At West Point and in Mexico, relationships between the best and brightest men of emerging American nation are formed-deep bonds made-then challenged with the outbreak of Civil War.
Grant's triumphs in the West set rivals against him in Washington who use rumors of his earlier alcoholism to check his advancement. In the East, ambitious George McClellan is given supreme command over all U.S. forces and faces the indomitable Robert E. Lee in battle.
Against the backdrop of Bloody Shiloh in the West, Grant and Sherman's friendship is cemented-the friendship that will win the war. In the East, Lee triumphs over McClellan, while Henry Halleck, fearing that Grant's continued success will usurp his own power and position removes Grant from command in order to make Grant's victories his own.
1862-1863: the bloodiest period of the war. Lincoln struggles with the question of emancipation, while the Army of the Potomac fights three vicious battles against Lee under three different generals-McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, and Joe Hooker. In the West, Grant continues to struggle with alcoholism and risks not only his friendship with Sherman, but also the entire Union with a daring plan to take fortress Vicksburg.
The story of the Battle of Gettysburg and the ill-fated charge led by Confederate General George Pickett as seen through the eyes of two unlikely friends-Pickett's widow, Sallie Corbell Pickett and Johann Mueller-as the nation remembers the war, its triumphs and its tragedies, over the course of three veterans' reunions.
Against the closing of the war in the West, Sherman loses his son to typhoid and becomes an adherent to a scorched earth policy of war. Meanwhile, Grant is promoted to Lieutenant General-the second since George Washington-and Grant's 1864 invasion of Virginia in which he faces Lee and his dear friend-now foe-James Longstreet begins with the Battle of the Wilderness.
Grant's bloody duel with Lee across Virginia is in full, violent swing and Abby and Emma Dunlap experience the horrors of this campaign, their town of Fredericksburg becoming a hospital for Union soldiers.