A chance meeting of a sailor and a maid, on a river boat on a trip from New Orleans to St. Louis brings love and frustration. She, Peggy O’Neal, is to be the bride of a man she has never met, the brother of a Union General. Her father wants to be a Congressman, so he barters Peggy to a rich man for campaign money. The sailor, Jake Prosser, met the ship’s captain while in high school and is now assigned on his ship.
The war starts bringing challenges at Natchez, Vicksburg and Memphis. At St. Louis, a general’s wife, Evelyn Patterson, interferes with the wedding plans because she knows her brother-in-law’s intent is to destroy any decent woman he meets. Evelyn takes Peggy to her home in Cincinnati where the young woman gets a job teaching school . Peggy leads Evelyn to Christ. To help in Evelyn’s growth, Peggy takes over preaching assignments when the regular minister is put on overtime in his ship building job. The test comes when her husband comes home to find a church in his house.
Jake is assigned to test a new weapon, the Gatling gun, and teaches other sailors about its power. His weapon helps quell an Indian uprising in the North Central States. He is given a grade raise, which causes trouble with the old timers in the navy. Assigned to a new ship, he finds Peggy in Cincinnati and they declare their love. In a battle at the Rebel Fort Donelson, Jake is burned severely on his face, making him wish he was dead. A visit by the general, Courtney Clay Patterson, and Peggy bring him out of his depression. His looks cause comments by Peggy’s friend, so they agree, after marriage, to go to Montana to work on a cattle ranch, where, during a severe rain storm, Jake discovers gold.