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During the Civil War, Capt. James Huston, a half-Sioux, half-Danish Union officer, is sent to Fort Ridgely in Minnesota with a letter from President Abraham Lincoln giving him authority to take command. Huston's task is to stop Little Crow, the Sioux chief and Huston's boyhood friend, in his uprising against the whites. Lincoln is concerned that food supplies from Minnesota, needed by the Union Army, have stopped, and is worried that uprisings might spread to Idaho and the Dakota Territory. In Minnesota, Huston meets the commander, Col. Hugh Carver, an Indian hater who believes that Little Crow does not want peace, and the colonel's brother, Dan Carver, an ambitious land dealer and owner of a trading post. With his partner, Jeff Baxter, Dan wants to wipe out the Sioux, as they hope to become the wealthiest men in the state. Huston also meets the colonel's wife Felice, who, unhappy in her marriage, plans to return to St. Louis as soon as possible. When Running Bear, a Sioux brave, is captured during an ambush, the Col. prepares to whip him so that he will reveal the location of Little Crow's camp. Huston stops Col. Carver, and with Sgt. Haggerty, who brought him to the fort, goes with Running Bear to meet Little Crow. On the way, the group is attacked by two Chippewa Indians, who shoot a poisoned arrow into Running Bear. During the fight, one Chippewa dies. Huston ministers to Running Bear, and Haggerty finds a document on the dead Chippewa that says dead soldiers are worth $100 at any agency store. Running Bear arranges for the soldiers to meet with Little Crow, and after the chief bests his old boyhood friend in a prolonged arm wrestling duel, he agrees to inform his council of Huston's promise that the Sioux will receive past due money payments and food on order at the trading post. When Sioux braves come to Carver and Baxter's trading post demanding food, Huston orders Baxter to fill their orders, then subdues him when Baxter tries to fight. Taking incriminating evidence, Huston orders Baxter to appear at a meeting of trading post owners to be held in eight days, at which a representative of Governor Ramsey will be present. That night, during a fight at the trading post, three whites, including Baxter's brother, and two Indians with food orders are killed. Meanwhile, at the fort, when Huston notices a bruise on Felice's face, she confides in him. The fact that she is the daughter of a Frenchman and a Blackfoot Nation woman meant nothing to her husband when they married, but when he became commander of the fort and was promoted to colonel at the start of the war, his character changed as his desire for glory from fighting the Sioux grew into an obsession. When Col. Carver refuses to hold the meeting and orders Huston to return Baxter's papers, Huston shows him the governor's letter and pulls rank. That night, Felice, her face covered with more bruises, warns Huston that Baxter and Dan are out to kill him. Col. Carver, drunk, catches them together and threatens to kill Huston, when news arrives that Indians are approaching the main gate. The Indians dump the mutilated bodies of the whites killed at the trading post, and Huston realizes it is an act of reprisal for breaking the agreement. Although the colonel wants to attack an Indian village at dawn, Huston convinces him to wait until he asks Little Crow for the men responsible for the killings to be tried in civil court. He is taken to see Little Crow, where he learns that soldiers have since plundered a Sioux village. Trying to avert a war, Huston blames evil white men who acted against the president's wishes. When Little Crow, speaking for the council, refuses to listen, Huston angrily takes a burning stick to the scar on his arm where, as boys, he and Little Crow became blood brothers, and ends their brotherhood. Battles ensue, and during an ambush, Col. Carver is shot by Running Bear, who is then killed by Huston. Dying, the colonel tries to shoot Huston, but falls unconscious. Huston takes charge at the fort. The Sioux unsuccessfully storm the gate twice, then plan to attack that evening. After the colonel dies, Little Crow appears with a white flag and demands those guilty of starting the killing and cheating as his price for peace. Huston refuses, though he assures him they will be dealt with by the courts. Although the frightened settlers congregated in the fort want Baxter and Dan to be turned over to the Sioux, Huston argues that if they give in now, Little Crow will destroy the fort. Later, when he learns that Baxter and Dan have escaped, Huston goes with Haggerty to Little Crow's camp, where he finds the two men dead, tied to a tree. Little Crow, on his horse, breaks his war stick, then waves at Huston, who waves back. Little Crow then rides off with his braves.