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In 1863, Peter works as a slave in a cotton  plantation with his wife Dodienne and their   children. When he learns he's been sold to a new  owner, he spends the last moment with his family   in prayer until the white men come to drag him  out, ignoring the pleas from the children. Peter   tries to fight back, yelling and struggling  against their hold, but the men don't hesitate   to aim their gun at Dodienne and this instantly  makes Peter stops, accepting to get on the cart   on his own feet. Unfortunately now the men want  revenge, so they hit him anyway before dragging   him again. Peter and a bunch of other slaves are  transported in a cage as if they were cattle,   and through the bars, Peter promises his children  one day he'll come back for them as they try to   run after him in tears. After a long time spent  on the road, they arrive at their new working   location, which happens to be the construction  of a railroad. The conditions here are a hundred   times worse than in the plantations: the heads  of the slaves that dared to disobey decorate the   entrance as a warning, they sleep in cages, and  even while they're behaving and working hard,   the white masters won't hesitate to hit them and  insult them. To make matters worse, they quote   the Bible to justify their actions. There are also  lots of feral dogs around, who are sent after any   slave that tries to run away. When a slave does  misbehave, sometimes they're just whipped, but   other times they're shot right there in the middle  of the field, and other times the boss Fassel will   brand them right on the face. Fassel keeps two men  as his right hands: Harrington and Knowls, who was   also bought as a slave but was chosen to become  part of the guards because of his hunting skills.   Peter tries his best to behave, but even when he  tries to help his friend Gordon when he falls,   he gets yelled at for daring to do anything that  isn't working. One evening, after all the slaves   are sent back to their cage, they have to watch  how John is thrown inside while wiggling in pain   because of his branded cheek. A slave named Tomas  is trembling in fear and Peter tries to comfort   him by asking him to remember his loved ones and  to think of this as just work. He also offers the   word of God, who is always watching over them, but  John scoffs at him because clearly there isn't a   God that cares about them. Peter doesn't react to  the taunt though, he keeps calm and promises John   to pray for him. Sometime later, Peter overhears  two white guards talking about some very important   news: Lincoln has freed the slaves, and now  all the ones that manage to escape are running   to Baton Rouge to seek help. The conversation's  suddenly interrupted when a guard notices Tomas   made a mistake with the food and intends to  punish him, but Peter comes in his defense,   explaining he's just a kid. The guard hits him  before taking out his gun to point it at Peter,   ready to kill him for such insolence, but Fassel  stops him because he's taken a particular interest   in Peter because of his attitude. Later, when  Peter is back in the cage, Fassel approaches him   to tell him he's his god and Peter is his dog now,  to which Peter replies that then he should be fed   the same meat as the dogs. At that moment Fassel  just laughs, but the next day, he puts Peter in   chains and makes him kneel in front of him while  his dog keeps barking and growling at Peter,   only a few inches between them. Now the dog has  committed Peter's scent to memory. Later over   lunch, Peter tells the other slaves about Lincoln  and Baton Rouge, which they could reach after five   days of walking through the swamp. Some of the  slaves are hesitant because surviving the swamps   isn't easy, but when Peter reminds them they  probably won't survive this place either, he gets   the support of a few men. Now they only need to  wait for the right time to escape. Sometime later,   a slave dies in the middle of work, and the guards  make Peter drag him to the pit where they throw   all the bodies together. There are some white  deserters that should be digging, but as soon   as they see Peter, they say a black man should do  this instead, thus Peter ends up grabbing a shovel   to fill in the pit. Peter realizes this is the  perfect chance for him to pull off the plan, so   he waits patiently for the guards to be distracted  by an explosion on the field and jumps on them to   kill them with the shovel and steal a knife before  running away. The other slaves and the deserters   see this and take the chance to start running  as well, hitting a few guards in the way which   allows John to steal a gun. Other guards raise the  alarm and immediately begin shooting the runners,   killing as many as possible before they're lost  in the woods. Fassel does some shooting of his own   too, killing the deserters, but he hates the fact  Peter got away with it and calls for Harrington,   Knowls, and the dogs to go after him. Peter  manages to team up with three of his friends,   and he guides them through the forest by keeping  an ear up for any dangers approaching. Eventually   they manage to find the swamps and most  of the team doesn't have trouble crossing,   but Tomas freezes when he sees the crocodiles,  allowing the dogs to catch up with him. After the   beasts have done enough damage, Fassel calls them  back and demands to know where the group is going,   but Tomas refuses to answer. This prompts Fassel  to offer a deal: if Tomas tells him where the   others are going, he'll allow him to leave. A  terrified Tomas confesses what he knows and is   indeed allowed to go into the swamp, but as soon  as he turns around, Fassel shoots him and lets the   crocodiles eat him. Meanwhile, Peter, John, and  Gordon finish crossing the swamp safely. Peter   thinks they should take the other swamps, but  John won't take orders from anyone and decides   to take the horse trail, feeling like he can stay  safe thanks to the gun he stole. Gordon wants to   follow Peter wherever he goes, but Peter thinks  they'll be harder