The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

June 27, 2014

He walks in a hero's footsteps

Terry Diender portrays Civil War hero

DANVILLE — Troops of Col. Charles Eckman loved him for his leadership and fairness.

“He never betrayed a trust,” said Terry Diener of the Civil War hero who can be looked to “as an example of the way things should be.”

Eckman was in nearly every major battle with the Army of the Potomac during the war.

Diener will portray Eckman, who lived in Mayberry Township, during a number of Iron Heritage Festival events.

Eckman was known as “the old war horse” despite being only 27 at the time.

Diener, who has been writing about the Civil War for a number of years, has written a book, “To See What I Have Seen,” Montour Men in the Civil War.

He first portrayed Eckman in December at the Eckman homestead during holiday house tours to benefit the Iron Heritage Festival.

Diener became interested in Eckman after reading his pension file at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Diener then continued his research into the man’s life.

“He started out as a private and rose to a colonel. He was wounded at least five times,” he said.

During the Battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia in 1864, Eckman had two horses shot out from under him in less than 20 minutes. Eckman was seriously wounded and suffered the rest of his life, Diener said.

Originally from Punxsutawney, he came to Danville to live with an uncle and worked as a boatman for the Pennsylvania Canal.

He received a special commendation from President Abraham Lincoln for helping lead Merye’s Charge in Fredericksburg, Va., said Diener.

Eckman was also there when Lee surrendered to Grant in Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

Eckman was instrumental in helping start the Danville post of the Grand Army of the Republic named for Max Goodrich, of Danville, who died during the Civil War. Eckman served as Goodman’s commander.

After the war, Eckman declined to serve in the regular army, saying he had seen enough of war, according to Diener. With others, he purchased the Danville Oil Refinery and was later appointed Danville postmaster. He later served as superintendents of iron furnaces in Reading and Harrisburg.

He returned to the Danville, where he became a manager of a steel company.

The story is told that Eckman “was so loved by his men that they would put tents in his fields and camp out,” Diener said.

Eckman was born in 1837 and died at age 69 in 1906.

“It’s been a lot of fun — the hunt to find nuggets of information. It’s amazing how many men from Montour County served in the Civil War,” Diener said.

Danville was a great area to recruit because the iron mills produced sturdy, healthy young men who played major roles in a number of battles, he said. About 2,300 men locally served in the war.

Diener has also spoken as a Civil War captain before the Montour County Historical Society and to a group in Columbia County. In July, he will present a program for the After 5 Club.

“I’ve been urged to write a couple more books. I am contemplating that,” he said of books based on his columns appearing in The Danville News.

Originally from Lebanon County, Diener began his radio broadcasting career in Palmyra and was a newspaper stringer for The Patriot News.

He moved to Bloomsburg in 1977 to become news director of WCNR Radio. Through his 40-year broadcasting career, he has worked as news director of radio stations in Danville and Lewisburg and is Pennsylvania correspondent for Family Life Network in Bath, N.Y.

The Danville area resident works for PPL Corp. and has participated in the Iron Heritage Festival and Montgomery House Museum for many years.

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