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Upon the conclusion of the Civil War, field correspondent Barry Conovan and photographer Sam Sawyer of the Chicago Daily Herald are sent by their editor to find General Sam Houston, the missing one-time president of the old Republic of Texas. On a stagecoach bound for Huntsville, they meet Jane Baxter Scott, the daughter of one of Houston's old Confederate comrades. Along the trail, the stage comes upon pregnant Sarah Olson, whose husband has just been killed by outlaw raiders. They stop at a seemingly deserted cabin so that she may give birth, and there Barry finds a cache of new rifles. Henry Clay Jackson then arrives at the cabin with a group of riders and claims to be Jane's fiancé, making suspect her previous romantic attentions toward Barry. Later, Barry and Sam are welcomed upon their arrival in Huntsville by Major Lamphere, the military governor of the district. There, a homecoming party is held for Jane, during which her father, Colonel Colbert Scott, who was thought killed in the war, returns. Meanwhile, the raiders rob the local bank, and after the banker kills one of the outlaws, Jackson murders him, then pretends to lead the posse. One of the soldiers, however, recognizes Robert Houston Scott, Jane's younger brother, as one of the raiders. Later that night, Robert sneaks into the Scott home and tells his father and his aunt, Hattie Florence, that he is now part of a guerrilla army, lead by Jackson, which is set on winning back Texas' independence. Jackson then leads a murderous raid upon the Indian agency run by Luther Crittenden. Sam tries to photograph the raiders as they make their escape, but he snaps a picture showing only a right boot and spur. Jackson later shoots Barry while the newspaperman romances Jane, causing the southern belle to confess her love for the wounded man, much to Jackson's horror. Barry recuperates at the Scott home, but is ordered to leave upon his recovery when he refuses to support Colbert's anti-American political views. Sam later recognizes Jackson's spur as the one he had photographed, and he and Barry are captured by the outlaw gang and taken to their hideout. The egomaniacal Jackson then forces Barry to write articles about his "patriotic" work, in which Jackson proclaims to be the next Sam Houston. Barry tries to convince Robert that Jackson is little more than an opportunistic outlaw, and the lad finally learns the truth when he overhears Jackson confessing his true intentions to the reporters. After Robert helps the newspapermen escape, however, he is killed by Jackson. Back in Huntsville, Barry and Sam try to tell Colbert the truth about Jackson, only to have the outlaw arrive with the murdered Robert, claiming that he was killed by "the Yanks." It is Jackson, however, who is arrested by Lamphere for Robert's murder. After Jackson is convicted of the crime, Barry asks him to confess all, so that the innocent citizens of Huntsville will not be injured protecting a false patriot. Jane pleads with her father to do likewise, so Colbert seeks guidance at the grave of his old friend, Sam Houston. As Jackson's execution is about to begin, the angry townspeople gather, until Colbert arrives in his old Confederate uniform and calls upon the mob to disperse and accept being Americans as well as Texans. The cocksure Jackson is then surprised to see the townspeople turn against him, and is told by the ghost of Sam Houston that he is about to get what he truly deserves.