On August 3, 2020, the Arlington Historical Society hosted an online panel discussion by three local historians and reenactors, Edward W. Gantt, Ben Hawley, and Michael Schaffner who discussed African American regiments organized in what was then Alexandria County (now Arlington County) during the Civil War.
The talk focused on the Second United States Colored Infantry and the Twenty-Third United States Colored Troops, and covered both the service of the two units and a selection of individual soldiers. The decision to recruit African Americans as soldiers, officer selection, and the pay controversy was also discussed
The three presenters were:
Edward W. Gantt served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy for 30 years before becoming a high school teacher in Washington, DC and suburban Maryland. He now serves as both a member of the 23rd Infantry Regiment U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) Civil War re-enactors and living historians, as well as Company B, 54th Massachusetts. Since May 2020, he has served as the Region IV Commander, Military Order of the World Wars (MOWW) which covers Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Washington DC. Among his most significant military accomplishments are completion of the United States Army Airborne and Ranger Schools at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Ben Hawley served in the military for 22 years, then employed by Gannett Corporation and the IBM Corporation. Since 1991 he has been a Civil War reenactor with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company B, Washington, DC. A Civil War Descendant himself, he is a member of the Sons of Union Veterans where he served as Department Commander. An amateur genealogist for his family, he has discovered his great‑great‑grandfather fought in the Civil War with the 29th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry (that state’s African American regiment). Through extensive research he has created a Family website with over 600 names.
Michael Schaffner is a long-time resident of Arlington County, a retired federal employee, avid amateur historian, and with Ed and Ben a member of Company B, 54th Massachusetts Volunteers. Publications include the novel, War Boys and the poetry collection The Good Opinion of Squirrels, with poems also forthcoming in the anthology Written in Arlington, edited by Katherine Young. He is currently spending a lot of time with the regimental books of the 2nd United States Colored Infantry.