Sept. 15, 1863.
The Willard Hotel, Washington. A gathering of Union soldiers and officers. Diane Ferrero holding the arm of her fiancé’ Captain Chase Stevens chats with some of the others. Approaching them is General Daniel Bidwell with a red-haired beauty on his arm. He introduces her as Polly Walker.
“She looks familiar but I can’t place her,” I think to myself. Polly greets everyone with a southern accent.
“From the south,” I ask? Tilting my head inquisitively.
“Born there” she replies looking directly at me, “but now living in New York and a supporter of the Army of the Potomac” She smiles and gives the General a squeeze. The woman, a bit younger than me, strawberry red hair in a tight bun at the back of her head with two strands of curls cascading down each side of her face. An off the shoulder low cut beige gown with just the right amount of cleavage showing. I have my dark brown hair also pinned to the top of my head. My off the shoulder low cut gown is a light blue also showing a bit of cleavage.
I tug on Chases arm, “Do you know who she is”
“Yes” he smiles, “she’s Polly Walker. The General just told us”
I give him a poke in the rib. “very funny. But she seems familiar to me”
“Everyone looks familiar to you,” Chase says, “forgive me dear I must say hello to Captain Janes. He moves away from me and I find myself walking slowly among the crowd. I find myself approaching General Bidwell again and the redhead.
“But Daniel” I hear her say, “let’s just go upstairs and you can tell all about your secrets” General Bidwell feeling very happy about the young redhead on his arm leads her to the stairs.
Chase comes back to me and asks, “Do you know where General Bidwell is. Captain Janes wishes to speak with him and I have to round up a few of the others.
“Yes,” I tell him. “I’ll get him and send him down to you. He went upstairs with Polly.” I climb the stairs holding up my hooped gown and in the hallway find several doors. I don’t know which one they would be in but a hear a loud thud coming from one of them.
I open the door stepping in and find Polly standing over the General. A letter opener in her hand. The General on the floor bleeding profusely from several stab wounds.
Polly stuffs a folded piece of paper down the front of her gown between her huge breasts. She holds the letter opener out in front of her and comes at me. I catch her wrist. I am not afraid to fight. Especially another woman and feel I can hold my own.
Polly reached around me and grabs my hair with her free hand. If there I one thing I am good at in a catfight, its pulling hair. I grab her red hair and start pulling back.
We struggle over the letter opener yanking on each other’s hair and staggering around. I keep a tight grip on her wrist. We maneuver one another to a desk and I get her backwards on to it.
“Who are you bitch” I grit my teeth. She rolls us over and gets on top of me. I let go of her hair and get my hand under her chin pushing her head back. My nails although not sharp try for her eyes.
“Ohhhhh…you bitch you”. We roll off the desk and onto the floor. Wrestling on the floor we get on top of each other several times. I hear fabric ripping but don’t know if it’s my gown or hers.
I manage to force the letter opener out of her hand and it scoots away. Polly goes after it on her hands and knees and I get on her back flattening her on her stomach. Her arm stretches out for the weapon.
I clamp my hand on her forearm digging my nails thru the fine hairs on her freckled forearm. She winces as my nails leave red welts. Turning over on her back under me she grabs my upper arms. I grip hers back but she gets her legs up between us and shoves me off her.
Scrambling to her feet as quick as she can in her gown she goes over to the prone General and pulls his colt 45 pistol from its holster just as the door opens and chase walks in. He is momentarily shocked at what he sees and goes for his own colt.
Polly wheels the gun his way and fires. The room explodes with the sound making me jump. The shot hits Chase in the right upper chest area sending him crashing against the wall and sliding down it. Polly turns the gun to me and cocks the hammer pulling the trigger. The colt misfires. She pulls the hammer back again and pulls the trigger.
Again the gun misfires. Throwing it at me she races for the door as I scream. In moments Union officers are flooding the room. Some tending to the General others to Chase.
I am hysterical. Captain Janes pulls me back and asks, “who did this?”.
“Polly” I cry to him and then it hits me where I know her from. I’ve seen her picture and heard her name mentioned many times,
“Carly Ashford,” I say.
“Carly Ashford” he repeats, “the rebel spy”. “It was her” I tell him. “She stabbed the General just before I came in with that letter opener” I point.
She was stuffing a folded piece of paper down the front of her gown. Then we fought. Chase came in and she shot him with the Generals gun. She tried to shoot me but his gun jammed and she ran out.” Captain Janes yelled out orders for the building and grounds to be searched citing a description.
