In 1861, along the Kansas/Missouri border the uglier side of the American Civil war is foreshadowed. The film tells the story of a 16-year-old boy Jake (Maguire) and his friend Jack (Ulrich) who are caught on the front lines.
The two begin a journey that will not only test their moral and political convictions, but threaten their lives. A love triangle is created between the two men and a young widow (Jewel).
The story is based on the novel Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell.