The Unvanquished unfolds over the course of 11 years, starting in Mississippi during the middle of the Civil War. Bayard Sartoris is the son of a wealthy plantation family. One day playing with one of the slaves, his friend Ringo, another slave named Loosh tells the two boys that Union soldiers are in Mississippi. The boy's story is confirmed when Bayard's father comes home with the news that Vicksburg was lost to the Union. The boys keep an eye on Loosh and one day fire a musket at a Union soldier they see, killing his horse. The boys flee the scene and are not discovered.
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Months later, Bayard's grandmother attempts to dig up a chest of silver from her yard and transport it safely to Memphis for fear of its being stolen on the plantation by Yankees. She begins her journey with Bayard and Ringo in tow, but the party is attacked by Union soldiers who steal their horses. The boys give chase and are eventually recovered by Colonel Sartoris. Grandmother made her way home in the meantime, with the silver. Sartoris returns home to find her, but a Yankee attack surprises him. He escapes but his home is burned and the silver stolen.
Granny decides to journey to Alabama where the Union army is encamped to see if she can get her silver, horses, and slaves returned. On the journey, Bayard witnesses widespread destruction of Confederate infrastructure by Union armies. When they arrive Alabama, their wagon is thrown into a river when Union soldiers blow up a bridge. The are saved and given more silver than they lost, as well as slaves and horses, for their trouble. Granny sees an opportunity and uses similar stories to get free mules from the Union which she later sells back to different camps of the Yankee armies. She hides the mules with the help of Ab Snopes. When the Union becomes suspicious of scams like Granny's they follow her home. She evades them with the help of a diversion from Bayard. The boy learns that she has given most of her money to hurting members of their town.
In 1864, Ab prevails on Granny to use her scam to get horses from an ex-confederate who leads a group of bandits through the hillsides. She agrees but is shot and killed in the attempt. Ab has joined Grumby and Bayard chases after the bandits for revenge. Ab is tied up and left in the street in an attempt to placate Bayard and his companions, but they return the man to town and keep chasing Grumby. The bandits finally leave behind Grumby just as they did Ab. Bayard fights and kills Grumby, nailing him to a door where his grandmother was killed. He cuts off Grumby's hand and puts it on her gravestone.
Months later Colonel Sartoris is embroiled in a scandal because he lived with a woman named Drusilla who was not his wife. His sister tries to force the two to get married, but their wedding is cancelled when Sartoris duels with two carpetbaggers who are trying to keep him from winning a local election. He kills them both and riles his sisters' fury for not marrying Drusilla.
Years later, Bayard is in law school. When his father is killed by a man named Ben Redmund, Ringo arrives to tell him that he is expected to take revenge. Sometime in the intervening years, Drusilla and Bayard have fallen in love. When he arrives she prepares him with weapons to kill Ben. Bayard enters Ben's office and shots are fired. Ben is seen leaving the office and boarding a train. Bayard survives also and the reader learns that he went in unarmed to stop the violence without betraying his own honor. Drusilla is gone when he arrives home.
Best part of story, including ending:
This is one of my favorite Faulkner books. The dark intensity of his best work is here. The stakes are very high.
Best scene in story:
I liked watching Granny's scheme come together. Her success at scamming was very satisfying.
Opinion about the main character:
Bayard is a brave and admirable character. Plus he's just very believable. Faulkner created a very three-dimensional person.