General Bidwell recovered from his stab wounds he received from the rebel spy. Chase, however, got worse. I got the services of a nurse to attend to him at home while I was out, Mrs. Grand her name was an elderly woman with grey hair.
I returned one day and called out for her. “Mrs. Grand. I’m back” Getting no answer I climbed the curving staircase calling again. Still not getting a reply I went to the master bedroom and found Mrs. Grand kneeling on the bed with a pillow over Chases face trying to suffocate him.
“Mrs. Grand” I yelled running for her. I grabbed the black shawl she was wearing and pulled her backwards. She spun around and smacked my face knocking me backwards and went back to suffocating Chase. I sprang up and jumped on her back grabbing her grey hair and pulling. Her hair came off in my hand. A grey wig. And under it long red hair. “You…….” I stammered.
Carly Ashford the spy sprang at me. She drove me backwards and we buried our hands in each other’s hair once again. We stumbled backwards yanking and pulling her red hair flying about. My dark hair in a tight bun but falling down now from the fight. We crashed onto a chair knocking it over and spilling us to the floor. Carol had on a split skirt used for women to ride horses, but I had on a hooped long dress and it kept me from using my legs against her.
On the floor we rolled each other across the room. I ripped a sleeve off her white blouse and dug my nails into her arm scratching her. I couldn’t yell for help, no one would hear me. I had to fight her myself. The rebel spy and I tumbled about the room kicking scratching punching and biting each other.
Our hair soon became masses of knots and tangles and our clothes ripped in various places. We had knocked over a chair and several small tables during the fight. I finally got her down and on top of her. My hands on her throat choking her. She clawed at my arms ripping my dress sleeves.
We were both wearing each other out. Her thrashing hand felon a piece of broken pottery form one of the knocked over tables. Swinging it she brought it down on the side of my head. It shattered but knocked me off her dazed. Carly staggered up coughing and staggered towards the bedroom door.
I caught up with her on the stair landing and tackled her. We tumbled down the rest of the stairs breaking thru the railing of the last five and landing hard on the floor. We both laid there exhausted. Carly moved first getting up on her hands and knees then staggering to her feet headed for the front door. I caught her leg tripping her back to the floor. Pulling her leg I tried to work my way up on her.
She turned over and kicked with her boot getting me in the side of the head where she landed the broken pottery. I was already bleeding form a cut there and her boot opened it up more. I slumped down letting go of her.
The last thing I remember was Carly Ashford the rebel spy going out the door then I blacked out. When I came to hurt and numb I sat up and remembered Chase. By the time I made it back upstairs, Chase was dead. Several days later I went to see General Bidwell and told him what had happened. I said I wanted to serve under the union as a spy. I really wanted to find Carly Ashford.
I kept a distance following the man down the streets of Washington. I kept my eye on the small satchel he held under his arm. That satchel was supposed to in it plans for Grant’s armies moving south. The man was going to deliver it to someone from the south. I wore a plain gray dress and a small gray matching ladies hat. He finally entered a hotel. I followed him in and climbed the stairs after him.
From a discreet distance down the hall, I watched as he knocked on a door. Not a regular knock but more of a coded knock. The door opened by someone inside and a whispered conversation took place. He then stepped inside and as he did the person who opened the door stepped out to look around.
I couldn’t believe my eyes or my luck, Carly Ashford. I waited impatiently. I carried a small derringer in my clutch but it would be no good against the two of them. Soon the door opened and he left. I ducked up the staircase and waited till he went down then approached the door. I did the same coded knock I had heard him do and hoped Carly would think it him returning for some reason. She did, and I pushed the door open knocking her backwards.
I pulled my derringer out, pointed it at her and told her, “Don’t move bitch”. She was wearing a long sleeve white button front blouse with a black split riding skirt. The split skirt allowed women to ride a horse normal rather than sidesaddle, so I assumed she would have a horse nearby. On the bed lay the small satchel. I saw it and moved towards it.
Carly moved along the other side of the bed. “I told you not to move bitch or I’ll kill you just like you did Chase.” She didn’t say anything and we just stared at each other.
I finally knelt one leg on the bed to grab the satchel. That’s when Carly sprang at me. She caught my gun hand and yanked me onto the bed. I was more than happy to meet her.
