A TV movie based on a true story about the all-black US Cavalry Troop which patrolled in the West in the post Civil War times. The movie opens with Apaches raiding, burning and scalping in theNew Mexico territory. We then jump to a troop of Texas Rangers hanging Apache children as they try to find out where the Apache chief, Vittorio, has taken his band. Sgt. Wyatt (Danny Glover) arrests the Rangers and bring them in.
The movie looks at the tensions that existed between the white soldiers and the "buffalo soldiers". Some officers refused to command them feeling it was degrading and the "colored" company had to ride fifteen yards behind the whites. Sgt. Wyatt and his men are subjected to constant insults, received the worst equipment and supplies and were constantly reminded them of their second class status.
Soon the buffalo soldiers are fighting the Apaches, and the viewers (along with the Apaches and the black soldiers) are soon wondering why the two oppressed groups are fighting against each other. Sgt. Wyatt and his men soon capture Apache leader and prophet Nana. As his men die, Wyatt begins to wonder what he is doing. But, Wyatt is the consumate soldier. He continues to do his duty even those around him do their best to knock him down.
The captured Nana sings his death song, and Gen. Pile goes out and shoots a captive to shut him up. The Apaches are portrayed as being brutal, but I think the cavalry is portrayed in an even worse light.
Some of the buffalo soldiers begin to wonder why they are killing the Indians, but Wyatt keeps them on task. I think Wyatt is trying to prove the black soldiers are as good or better than the white troops. When the buffalo soldiers go out again for Vittorio, they bring Nana as protection, so they won't be fired upon.
Then repeating a scene from the beginning of the movie, Wyatt threatens to shoot an Apache girl if Nana will not tell him where Vittorio is. Nana believes Wyatt and tells Wyatt what he wants to know. We begin to wonder if Wyatt is as brutal as the white cavalry men. But then we come upon some of the Apache handy work: the suffering and tortured bodies of the Rangers left out in the desert.
When Wyatt captures Vittorio, he asks Wyatt why a former slave fights for those who were his masters. Wyatt can't answer him. Vittorio tells Wyatt his people will fight, they will not be slaves like him. Vittorio says "Why do you murder my people for those that made you less than cattle?" Wyatt tells Vittorio he will kill every man, woman and child in the valley unless he surrenders. But the next day when a young Apache boy walks out in to the line of fire, Wyatt cannot shoot. He tells the Apaches to go to Mexico.
The Apaches and their views and culture were not really explored to much in this movie. They were just shown as something they needed to be exterminated. There really were no heroes in this movie. Three culture meeting, all with different motivations; some wrong, some right. Not a happy story, but in reality that is the way it was.