In 1863 US Army lieutenant John J. Dunbar gets a chance to fulfill a long-cherished dream: service on the western frontier of the United States. He did not come by it easily, however. Suffering a severe foot wound in a battle in the eastern theater of the Civil War, Dunbar patches his foot up and returns to service.
A short time later, maddened by pain, he volunteers to ride between the Union and Confederate lines to draw fire from the boys in gray. He also hopes it will result in his own death. Instead, he unintentionally triggers a Union attack that scatters the rebels and sees himself emerge alive. Thanks to a kindly general, he keeps his foot and gets to request a transfer to whatever post he desires.