We came together and I grabbed her long red hair. She latched onto my dark hair and we took up where we had left off in a hair-pulling catfight.
I forced her onto her back on the bed and she stretched my gun hand up over our heads. I let go of her hair and grabbed her wrist. She let go and grabbed my wrist as we struggled over the gun on the bed. I rolled her over and she rolled me over getting back on top. Sliding off the side of the bed we stood up chest to chest struggling. The gun pointed towards the ceiling. “Ohhhh…you bitch you”. “I’ll tear you apart”
“Not if I shoot you first bitch”. We swayed back and forth moving each other around the room. She got me against the dresser and banged my wrist on the edge. I wasn’t able to hold the gun and it fell down between the dresser and the wall. I stood her up and swung my fist.
I am not good at a punch fight but better at a hair-pulling one, however, I connected with her face sending her back onto the bed. Then I dove on top of her and grab her hair. Carly was more than willing to fight like that and grabbed my hair. We rolled off the bed to the floor and went over and over each other.
By the time we rolled back across the other way, we were both huffing and puffing besides moaning and groaning. “Ohhhh…..” “ Ahhhhhhh,……” “Let go of my hair you witch” , “I’ll gonna pull it out by the handfuls bitch”
We wrestled on the floor for a while longer before she got me down. Her split skirt allowed her to move up and straddle my waist. Her hands in my hair and mine in hers she banged my head on the wooden floor, once twice three times. I let go of her hair and grabbed her wrists. Each time my head hit the floor I yelled out……..”owwwww………..”
Finally, Carly felt my grip on her wrists slipping. She let go of my hair and scrambled up. She grabbed the satchel off the bed and ran for the door. I was pretty groggy but I managed to grab her leg as she went by and tripped her. I pulled on her legs trying to crawl up on her back but she kicked me with her boots once in the face. I had to let go of her or risk passing out.
Carly stood up opened the door and flew out it. I struggled to my feet and went after her using the walls for support to keep me up. I Stumbled down the steps and went after her. The people in the lobby astonished as these two women ran by them. Our disheveled appearance very obvious as to what we had been doing. I hit the street and just caught site of her rounding the corner. It was harder for me to run in my hooped dress then Carly in her split skirt.
As I rounded the corner I heard a train whistle. “She’s headed for the train” I thought. I ran on now very out of breath. I couldn’t see her out in front of me so I could only assume she made it to the train. It was just starting to move when I clung onto the railing of the last car and pulled myself up. In the last car were only a couple of people and they started at me sweating out of breath. I had to sit down and catch my breath or I would never be able to fight her more if I came across her. I only hoped she was on the train.
I don’t know how long it was but the train began slowing down. People got up and looked out the windows, and here I am still in my bloomers trying to sink down in the seat. Curiosity got the best of me and I looked out the window. A herd of bison was crossing the tracks. There must have been hundreds of them.
Then my eye caught something else. A woman running from the train across the field of high grass. The long red hair flowing behind her it had to be Carly. I pushed a few passengers out of the way and got off the train. She had a good start on me but I had an angle on her. I took off running not hampered by a long dress anymore I covered the distance fast. Carly glanced back at the train then she looked my way and put on some speed having seen me. Thunder rolled and it started to rain.
We crossed the huge field and entered a wooded area. By the time I got to the woods I was soaked. My long brown hair hanging in wet strands about my face. I leaned against a tree trying to catch my breath. The rain was coming down so hard that was all you could hear.
Then I saw her. She had also stopped to breathe. We stared at each other and she took off running again. I went after her. Suddenly she stopped and turned to face me. Trying to get her breath. I came up to her slowly also breathing very hard.
“You know my dear” she huffed in that southern drawl. “this isn’t going to end pretty”.
“I know Carly” I huffed back at her, “but you’re going to have to pay with your life for what you did to Chase”. Carly bent forward hands on her knees. Her red hair hanging down like mine. “She straightened up and said, “then come and get me bitch”.
I started forward and so did she first slowly then to a trot. We collided with fists swinging. SOCK…..SOCK….SOCK. Punch after punch landed on faces, breasts, and bodies. Carly went down in the mud and I got down on top of her. Grabbing each other’s wet hair, we yanked and pulled rolling back and forth in the mud.
I could use my legs now and I hook us up several times wrestling. Hands went into faces clawing at eyes, or under chins forcing heads back to unbearable angles. Still we fought in the mud. Soon we were both covered head to foot in goop. What was left of our clothes hung in muddy tatters. Both of us bare-chested. Blood seeped from noses and lips.
