is set in 1847 when the U. S. was at war with Mexico. It brings together two strong characters: Lieutenant Thomas Cavillin of the Texas Rangers and Lieutenant Matthew Chilton of the U. S. Calvary’s Dragoons. Fighting their way through hostile territory from Vera Cruz on the coast to capture Mexico City in the far mountains with General Winfield Scott’s small American Army, the two men are drawn together in warrior camaraderie. In the deadly battle to capture Mexico City, Cavillin leads his Rangers to punch a hole through a powerful force of Mexican Lancers to rescue seriously wounded Chilton and his Dragoons from slaughter.
Remembering the slaughter of Texans at The Alamo and Goliad, the Rangers are ruthless with the Mexican people. Robbing and killing them for little reason, the Rangers become a huge problem for General Scott trying to make a treaty with the government of the beaten people.
When Chilton recuperates from his wounds he is filled with vengeful bitterness, and feels responsible for many of his men being killed or crippled. Wanting to collect money for his crippled Dragoons and the families of those killed, he leads a renegade band of Dragoons on a marauding spree along the Camino Real robbing Mexican towns of their gold and silver.
Wade Ussing, thief and killer and whoremaster, brings his women from New Orleans to Vera Cruz and onward to Mexico City. There he sets up a brothel. Chilton falls in love with the beautiful Sylvia, Ussing’s woman. When Cavillin backs Chilton, Ussing and his thugs set out to kill both men.
Cavillin and his Rangers are ordered to catch the pillaging Dragoons. It is a difficult task for Cavillin who identifies his friend as the leader of the thieving Dragoons and must pursue him. The chase becomes a dilemma of conflicting emotions, divided loyalties and justice.
Smothered by the sheer numbers of the enemy, Matt’s dragoons were losing the battle. Then the air filled with the crash of pistols. The Mexican Lancers encircling Matt and his men began to fall from the backs of their horses. A large section of their ring melted away. The captain took a shot through the neck and became a limp hulk that pitched sideways to the ground.
Matt recognized the crack of the .36 caliber revolvers of the Texas Rangers. He heard the men’s shrill, keening battle cry. Then Cavillin, on his big, black horse, was by his side. The Ranger, a revolver in each hand, his thumbs cocking the single-action guns, fired again and again. Without seeming to aim, he hit a target every time.
Cavillin flung a fast glance at Matt. The Ranger’s red hair flared like flame in the sunlight, and his large blue eyes were hard and smoky. He grinned a wild, reckless grin.
The Mexicans retreated in a full rout, spurring and lashing their horses and casting frightened looks behind them. Matt watched them jump their mounts down into the ravine and scramble up the far side. He turned to examine the Rangers that had come to support him in the fight. He estimated two hundred men. With the firepower of their five-shot revolvers, they were equal to a thousand Mexican dragoons and their single-shot pistols. The army must soon equip all of its cavalry with this fine repeating weapon.
Matt surveyed the carnage that had occurred in a few seconds of battle. Bodies lay thickly on the ground, crumpled in awkward, grotesque forms. He lifted his view to count his men that still lived. It was a heart rending number; nearly half of his company of Dragoons was missing.