In 1892, settler Rosalee Quaid and her family are attacked by a Comanche war group who kill and scalp her husband and also shoot and kill her three children. Only Rosalee manages to escape the attack by hiding in a small rock outcrop in the forest. In Fort Berringer, New Mexico, Captain Joseph Blocker rounds up an escaping Apache family and brings them back to the fort. He is then called to the office of Colonel Abraham Biggs, who informs him of his final orders before retirement. On a directive from President Harrison, he is to escort dying Cheyenne war chief, Yellow Hawk, and four members of his family back to their tribal lands in Montana. Under threat of a court-martial and loss of his pension, Blocker reluctantly accepts, despite his own gory history with the chief, who was responsible for the death of several of his friends and comrades. Blocker chooses the detail that will accompany him: his trusty old friend, First Sergeant Thomas Metz, long-time aide Corporal Woodson, and promising newcomer Lieutenant Kidder, fresh from West Point. Biggs also assigns to the detail a young French-speaking recruit, Private DeJardin..