On top of me Carly got her hands on my breasts squeezing. I gripped her wrists first wincing at the pain as she twisted them back and forth trying to tear them from my chest. Then I moved to her breasts grabbing the mounds and raking what little fingernails I had down over her enlarged nipples. Carly cried out and I managed to dump her off me. We rolled each other over and over clawing tits.
We rolled into a rather large puddle and I got a hand in her face pushing her head to the side trying to drown her. I tossed my wet muddy hair back so I could watch her squirm. Her hand went to my face and clawed my cheeks. Then her fist hit my breast and I winced tumbling off her. Carly got to her feet and staggered away trying to run. I scrambled up and went after her. She got to a slope that went up to a bridge crossing a small stream. Stumbling up the slope I caught her from behind and dragged her back down. We thru arms around each other grabbing hair form the back and yanking.
“Ahhhhhh……….” “Ohhh….bitch…you bitch you…” Several times we went down on the ground wrestling but picked one another up to continue our hair pulling. Separating Carly again climbed the slope with me right behind her. I felt like my lungs were going to burst in my chest. She got to the top and staggered to the bridge. I caught her spun her around and swung my fist. I hit her in the mouth knocking her down. Diving on top of her or rather falling on top of her we locked up and rolled over and over slowly.
The rain continued to beat down on us at least washing some of the mud off us. Rolling over and over neither one of us noticed the horses slowly surrounding us till we heard, “my oh my. What have we here? Not what might you two ladies be doing out here going at it like wildcats?” Hands suddenly grabbed us yanking both of us to our feet. It was a bunch of riders and judging by their outfits they appeared to be a mix of Union and rebel soldiers. I assumed they were deserters banded together to reap whatever profits they could from the war-torn states.
Carly breathing hard blurted out, “she’s Carly Ashford, the rebel spy” pointing a finger at me. Spies of any kind were looked upon with disdain during the war.
“My mouth fell open, “lying bitch” I yelled back, “she’s Carly Ashford” The men looked at us. Covered in mud and grime you couldn’t even tell what color hair we both had. “well” said one of them, “whichever one of you is the rebel spy, we can get a pretty good price for you when we come across a patrol be it either Yanks or Rebs. Knot um up.”
He said to the others. Riders got down and grabbed both of us, tying our hands in front of us then a length of rope between us. “let’s go” he said as they mounted up again.
Carly and I were forced to walk along between them. We stumbled several times the other taking the advantage to yank and pull on the rope tying us together. “come on, bitch or I’ll drag you thru the mud”.
Several times we went at it grabbing hair and trying to hit each other with our tied hands. By the time we came to a stop, it was dark. I couldn’t take another step. We were shoved inside a tent where we both collapsed on the ground.
We just laid there every once in a while giving a yank on the rope just to annoy each other. Finally, I sat up and whispered, “I’m getting out of here” Knowing if I couldn’t prove who I really was I’d be at the end of a rope.
“No you’re not,” Carly said sitting up. “yes I am” I started to get up and she threw her arms around me, rope and all. I flung my tied hands over her head grabbing her hair from the back and she did mine. We pulled hair and went over. Carly got on top of me. We wrestled back and forth somewhat tied together. Our legs kicked each other. I got her down and head-butted her twice till she stopped pulling my hair.
“I’m going and you’re coming with me bitch”. I got off her and lifted the back of the tent. Apparently, our captors didn’t expect two ladies to try and get away from them. I crawled under the tent in the mud and half pulled Carly after me. When we got up we stood and glanced around. Seeing no one I started for a wooded area. Carly reluctantly came with me seeing we got this far she thought we may in fact get away. The alternative was being found out who she really was and hung.
We had gotten pretty far away when Carly grabbed me and we tumbled down an embankment. She got her hands on my throat and started choking me. I wrestled her over and got my hands on her throat. We rolled several times and tumbled down another embankment still tied together.
When I opened my eyes Carly was standing over me with a big stick. She brought it down just as I rolled out of the way. I yanked on the rope between us and pulled her down to the ground. Getting to my knees I went to grab her arms but she swung the stick and it hit me in the side of the head. I attempted to get up but collapsed back on the ground. The last thing I remember was Carly staring down at me. That’s the last time I saw Carly Ashford, till after the war.