The opera tells the story of W.P. Inman, a Confederate soldier who, after being treated for wounds he received during the battle of Petersburg, chooses to desert the army and make his way back to his beloved Ada Monroe. Inman knows that the Home Guard is hunting down deserters. Emotionally gutted by the horrors he has experienced and desperate to see Ada again, he decides to take the risk and begins the dangerous journey home. When Inman left for the war, he believed the war would not last but six months. It is now four years later. Ada, a Southern lady once used to a life of privilege, has now been forced to deal with a life of profound deprivation. With the help of Ruby, a resourceful mountain woman, Ada's life has been slowly transformed. The women help each other, not only to endure the war, but also to grow in ways that are both unexpected and profound.
Cold Mountain, set during the American Civil War — the pivotal conflict in our nation's history — is the story of a soldier who wonders whether the violence he has endured has in some way ruined him and made him unworthy of love. In the struggle to answer this question, Inman is forced to examine where his real allegiance lies. Is it to his country? Is it to a cause? What is at the center of his soul? What are the core principles that he needs to abide by to feel essentially human again? Cold Mountain, like The Odyssey, on which the novel is loosely based, has at its center a transformative journey. a