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Loading up for the Battle of Costa Mesa

No, not the political battle. This one is the annual Civil War reenactment at Fairview Park, complete with more than 350 enthusiastic participants.

April 11, 2012|By Jenny Stockdale, Special to the Daily Pilot
  • A Confederate cannon fires off during last year's Battle of Costa Mesa, an annual Civil War re-enactment event in Fairview Park. The quiet grasslands off Placentia Avenue, with more than 350 blue- and gray-clad participants, will be ignited on Saturday and Sunday with a historic scene of foot soldiers, cavalry, smoking guns and North vs. South political rhetoric.
A Confederate cannon fires off during last year's… (Bradley Zint, Daily…)

Disguised as men, female soldiers slung revolvers and fired cannons alongside their male counterparts in 1861.

This is just one of many truths to discover this weekend at the fourth annual Battle of Costa Mesa, a Civil War reenactment event in Costa Mesa's Fairview Park on Saturday and Sunday.

Transforming the quiet grasslands off Placentia Avenue, more than 350 blue- and gray-clad participants will ignite a historic scene of foot soldiers, cavalry, smoking guns and North vs. South political rhetoric.

"I get a lot of flak from even the reenactment soldiers," said Anna Schurmann, an Escondido resident who will become Sgt. George of the 2nd Kentucky Calvary, a disguised female soldier with a lot of grit and gumption.

"I go out as a soldier to remind people that this happened," she said. "Women were simply not expected to fight, but they did! So when you saw pants, you thought 'male,' and everything after that was simple. Difficult if you were found out, but I'm involved to tell that part of the story too, as much as anything else."

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Her role falls well beyond the scope of traditional ways women served in the Civil War, many of which will still be represented this weekend by those who followed their husbands and sons to battle and assisted on the caretaking front. Lending to that will be "the biggest period Lady's Tea this side of the Mississippi" at 2 p.m. Saturday, event organizers said.

"It's not that I don't appreciate the women reenactors," she said. "The nurses and spies and cooks all had an important role. But you couldn't get me in those petticoats if you put a gun to my head."

Her husband, Bill Schurmann, a Vietnam-era Marine who has participated in historical reenactments since the late 1990s, credits his wife's disguised female character for the operation moving smoothly.

"Regimental Quartermaster Sgt. George makes the camp go, follows regiments and sets the duty roster," he said. "He has a very important role."

Schurmann, playing the lieutenant colonel cavalry brigade commander of the Union Army of the West, travels the country with his wife for similar events. He noted with pride that his unit was "the only regular unit in the Union Army of the West. Most units were volunteers. My men enlisted!"

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