Some men return from war to a life of peace. Tom Dooley returned from the Civil War and became embroiled in a tumultuous affair with Ann Foster Melton, a married woman. Their affair was openly known throughout the community. Later, Tom becomes involved with two of Ann's cousins, Pauline Foster and Laura Foster. When it is learned that Tom is about to elope with Laura, who is then found murdered, there are plenty of suspects, Tom being the principal one. He and Ann Foster are arrested for the crime. Tom claims that Ann had nothing to do with the murder, although he does not openly admit his own guilt. He is tried, defended by the state's former governor, Zebulon Vance. Though he is found guilty, there are those who believe Tom is innocent, wondering why he would kill the girl he was going to run away with.