By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
The communities of Garden Grove, Stanton and Westminster were not yet twinkles in the eyes of their pioneer founders when the rest of the nation was going through the bloody Civil War.
Yet the nation’s greatest conflict still echoes across our history, culture and politics. A bit of that history landed in the Big Strawberry, when a re-enactment group portraying the elite Union Army scout-sniper group known as “Berdan’s Sharpshooters” encamped at the Stanley Ranch Museum on Euclid Street last weekend. The two-acre historical village is operated by the Garden Grove Historical Society.
‘The Civil War is the great American tragedy, but it’s what bonded the country together into one nation,” said Dean Vargas, the reserve Garden Grove police officer who first thought of bringing the unit to the city.
“I was parked here one day, filling out reports and the thought occurred to me: this would be a great place for an encampment,” he said.
On Saturday and Sunday, the re-enactors camped out, accompanied by others in period dress and were serenaded by the Cottonwood String Band. “Civilians” dropped by to see the authentic uniforms, camp kit and weapons at the event.
The original “Berdan’s Sharpshooters” were a unit of U.S. Army shoulders who used the .52 caliber single-shot breechloading Sharps rifle, which was far more accurate than the more commonly-used Lee-Enfield rifled musket that most Civil War soldiers fought with.
A trained soldier with a rifled musket could get off three aimed shots in a minute; a trooper with a Sharps could blaze away 10 times in that period.
“A company of our soldiers could take on a much larger enemy force,” said “Sergeant” Andy Marozick, of Lake Forest. He said he enjoys the camaraderie of re-enacting, and educating young people about the Civil War, which killed hundreds of thousands of soldiers from 1861-65 and ended slavery.
“Private” Tim Dietrich of Whittier said he likes the role of a soldier in the War Between the States because “it gives me a sense of being a part of history.”
Part of that history included the primitive nature of battlefield medicine. One exhibit showed how many wounds were treated with the amputation of limbs. Anesthetics had come into use by 1861, but an understanding of germ theory had not, and operations were often done with a dirty or bloody surgical instrument.
“We’re getting a pretty good turnout,” said Vargas, looking around at the bustling camp. “We’re hoping to make this a year-to-year thing.”