In 1885 Highlands, a Southern town founded mostly by sober, God-fearing, temperate Yankees, is dry, without saloons or open sale of whiskey. However, the immediate neighborhood is rife with moonshiners, who manufacture and peddle their merchandise from across the Georgia border.
One day a U.S. revenuer arrests two bootleggers from Moccasin Township in Georgia and brings them to Highlands. Because there is no jail in town, he confines them in Highlands House (later Highlands Inn) to await trial.
The Moccasin Township, hearing of the arrest, issues a formal declaration of war on Highlands and dispatches an army of eighteen volunteers. They gather at Central House, directly across the street from Highlands House, and lay siege. Recruiting local guards, Mayor Bascom declares a state of martial law, and for three days and nights war rages on Main Street.