A knock came on the door in the dead of night. On the verge of Civil War, such a summons meant trouble and danger. To ignore it offered momentary reprieve for the Ward family: it also meant shirking duty. Such was not in their make-up, for the Wards, otherwise known as the landlocked "Kansas Pirates," had taken the buccaneer's oath to protect one another, and, by association, the oppressed, against tyranny and injustice.
Their help was urgently needed to guide runaway slaves from "Bleeding Kansas" across the river to safer ground. Barbara Nelander-Ward, former first mate aboard the Bottom Dollar, accepts the arduous task and so begins her trek to "follow the drinking gourd" north to freedom. Fighting slavers who worked on the side of the law earning a living selling human beings as chattel, those who believed the dark color of a man or woman's skin made them inferior, battling the elements and finding herself forced to trust a former enemy, Nelander also discovers "the side of right" is not always what it seems.