A Yankee soldier is married to a Southern Belle but under orders from Phil Sheridan he burned her plantation in the Shenandoah valley. This kind of soured the marriage, but they still love one another. Does love trump tribalism? Lets find out.
His command is full of former confederate soldiers. Where does their loyalty lie? To the old South? To the new nation that is being put together under the Stars and Stripes? To the regiment and their brilliant mates?
As always in Ford everybody seems to be Irish. So how does loyalty to the Old Country square with loyalty to the New Country? The Sons of the Pioneers serenade Phil Sheridan with "The Bold Fenian Men". Victor McLaglen dabs at his eyes. Pick the bones out of that one.
The poor, old Indians are The Other we unite to fight. The West is the neutral territory where a New Nation is forged in war. Only it's not quite that easy. Because (though we don't see much of them) there are Indian scouts fighting alongside us and they get medals too.
And in the end the cavalry rides out to the strains of Dixie. Oh my!
It's really difficult being an American.
P.S. I just Googled Victor McLaglen. I wanted to find out who he really was. Famously cast by Ford as a big tough catholic Irishman, McLaglen was the son of an Anglican Bishop and was either born or grew up in Tunbridge Wells- arguably the most genteel town in Southern England. Words fail me.