In 1765 Andrew was a scrawny twelve-year-old slave in Maryland. In the years that follow he grows to manhood. Andrew is the fictional story of his journey.
The story starts when Andrew has been placed in a jail cell waiting to be sold at auction. While there, an unruly slave, Jim, manacled and shackled, is thrown into the adjacent cell to also wait his turn on the auction block.
Andrew is bought by an elderly plantation owner to help him with the problems of old age. Jim, on the other hand, finds he is not to be bought because of his bad attitude. This means he will be returned to his owner and the owner's overseer, Big Bull. He knows his future is limited to a few hours at best. He escapes into the adjacent swamp only to be taken captive by Indians.
Andrew and the old man form an unlikely bond and Andrew is allowed privileges not usually given to slaves. He learns to read and become an accomplished equestrian and farrier and, absolutely forbidden of slaves, learns to hunt with a musket. But still, the old man has Andrew work the fields to prepare him for when the old man dies. The old man dies but frees Andrew before doing so.
The years pass and Andrew grows from a small boy to a strapping young man. Content to be a freed slave working on the plantation, his life is about to drastically change. On a Sunday when hunting by the swamp, he is attacked by a neighbor's drunken overseer, Big Bull. Forced to defend himself Andrew kills the man. A slave, even a freed slave, has no recourse but to run for his life and so he does with the help of a loosely formed network of Quaker sympathizers and his old renegade friend, Jim, who is to guide him north to Massachusetts. But before going on their journey, they have to wait for one additional runaway, Branwen.
Branwen was a house slave, educated in literature, had a Webster's vocabulary and knew the medicinal cures of nature…and was the most gorgeous thing Andrew had ever seen. She had run away because of problems with her white half-brother.
The trio makes it north through trials and tribulations where an awaiting Quaker assigns Branwen to a doctor in Boston, where, because of her skills with natural remedies, she becomes his nurse. Andrew is assigned to a blacksmith in Lexington a few miles from Boston and Jim returns to Maryland.
Andrew joins the militia and soon finds himself fighting the British in the first Battle of the Revolution on Lexington Green. Later, the militia moves to Cambridge to guard George Washington, the new Commander of the Continental Forces. Washington declares blacks cannot join the Continentals.
Retuning to Lexington, Andrew questions why he is fighting for the Patriots because of Washington's proclamation, even though later reversed. He does not think much of the British either. So, he quits the militia and his job and decides to go west.
Before going west, he goes into British controlled Boston to find Branwen. He discovers Branwen has left the city with Doctor Warren. Doctor Warren dies fighting on Bunker Hill and Branwen goes to live with Doctor Warren's mother, and continues to care for Doctor Warren's patients. Andrew is wounded on his flight from Boston and finds his way to a Quaker farm run by a mother and daughter both of which are widows. They try to obtain medical attention for Andrew and it is Branwen who responds to the call. Though Andrew is an unshaven mess, Branwen recognizes him. During the weeks of recovery that follow, Branwen is captured by slave bounty hunters and they attempt to take her back south. Andrew is recovered sufficiently to chase after them. The bounty hunters try to take advantage of Branwen but Andrew rescues her just in time. The ordeal is traumatizing for Branwen and she goes into a secluded mental shell. After a long time, Andrew decides Branwen will never respond to his gestures and he feels it is time to move on. But then Branwen comes from behind, taps him on his shoulder and a new journey begins.