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In 1836, following the election of General Santa Anna to the Mexican presidency, the people of the free state of Texas find themselves faced with the unhappy prospect of a military rule by the new Mexican government. Leading the opposition to the new regime is General Sam Houston, who believes that a military force should be assembled to protect Texas' status as an independent republic. When word reaches Houston that Santa Anna has occupied San Antonio, and that Lt. Col. Travis, with only two hundred soldiers, has retreated across the Sabine River to the Alamo, he quickly assembles a militia. As the battle to save the Alamo rages on, a group of soldiers from Ox Bow, fearing for the safety of their families, draw lots and select John Stroud as the man to go back to the town to protect the women and children. Stroud reaches Ox Bow in the aftermath of a bloody massacre, and finds that his wife and son are among the dead. When the sole survivor of the massacre, a young Mexican boy named Carlos, tells Stroud that the killings were carried out by white men disguised as Mexicans, Stroud vows to hunt down the killers. Meanwhile, the Alamo has fallen into the hands of the Mexicans, who are now poised to charge across Texas. Under the leadership of Lt. Tom Lamar, the women, elderly and children of Franklin, Texas are evacuated. Stroud arrives in Franklin during the evacuation, and leaves Carlos in the care of one of the evacuees, Beth Anders. When Lamar recognizes Stroud as the man who left the Alamo before its fall, the entire town surrounds and taunts him. Just as Stroud is about to leave Franklin, Carlos tells him that a drunken man leaving the saloon is one of the men who massacred the people at Ox Bow. Stroud tries to approach the man, but the townspeople warn him to leave and attempt to lynch him. Jailed for his own protection, Stroud shares a cell with Dawes, a member of a renegade gang supporting the Mexicans. Hoping to infiltrate the gang, Stroud expresses his interest in its cause, and when gang leader Jess Wade breaks Dawes out of jail, Stroud goes with him. Wade later decides to go after the wagon train for its bankroll, and accepts Stroud as one of the gang. While waiting in a gorge, ready to ambush the wagon train as it passes, Stroud fires his gun at one of the gang members, Cobby, in a deliberate attempt to warn the approaching wagon train of the impending raid. Stroud's plan works, and the shots send the wagons scurrying for safety. Wounded in a gun battle with Wade and left behind to die, Stroud is found by Carlos and is brought back to the wagon train. There, Beth, the only person who believes that he was not a part of the renegade gang, nurses him back to health. Stroud makes a full recovery, and when Lamar receives orders from Houston to report his regiment to San Jacinto for the final assault on the Mexican army, Stroud is appointed the new leader of the wagon train. Stroud steers the wagon train southward and, after outrunning Wade's gang, sets a trap for them. As Wade's gang approaches, the old men and women of the wagon train, fully armed, defeat them in a fierce gun battle. After killing Wade in a hand-to-hand fight and avenging the murder of his family, Stroud leaves the wagon train to join Houston at San Jacinto.