Benjamin F. Dill

 

 

Induction Year: 1969

Lived: 1814-1866

 

Papers:

The Memphis Appeal

 

Benjamin F. Dill first moved to Memphis from his native Georgia in 1837 to practice law. But he also managed to write articles for the Memphis Enquirer occasionally.


Between 1840 and 1854 his law practice and work as a bank cashier took him to Mississippi, Missouri, and back to Mississippi again. He finally returned to Memphis and became part owner in the Memphis Daily Appeal in 1854.

 

Dill with his partner, John R. McClanahan, championed the town, the state, and especially the South. And as the Civil War approached, the Appeal's editorial policy became more and more pro-Southern. It greeted secession eagerly, and when war broke out in 1861, the Appeal grew more fervent in its support of the Confederacy.

 

With Federal troops bearing down on him, Dill refused to let the Appeal be silenced. For more than three years he managed to keep the paper's masthead flying while hopscotching by train across the South, one jump ahead of the Yankee armies. He fled from Memphis to Grenada in 1862, from there to Jackson, then on to Atlanta, and a year later to Montgomery.

 

In Montgomery he continued his steady flow of editorial comment, encouraging the Confederate armies and citizens and seeking some ground for hope in each defeat. But the Federal forces finally caught him near Columbus, Georgia, in April 1865. They destroyed part of his equipment. His staff fled, but he remained behind with his wife, who was ill, and was captured. He was released after posting bond and promising not to publish for the duration of the war.

 

He returned to Memphis and resumed publication of the Appeal with "no unmanly excuses," as he put it. His determination and tenacity, if not his politics, earned him the respect of newsmen everywhere.