Martha Farnsworth runs a single-sex education in Virginia during the American Civil War. By 1864, almost all of the students, teachers, and slaves have left; only five students and one teacher, Edwina Morrow, remain. While out in the woods searching for mushrooms, Amy, a pupil, comes across John McBurney, a corporal in the Union Army who was wounded in the leg during battle, and has since Desertion. Amy brings McBurney to the school where he falls unconscious. The women lock McBurney in one of the rooms while Miss Farnsworth tends to his wounds. All the women and girls in the school are immediately fascinated by the handsome man.