(Summer 1842 - Summer 1844) - Young Southerner Orry Main, the only son of a wealthy South Carolina plantation owner, goes to West Point. During the journey, he meets and falls in love with beautiful New Orleans French-Creole Madeline Fabray. In New York City Orry meets Northerner George Hazard, the second son of a wealthy Pennsylvania steel-factory owner, who is also on his way to West Point. They soon become close friends. At the Academy, they meet the amoral egomaniac Elkanah Bent, a fellow cadet from Georgia. Bent, who becomes the main villain in the miniseries, is a handsome, smooth-talking man who hides his evil, twisted nature beneath his charm and good looks. Bent takes an instant dislike to Orry and George and uses his status as their drillmaster to constantly harass them. Orry keeps writing letters to Madeline, although it seems that Madeline hasn't been responding. After a two-year absence, the men return home for a summer leave. George's abolitionist sister, Virgilia, immediately takes a dislike to Orry as he keeps slaves. While at home, Orry learns that Madeline is getting married to his cruel neighbor, plantation owner Justin LaMotte. Orry is devastated by the news. Orry has an argument with his father over the hiring of the brutal and sadistic Salem Jones as the plantation overseer. Orry stops Jones from using a bullwhip to "punish" a slave. After Orry sees Madeline get married, they find out that Madeline's father has been hiding Orry's letters so the she would marry Justin.