James Merritt is a stage performer who drinks too much, smokes too much, gambles his money away and wants the South to rise again. He also looks exactly like a certain tall, dark-haired cowboy.
Merritt is captive to his bad habits: drinking and gambling. His vices have alienated his wife, who is looking for love in the arms of another man. Those vices could also a means to escape from an unknown incident in his past, possibly as a Confederate soldier, when he allegedly deserted his post. This could also be the origin of his reputation for being a coward and pushover.
Merritt is trying to make up for that shame by raising money for Captain Baylor, a Southern commander waiting in Mexico with his cavalry company for funds to rebuild the Confederate Army. Merritt and the other players host meetings on each stop of their tour to raise money from Southern sympathizers for this cause. He’s so successful at this that his efforts have gained attention from the federal government.In Atlanta during a performance, Merritt takes a smoke break outside when a janitor asks for his assistance opening a jammed wagon door. Merritt grudgingly assists with the door and is promptly snatched into the back of the wagon and replaced with an imposter. Merritt is arrested and languishes in jail for weeks until he manages to escape.
Knowing that the Thalia Company tour ends in El Paso, Texas, Merritt makes his way there. When he arrives at the theater, Merritt prowls around, uncertain who to trust. He sneaks into a dressing room and pistol whips the imposter. Unfortunately for him, Willis and Nellie already suspect that there’s a spy in their midst. Willis enters the room, finds Merritt there and thinking he’s the spy, shoots him dead.