Hamp doesn't much care who wins the War Between the States. Out in the swamp they live by their own rules, and no one he knows is rich enough to own slaves anyhow. He hates the Union army for taking his Pap's leg though &150 and not only his leg, but a big chunk of his soul. Pap used to take Hamp hunting all the time, but now he just sits on the porch and cries.
So when Hamp hears about a no-good runaway slave boy named Duff who killed his own master and is now on the loose in the swamp, he figures that bounty is his by rights &150 someone has to provide for the family now that Pap can't. But when he finally does meet up with Duff, Hamp gradually begins to realize that right and wrong might not be as black and white as he thought they were.