to track if they split up,   so Gordon chooses his own way through the woods  after Peter reminds him to follow the sound   of Lincoln's cannons. Afterward, Peter begins  choosing his own way, only to discover his leg is   bleeding because he had been touched by a bullet  after all. He needs to do something about it soon   or the dogs will smell the blood, but first he  needs to run for a while to put some distance   between him and Fassel. Moments later, Peter comes  across a house owned by a white family that also   keeps slaves. First Peter grabs a vine from a  tree to tie above his wound as a tourniquet,   then he sneaks around by staying hidden behind  a pile of logs. This allows him to reach for   some water from the pump and to notice the clothes  hanging on a rope. Taking a big risk, Peter across   the garden and steals a shirt before running  into the forest, but one of the family kids sees   him and alerts everyone by ringing a bell. Fassel  hears the noise and follows it to the house, where   he's told by the family about the direction Peter  took off. Peter's running as fast as possible,   only stopping to bandage his wound with the shirt  he stole. Moments later, he takes the bloodstained   shirt off and hides it in a trunk for the dogs to  find while he hides under the swamp water. Fassel   and his men fall for the trick and make their  way down the road thinking Peter has crossed   the swamp, but he actually comes out after the  group is gone. Suddenly, a crocodile takes the   chance to attack him, so Peter thinks fast and  pushes it away with a thick branch before killing   it with his knife. At that moment, Dodienne wakes  up from a nightmare where she saw her husband in   danger. The kids wake up as well and worry about  their father, but Dodienne promises he's alive   and that he'll come soon because he's survived  things no other man could. When night falls,   Peter hides on top of a tree and uses his knife  to remove the swamp leeches from his body, which   means some blood drips on the plants surrounding  him. Meanwhile Fassel and his men find the dead   crocodile and open it up to find it empty, which  means Peter escaped through here. The group   decides to camp for the night and feast on the  crocodile, which prompts Harrington to actually   compliment Peter for his skill. Fassel immediately  scolds him for it and tells him about the lesson   his father taught him: if you give black people  just a tiny thing, they'll ask for more and take   things like their jobs and their lands. The next  morning, Peter continues to run while making sure   to keep his body covered with mud and animal  excrement, it means he's constantly surrounded   by flies but it helps cover up his scent. When he  has to cross another swamp, he thinks about his   family and prays to his lord to keep the fear of  the beasts away, and when the sun suddenly shines   on him, he takes it as a sign. While Fassel splits  his group to cover more ground, Peter's lucky to   find an abandoned treehouse with clean water and  some leftover food. There are also some hot coals,   so Peter uses them to heat up his knife in  order to cauterize his leg wound. Afterward,   he puts the coals on the empty bucket and takes  them with him as he climbs a tree to throw the   smoke at a beehive, this scares the bees away and  allows Peter to take some honey. Fassel sees the   smoke and begins riding toward it, but Peter's  already on his way out. The treehouse also has   a boat that a snake is using as its own hiding  place, so Peter carefully pushes it away with a   branch before jumping into the boat and sailing  away as he enjoys the taste of the honey. In the   meantime, Dodienne is approached by her master,  who tells her he's sold her and she'll be gone in   two days. Her children aren't allowed to go with  her, though, because her new master will give her   a new husband. Dodienne is deeply hurt by the news  and still wants to wait here for her husband to   come back, so she takes a rather drastic choice to  avoid being sold. She goes to one of the machines   used for the production of cotton and puts her  hand inside, pretending she's being caught in an   accident. Back to Fassel, he finds the treehouse  thanks to his dog's nose and manages to keep track   of Peter's direction while he crosses the river.  Peter hurries to make his way into the woods where   he's surprised to meet again with John, who  is angry because now the white men will come   after him as well. Peter swears he's not being  followed and teaches John how to hide his scent,   but John ignores him before they start running  again. Just a moment later, they hear the dogs   barking and hurry to hide, Peter gets inside  an empty trunk while John climbs up a tree top.   The dogs manage to follow John's scent anyway,  allowing Fassel and his men to easily find him.   John refuses to come down so Fassel makes him fall  with a shot before demanding information on Peter   through violent means, but John still won't talk.  Fassel decides to take his head and give it to   Harrington and Knowls for them to take it back to  camp as a message. Peter closes his eyes to avoid   witnessing his friend's death and offers a prayer  for John's soul. After waiting a few hours to put   some distance between himself and Fassel, Peter  comes out of the trunk when it starts to rain   only to discover exactly how they killed John,  which shakes him to his core. He forces himself   to keep going with grief heavy on his mind until  suddenly he sees a bunch of horses running by,   including one on fire. Peter follows the direction  they came from and finds a house on a plantation,   but everything is on fire and all the white  people are dead; it seems the slaves here also   heard the news from Lincoln and took matters into  their own hands. With his knife out just in case,   Peter enters the house and slowly walks through  the rooms until he comes across the dining table,   instantly throwing all caution to the wind and  jumping on the food and wine to feed his tired   body. He doesn't stop until he hears a weird  noise coming from upstairs, and he follows it   until he finds a dying girl stuck under a harp  that she keeps playing as a plea for help. Peter   immediately rescues her and takes her outside,  where he puts her down on a table before trying   to fetch some water. The girl is scared though and  makes him stay as she gives him her cross pendant,   and Peter takes it understanding what she  needs: a prayer promising God's with her.   