Sarah Lindsey can see the lights of a vast encampment this September night of 1862. She marvels how she came to be here among these thousands of men, and is drawn to try to help, however she can. She wanders that battle day into a barn, and encounters a bloody surgeon. She and Dr. John Rizzo work side by side as the battle surges around them. They discover she has an uncommon talent for surgery, and Rizzo mentions the possibility of medical school after the War. The next night she discovers a Confederate major under corpses in the Sunken Road, the place of the heaviest fighting. Thad Barrett is barely alive, but she assists Dr. Rizzo in the surgery and stays with him until he is out of danger. The field hospital closes and Dr. Rizzo and Barrett are transfered to a base hospital in Baltimore. Sarah visits the base hospital and Thad knows he loves this " angel" who saved him, but Dr. Rizzo also expresses his affection for Sarah, even though she later learns he has an invalid wife. Thad is paroled and goes home with a peg leg to rebuild his life. His Aunt Abigail helps him recover and resume life as a professor in a small Carolina college. The War ends and Reconstruction begins, but the old hatreds are accentuated and the local Ku Klux Klan demands Thad join their cause and leave him near dead in a ditch when he refuses. He is rescued by Negroes. Despite her battlefield experience at Antietam, Sarah cannot get into the Army Nurse Corp. because of the prejudice of Dorothea Dix, Superintendent of Nursing for the Army Nurse Corp. Rizzo puts her in touch with Mary Ann Bickerdyle, a famous Union nurse working with Grant and Sherman in the West, and Sarah becomes her understudy in thegreat battles ahead. With the War ended, Bickerdyke encourages Sarah to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. But medical schools are bastions of male supremacy. Finally, an early physician, Dr. Marie Zakrzewska (Dr. Z.) in Boston becomes Sarah' s mentor and helps her be accepted at the prestigious Ecole de Medecine in Paris. Meantime, Thad has been trying to find Sarah. He finally learns that she is in Paris. They barely have communicated when Paris comes under siege in the Franco-Prussian War. In the aftermath, Sarah is raped and her face slashed by a jealous classmate. She gives birth to a crippled daughter. She never replies to Thad' s letters, and doggedly finishes her schooling and returns to Boston broken and spirit. Years later, Thad, now president of the small college in North Carolina, tries to admit a crippled Negro girl who may be a genius. But this inflames prejudices and the Klann violently opposes him, and Aunt Abigail is killed in the confrontation that receives national media attention. Dr. Z hears of this and sends a cryptic note to Thad.