The opening of the Kansas Territory to settlement in 1854 created the most violent place in America: “Bleeding Kansas” the newspapers of the day called it. Proslavery Missourians called Border Ruffians attacked settlers who demanded that the Territory enter the Union as a Free State: knifings, the burning of barns and houses, shootings, and guerilla raids became commonplace. Ezra Middleton, a newspaper reporter and arrival from slave-holding Missouri, finds himself at the center of the conflict, crossing paths with violent abolitionist John Brown; James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok, Union sharpshooter and spy; William Quantrill, Confederate guerilla, who massacred 200 unarmed and boys and burned Lawrence to the ground; and William (Buffalo Bill) Cody, Pony Express rider, Indian fighter, and Union trooper; and the bitter rivals for power, Charles Robinson and U.S. Senator James Lane. Middleton’s war ends when, at the Battle of Westport, the citizen-soldiers of the Kansas militia and the Union cavalry turn back a desperate Confederate invasion and end the Civil War in the West. Over time, Middleton changes as persons and events transform him from indifferent observer, to Free-State advocate, to staunch abolitionist, and finally to militiaman, as he and his compatriots struggle to preserve the Union and build on the Kansas prairie a just and peaceful society.