Thomas Hanner Lyle, like so many other southerners, finds himself embroiled in a war that will change his life forever. As a Confederate soldier, he fights in battle while trying to retain his humanity and not damn his soul. During in-between times, he tries to find the beauty in life beneath the shade of cottonwoods by breezy riverbeds.
An incident in battle ushers Thomas from the rank of private to sergeant, but the glory is short-lived as he is soon wounded. He gets help from a woman who reminds him so much of his wife, Jenny. In and out of consciousness, he flashbacks to his safe, happy life in Tennessee and makes it his mission to return home to his beloved—but will war let him go so easily?