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This true story follows a frontiersman’s interactions with Apache Chief Cochise as Station Master near Apache Pass, his subsequent formation of the Arizona Rangers and later, his joining the Confederates who occupy Tucson.
James Tevis, at an early age of 19, is station master for the Butterfield Stage Line near Apache Pass. Initially he interacts with the Apaches and Cochise on friendly terms after he saves the life of a young war chief from Mexican scalp hunters. Later Cochise begins to distrust him because miners and Calvary visit the station too often. Cochise demands that he leave and not return to Apache lands with a warning should he do so, Cochise will dance while Tevis is burning.
Tevis leaves for Tucson where he forms the Arizona Rangers and meets a rather brash, sassy, outspoken rancher‘s daughter. A romantic attraction between the two develops. Hearing of gold being discovered, he ventures back into Apache land, is captured and turned over to Cochise. He has plans of torture. Wounded during the capture, Tevis watches as his two companions are hung upside down and burned to death. That night, while everyone is drunk and asleep, the young war chief Tevis had saved releases him and helps him escape.
Back in Tucson he is nursed back to health by Susan, his romantic interest. However, his adventurous spirit over rides this interest when the Civil War breaks out. Tevis, originally from the South, decides to join the Confederacy. He heads to New Mexico to join them.
With Union troops abandoning forts to head east, the Apaches are led to believe that the Pony soldiers had been driven from their lands, only to find the Confederates taking their place. The California Volunteers are recruited to prevent the Confederate advance west to take the gold fields and ports in California and to take the place, in Arizona, of Union troops heading east. Soon conflict occurs between the Confederates, the Apaches, what few Union troops are left behind and the California Volunteers. A small detachment of Rebels, along with Tevis, occupy Tucson and the skirmish at Picacho Peak soon becomes the farthest Civil War action west to occur.
The Rebels, however, decided ill-advisedly to take Santa Fe instead of moving farther west. The defensive actions of the California Volunteers end the Rebel goal to cut the Union in half. With Tevis in command of a rear guard delaying force, the Rebels hastily leave Tucson just ahead of the Volunteers entering from the west. Retreating back to New Mexico they face Apache attacks all along the way. The California Volunteers, closely behind in pursuit, enter Apache Pass where Cochise decides to attack the Volunteers and suffers a major defeat. This is historically known as the Battle at Apache Pass. After defeating the Apaches, the California Volunteers continue their pursuit into and across New Mexico driving the Rebels back to Texas. Tevis is forced to accompany them to Texas or face capture.