Season 1, Episode 2
Two Front War
Jesse James targets the railroads. Custer is sent on a secret mission in Sioux territory. Grant deals with growing unrest in the West and South.
The American West is currently not in season.
George A. Custer escalates the war on the plains with the Indians at Washita River, attacking an encampment of Cheyenne and burning their village to the ground in what will come to be known as the Washita Massacre. Indians across the plains fight back, killing U.S. troops where they can.
Wanting to avoid war with the Indians, newly elected President Ulysses S. Grant proposes a peace plan that moves most Indians to reservations. William Sherman does not believe most Indians will go along with the plan and wants to treat any who don’t as hostiles.
Sioux leaders Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse refuse to go willingly onto reservations. At a meeting of Sioux leaders, Crazy Horse tells those assembled that he’d rather die than cooperate and advocates fighting, but Sitting Bull says he won’t be the one to break the peace. A fragile peace is established as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull abandon the fight, while still refusing to settle on reservations.
At the Union Pacific Railroad, railroad magnate Thomas Durant plans to elongate the railroad’s route in order to get more money from the government, which pays for each mile of track laid. In Utah, the Golden Spike is hammered down, marking the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, which speeds up the settlement of the West. “Hence forth, there shall be but one Pacific railroad,” announces Durant.
But in the proliferation of the railroads, Jesse James sees a new way to make money and advance his fight against the North. James and his men sabotage the tracks, stopping a train. The outlaws board the train and begin relieving the passengers of their valuables. James begins to take the conductor's watch, but allows the man to keep it when it’s revealed both their fathers are from Kentucky. James sees another well-dressed man wearing a GAR pin for “Grand Army of the Republic.” He trains his pistol on the man’s head, but relents and nearly knocks the man out.
Confederate newspaperman John Newman Edwards meets with James and encourages him to be more than a common criminal. “I can make you a hero,” Edwards tells him. James, now with the power of the press behind him, goes on a crime spree terrorizing the railroads at gun point.
Meanwhile, an investigation finds that Durant has been stealing from the Government and the whole nation comes to view the railroads as a symbol of corruption. As Durant’s railroad scams are exposed, the country plummets into a massive economic depression.
President Grant learns that there is gold on the land promised to the Sioux. Grant and William Sherman order Custer to go into Sioux territory to locate the gold and report back.
In the Black Hills, Custer’s men find what they’re looking for. Despite Grant’s order to report only to him and Sherman, Custer announces the discovery of gold to the press. Miners flood the Black Hills in violation of Grant’s treaty with the Sioux.
Back in Washington, Sherman asks Grant what the people will say when they find out “their president had a chance to end the worst suffering they’ve ever know, but chose not to.”
Meanwhile in Missouri, as Jesse and Frank James continue to rob trains, the railroad companies turn to Allen Pinkerton, who sets his 30,000 agents, including James Witcher, on a mission to stop James.