When North Carolina secedes from the Union on May 20, 1861, the young men of Cold Mountain (North Carolina) hurry to enlist in the Confederate States Army. Among them is W.P. Inman, a carpenter who has fallen in love with Ada Monroe, a preacher's daughter who had come from Charleston, South Carolina to care for her ailing father. Their whirlwind courtship is interrupted by the war, but they share their first kiss the day Inman leaves for the army. Before parting ways, Ada promises Inman that she will wait for him.