Two decades before the Civil War the area that is now west Tennessee--once the land of the Chickasaws--was still largely unsettled. A man could clear a space in the wilderness and if he were judged to be industrious and enterprising he might receive some help from the Indians. Elias McCutcheon was such a man, the first, most prosperous, and as it turns out, the natural leader of a community of farmers, traders, planters, eventually soldiers. Regionalist Ford has painstakingly recreated the settings and the day-to-day procedures necessary for the survival of even the hardiest souls in a land which did not yield its rewards all that easily. There are terrible calamities--McCutcheon's wife Jane is disfigured for life in a raid. And though the attack is avenged to the settlers' economic advantage, Jane's wounds of body and spirit never heal. Then the war divides Tennessee and McCutcheon becomes a reluctant warrior (McCutcheon's Raiders) more out of loyalty to his neighbors than to the ideals of the Confederacy. Ford has brought various elements together in a style of conscious plainness which has the effect of creating a certain distance between the characters and the reader. You have to admire his workmanship however much you may not care to have all the stitches show.