At the end of the Civil War southerners look forward to more peaceful times. Instead the Reconstruction Period is a tumultuous era. Many former Confederates leave their homes in search of a better life. About twenty thousand southern residents sail to Brazil to homestead.
In late 1865 Tom Mahon and his friend disinherited Virginian Randolph Carlisle finally reach Galveston after traveling cross-country from a Union prison in Maryland. Good-natured, trusting Tom is no match for clever, unscrupulous cardsharp Randolph to whom winning is everything. Meeting Tom’s dark-eyed sweetheart Mattie Ratliff, Randolph decides to steal her from Tom. He has Tom framed for a crime he didn’t commit then sails off to Brazil with Mattie and her family, leaving Tom in a Galveston jail.