Only once in its history, has the U.S. been at war with itself. In 1861, the Southern Confederacy is formed, and the American civil war ignites. Along the Kansas / Missouri border childhood friends Jake (Tobey Maguire) and Jack (Skeet Ulrich) join up as horseman, raiding the North's Union soldiers and sympathisers. With a harsh winter looming, their unit, known as the Bushwhackers must disperse and find shelter. Several squad members hole up in a hidden hillside dugout. Their vigil is brightened only by a compassionate young widow, Sue Lee (Jewel Kilcher). Then, the realities of the war intrude, splintering the group. In the intense and brutal battle, the young men reach turning points both in the fighting and in themselves.