powered by AFI
One dark night in the town of Millsville, shortly after the end of the Civil War, a caped and hooded woman carrying a gun steals into the local jail and orders Garner, the jailer, to release convicted killer Chick Hainline. After knocking Garner unconscious, Hainline rides off, and the next morning, Garner regains consciousness and tells Sheriff Mark Persons that he believes the hooded woman works at the local saloon. Hoping that Garner can identify Hainline's accomplice, the sheriff accompanies him to the saloon, where he questions saloon girls Delilah, Jeannie, Sally and Ruthie. When Garner fails to recognize his assailant, Persons cautions that Hainline was a "Blackleg" killer, one of the last of Quantrill's vicious Confederate guerrillas. Fearing that Hainline may bring his gang to town to join his accomplice, Persons orders the women to leave Millsville, and escorts them to a buckboard driven by Thorny, a county employee. Once in the buckboard, the women begin to quarrel, each accusing the other of the crime. Their bickering is cut short when the wagon loses a wheel and they are forced to stop along the road. As Thorny examines the damaged wheel, Dewey Crawford, the proprietor of the White Star Inn and stage relay station, rides up and offers them refuge at his inn while their wheel is repaired. When they arrive, however, Lorn Crawford, Dewey's brother and business partner, objects to their presence because he has heard of their complicity in the escape of one of the Blacklegs. After the women retire to their rooms, Dewey asks Lorn if he was involved with the Blacklegs during the war and remarks that he often yells out in his sleep about a "man with a whip." After dinner, Jeannie wonders why Lorn is acting so furtively. When she begs Lorn to let them stay, he refuses, and she accuses him of being hard and unfeeling. Later, when Lorn explains to Jeannie that he fears Hainline may be following the women and might bring the Blacklegs with him, Jeannie tells him that Quantrill's guerrillas murdered her parents during the massacre in Lawrence, Kansas. Their buckboard repaired, the women climb aboard and are about to depart when a man with a whip rides up, lashes Thorny around his neck and orders them to stay. John Murdock, the man wielding the whip and the leader of the Blacklegs, is then joined by the rest of his gang. That night, the drunken outlaws begin to molest the women. When one corners Sally in her room, she reaches for his gun, and in the ensuing struggle, the outlaw is shot and killed. Murdock is about to exact revenge on Sally when Lorn enters the room and challenges him. Amused, Murdock sneers that Lorn is a "tin soldier who deserted because he couldn't stand the sight of blood." The next day, Hainline arrives at the inn and thanks Ruthie for freeing him. When the women regard Ruthie with contempt, she explains that Hainline is her brother. Hainline informs Murdock that their target, the newly appointed governor of Kentucky, who is also the man who killed Quantrill, will be arriving at the inn on the noon stage. The gang plans to kidnap the governor and then murder him after collecting the ransom. When Jeannie accuses the outlaws of murdering her parents, Murdock grabs her and Dewey threatens to kill him. Tossing Dewey a gun, Murdock challenges him to a duel and then viciously lashes the weapon from his hand and flogs him with his whip. The next morning, Jeannie asks Lorn why he refuses to fight back, prompting him to recount his earlier life as a Confederate officer sent to work as a liaison with the guerrilla Quantrill. Lorn confides that Quantrill's brutish tactics, exemplified by the Lawrence massacre, soured him on the Confederacy and caused him to question what truly is worth fighting for. When Lorn agrees to help Murdock in return for the safety of Dewey and the women, Jeannie chastises him and then admits that she has fallen in love with him. As the governor's stage approaches, Murdock tells Lorn to escort the governor into the station house. Upon greeting the governor, however, Lorn warns him of Murdock's plans and instructs his driver to flee as fast as possible. After the outlaws stop the stage by shooting the driver, Murdock claims that he is sending several unarmed men to negotiate a truce. After concealing their guns, Murdock's men step out of the house and then pull out their weapons. Just then, Persons and his posse arrive, open fire and gun down the outlaws. When Lorn asks Persons to escort the governor to safety, the governor refuses to leave without first freeing Dewey and the women, and insists on accompanying Lorn into the relay station. Lorn then agrees to meet with Murdock if he sends out the rest of his men. After Murdock's men step outside, the governor and Lorn enter the station house and Murdock lashes them with his whip. In a fury, Lorn pulls the whip from Murdock's hand and then thrashes him with it. After Persons arrests Murdock and his gang, the women begin their trek back to town, but Jeannie remains behind with Lorn.