As the new Confederacy's provisional president, Jefferson Davis has a difficult task before him. For starters he must appoint a Cabinet, open communications with Washington and Europe, find a means to fund his treasury, purchase arms and ammunition, and create an army.
To make matters more difficult, Davis' sphinx-like demeanor in the face of criticism—a stony façade that attempts to conceal his broiling emotions, often causing him to hold a grudge or stubbornly support a friend—tends to antagonize his old enemies and create new ones.
However, he does manage to gain some allies. Judah Benjamin, his Attorney General, who, in spite of his attraction to the First Lady, says about the President, "I would follow him to Hell." Mary Chestnut, who initially befriends Varina Davis to further her husband's career, develops a warm relationship with the First Family. Mallory, the Secretary of Navy, and Reagon, the Postmaster General, will remain with him until the end.
When Varina travels to Montgomery, Alabama, she takes with her, along with her other slaves, Rachel, who, as a result, is separated from her boyfriend, Silas. The servant girl had told Silas that she wouldn't be forced to leave if he married her, but the boy still clung to he dream of escaping to freedom.
Once away from Davis' plantation, Rachel becomes involved with Colonel Chestnut's body servant, Lawrence, unaware that the handsome slave has become ensnared in the network of spies surrounding the First Family.
All of these people—politicians, soldiers, slaves, and spies—are bound together willy-nilly in an enterprise that will explode at Manassas Junction, ripping their country apart and changing their lives forever.