He's so distracted that he doesn't hear Harrington  approaching until it's too late, and Peter has to   drop his knife and step away from the girl if he  doesn't want to get shot. The girl dies as soon   as Peter leaves her, and he's so furious that he  dares to violently turn around and kill Harrington   by using the cross as a stake. At that moment,  Knowls also arrives, but Peter thinks fast and   grabs Harrington's weapon to shoot him. Knowls  tries to explain to Peter that someone capable   of killing a crocodile may be accepted by Fassel  in his ranks, but Peter calls him "the worst kind"   and leaves him to die. Hearing Fassel approach  because of the barking, Peter decides to run   into the cotton fields for cover, and when the dog  comes too close, he shoots it. Fassel eventually   comes across the body which makes him even more  determined to catch Peter. The next morning,   Peter arrives at a beach filled with the bodies  of white men that died during the confrontations   against Lincoln's army. Unfortunately they  don't have any provisions for him to take,   but in the distance, Peter can see the ships  and hear the cannons that indicate Lincoln's   men are near. Excited at the thought of finally  reaching freedom, Peter begins running again,   but suddenly a horse appears by his side and he's  pushed to the ground with a few hits. It's Fassel,   who offers Peter some of the meat he had asked  for back in the cage and asks him to beg. Since   Peter won't obey, Fassel takes out his gun  and reminds Peter he's his god, but before   he can pull the trigger, someone else shoots him  first. Peter tells the falling body that he's no   god before turning to meet his saviors, who are  Lincoln's Native Guard led by Lieutenant Cailloux.   Peter's body finally gives in to exhaustion and  hunger, so the soldiers take him to the infirmary   tent on their camp in Baton Rouge. Because his leg  wound is infected, the nun nurse makes Peter res,   and for a few days Peter does nothing but dream  about his family. Once Peter is feeling better,   he sees one of the soldiers to get his new  papers as a free man, although he has to make   up some information he doesn't know, like his age.  Unfortunately he isn't allowed to leave and search   for his family yet, the white soldiers are taking  advantage of the fact the slaves are technically   stolen contraband and give them two choices:  they can work on the Federal farms or join the   army. Peter refuses to keep following orders,  but when the soldier points out that joining   the army can help him rescue his family and be  free for good, Peter accepts to join. Afterward,   Peter discovers the army has found Gordon too, and  he's hurting but alive. Peter is glad to see him,   but it pains him to tell him about John. Then  Peter goes to see Cailloux for his uniform,   but first he's asked if he'd be interested in  helping the cause by posing for something called a   "photograph". Peter is wary, but Cailloux promises  the white photographers are harmless and their   intentions good. It turns out these men are taking  pictures of the reality behind slavery to let the   world know, and Peter agrees to show his bare back  to the camera, exposing the scars of hundreds of   whippings. Next, Peter's taken to see the general,  who asks him about all the information he may have   about the railroad the enemy's building. After  Peter shares all the intel he has, the general   stares at his picture and points out that those  scars equal disobedience, which isn't a good   quality to have in the army. Cailloux tries to  take Peter away, but Peter defends himself anyway,   explaining that those scars mean he's been beaten  up many times yet he never stopped fighting, which   is also important for a soldier. At dawn, Cailloux  takes Peter and all his soldiers to the trenches,   where he reminds them they're fighting for freedom  with a heartfelt speech. Many soldiers fall to   enemy fire while they're still marching, but the  group doesn't let it stop them and joins the fight   without hesitation. Soon there's fire surrounding  them everywhere, and Peter is hit by an explosion,   leaving him unconscious in a puddle for a few  minutes. As soon as he wakes up, he drags his   sore body through the mud to keep on helping,  shooting at the enemy whenever he has the chance   and offering blessings for any dying companion  he sees in the way. Cailloux falls in battle,   and eventually Peter finds a wounded Gordon as  well; seeing his friend in so much pain and fear   inspires him to come out from his hiding spot  to run toward enemy lines. His intention's to   stop the cannons, and thanks to all the soldiers  that see him as an inspiration and follow him,   the Native Guard overpowers their enemies and  obtains their victory. Now that war's over,   the army visits every plantation to free the  slaves. When they arrive at the house Peter used   to work at, everybody's shocked, not believing  the news, but happiness soon takes over their   mood when they finally understand freedom's  actually real. After seeing his former master   die in the hands of justice, Peter begins looking  for his family, almost having a breakdown when he   can't find them. However when he begins offering  a prayer under his breath, he glances to his side   and lets God guide him to finally find his wife  and kids, who run to him to meet him with a hug.   The photograph of the real Peter became an iconic  part of history and traveled the entire world   many times over. In 1863 thanks to Lincoln's  proclamation, over four hundred thousand black   people escaped to freedom. By 1865, nearly four  million slaves in America were recognized as free.
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