the stage.
This ante-bellum drama explores the plight of slaves,
the fugitive slave law, convict labor, and the conflict between
early railroads and stage-lines.