Marcy Whitlock: "Listen carefully. I don't care if your friend is the most chief in the entire West. To me, he's just a redskin savage, and I can't stand the stench long enough to stay in the same room with him."
Lt. Jed Sayre: "It wasn't him. You just got a good whiff of your own soul. And lady, all the perfume in the world wouldn't cover it up."
It's 1861 and Lt. Jed Sayre (Audie Murphy) has just gotten a new commander at the fort, Jed grew up in the area which is in Navajo territory in New Mexico. Capt. Whitlock and his sister Marcy, have just arrived from Mississippi and are both racists. When a prospector is brought in dead and scalped, Whitlock orders Chief Menguito, a friend of Jed's, to turn in the guilty parties by sunrise or else. Jed tries to convince Capt. Whitlock that the Navajos didn't do it. Jed is skeptical about Capt. Whitlock's motives.
Lt. Sayre: "Sometimes a little ambition makes people see dirt where there isn't any."
Capt, Whitlock: "Just what do you mean by that?"
Lt. Sayre: "Harrison won himself an Indian campaign and got elected President."
Jed and Lt. Chalmers head to a local bar where they find out that fellow prospector Tom Kehler is the guilty party. They bring him in to the sheriff, but Capt. Whitlock has already headed out to find the Navajos. Jed and Lt. Chalmers find Capt. Whitlock and stop him before the a battle takes place.
Jed brings Capt. Whitlock up to meet Menguito (Dennis Weaver from McCloud). An brave steals a watch and then gets in to fight with Capt. Whitlock. Menguito apologizes but Capt. Whitlock isn't too happy. When Menquito comes in to the fort Marcy isn't too happy and gets up from the dinner table. We find out that Jed's father led a raid on the Navajos when Jed was nine years old, and he made Jed come and watch the massacre. Marcy understands Jed better when he finds out.
Capt. Whitlock then finds out that Mississippi had withdrawn from the Union. At Gen. Stone's headquarters in Sante Fe, General Stone makes plans for the coming battle. He is going to back the Confederates and hopes to be made governor. Gen. Stone plants guns on the navajos hoping to keep the army occupied.
Gen. Stone sends a letter telling Capt. Whitlock that the Navajos have intercepted a shipment of guns. Whitlock sends Jed out to look for the guns. Jed goes and does find some guns hidden under a waterfall. When Jed confronts Menguito, Menguito tells him he knows nothing of it. Jed says that because of the guns they found he now has orders to the Navajos to a reservation. Menguito calls Jed, son of evil, and says he remembers what his father had done.
General Stone then visits the fort and has Whitlock lead the regiment out to help fight the Apaches who he says have gone on the warpath. Gen. Stone then tells Whitlock about his true plan. He wants him to bring the regiment to Texas so that when war breaks out the Southerners can join the Confederate army and the Northerners can be made prisoners. Gen. Stone says that Fort Sumter will be fired on within a week. Whitlock has concerns about not leaving protection at the fort but he reluctantly decides to go along with the plan.
The regiment rides out and the Navajos get ready to get their revenge for the way they were treated. Jed finds out what is going on, and brings the loyal troops back to the fort leaving the Southerners behind. Whitlock has a change of heart and brings the men back to the fort, which the Navajos have already taken over. It is now the calvary's turn to attack the fort. Whitlock then brings his men to join with Jed's. The Union and the South join together to fight off the Indians. In 1953 it was viewed as very important to have a united country, especially in the face of the growing Communist menace.
Jed tells Menguito what Gen. Stone has done, and Stone at knife point admits to it. Menguito take what is left of his people back to the hills. Once again the Indians fall victim to the white man's greed. At the end of the movie the Southerners head off to join the Confederacy just like they did in They Died with their Boots On (1941).
Interesting in that the made the traitor a Northerner who is in it for greed, not a Southerner. They didn't even feel comfortable having a Southerner like Whitlock leaving the Union early. Never saying anything negative about Southerners was probably the original political correctness. The Navajos came off pretty well in this movie. The Indians were again the victim of the political machinations of the whites, but they managed to keep their dignity. Overall, a pretty interesting movie, better than I expected.