David H. Stevens as Jesse James - The American West _ Season 1, Episode 4 - Photo Credit: Lawrence French/Getty Images For AMC

Season 1, Episode 4

Showdown

Custer rides to a showdown with the Sioux at Little Big Horn. Jesse James targets a bank in northern territory hoping to make a big statement.

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Full Recap

In the Plains, the Lakota have brought together a massive force under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. As they prepare for battle, Crazy Horse declares, “We will drive the blue coats from this land!”

On the other side, George Custer orders his forces split in two. His second-in-command will attack from the left while Custer attacks on the right, splitting the Sioux.

Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull see the approaching U.S. forces. The two armies move out against each other on the field.

Custer arrives at the battle and finds only the Sioux, as the other half of his force has already been routed. The Sioux advance and Custer orders his men to take up defensive positions. As Custer watches his men being killed, more Sioux warriors ride in. In the last moments, Custer takes aim at Crazy Horse, but a bullet from another Sioux cuts him down before he can fire.

In the aftermath, more than 200 Americans lie dead. But Sitting Bull worries the white man will never let the Sioux forget their victory.

Meanwhile in the South, rebels like Jesse James resist the Northern occupation and the equal rights granted to former slaves. James decides to take his fight to the North and plans a bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota.

James and his armed gang take the bank, but the cashier delays them by refusing to open the safe. Outside, the townspeople, who are heavily armed for the first day of hunting season, fight back and pick off James’s men stationed outside the bank. Inside, Frank tells Jesse it’s time to leave, but Jesse delays. Finally, he shoots the reluctant cashier – who knew the safe was unlocked all along -- and flees the bank on horseback.

The enraged townspeople form posses and pursue the James brothers with more than 1,000 men. With their allies dead, the James boys go into hiding.

Meanwhile, the country focuses on a hotly-contested presidential election, where inflamed North-South tensions threaten to unravel the fragile peace. Samuel Tilden, the Southern Democratic candidate, is an overt racist who wants to end reconstruction. Opposing him is Union General Rutherford B. Hayes. When the returns are counted, the results are unclear.
Unable to declare a winner, men from both camps convene a backroom meeting where it’s agreed that the Southerners will give Hayes the Presidency if the Army pulls out of the South, effectively ending reconstruction and federal protection of the rights of freed slaves.

In response to Custer’s defeat, General Sherman employs total warfare against the Sioux. The U.S. military pays for hunters to go West and massacre buffalo in an attempt to starve the Indians. One hunter, Buffalo Bill takes down 4,000 buffalo himself. All told the buffalo population drops from 60 million to less than two thousand.

Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull must decide what to do next. “There’s still buffalo in Canada,” suggests Sitting Bull, but Crazy Horse doesn’t believe safety lies northward. “What makes you think they will stop at a line on a piece of paper?” he wonders.