Some men return from war to a life of peace, and some never return at all. Tom Dooley returned from the Civil War and became embroiled in a tumultuous affair with Ann Foster Melton, a married woman. Their affair is 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 along with Ann Foster are arrested for the crime. After a while, Tom claims that Ann had nothing to do with the murder, although he does not openly admit his own guilt. He is tried and defended by the state's former governor, Zebulon Vance. Though found guilty twice, there are those who believe Tom is innocent, openly wondering why he had reason to kill the girl he was going to run away with.