In 1892, Wesley Quaid and his family are attacked by a group of Comanche fighters who kill him and his three children, but wife Rosalie manages to escape with a miracle. In Fort Berringer, New Mexico, Captain Joseph Blocker gives over an Apache family escaped and brings her to the fort. He is then called to office by Colonel Abraham Biggs, who informs him that his latest order before retiring comes directly from the President:
He must escort Cheyenne tribe, Yellow Hawk, dying, and his family to their Montana lands. He hesitantly accepts the mission, but largely due to the fact that if he refuses he can be sent to the martial court. His hesitations come as a result of the past he had with the captain, including the killing of some of his friends.
Blocker then chooses a few men to accompany him during the trip: “Deputy Kidder”, the youngest of them, Lieutenant Kidder, just out of West Point, his old friend, Sergeant Metz, and Captain Woodson, a Buffalo soldier. They start their journey, but stop by the way to investigate the devastated house of the Quaid family. They find Rosalie emotionally destroyed and initially hostile to the Cheyenne family that they escort because of the previous attack, but they eventually agree to let them stay overnight after he is more convinced by the force of Blocker.