When the Biloxi Lighthouse was erected in 1848, it was inevitable that a pier would pop up nearby for fishing and socializing and the landing of steamboats and other vessels bringing tourists and goods.|
Whenever a storm stole the Lighthouse Pier, Biloxians rebuilt it.
Then came the Civil War. To defend against a possible invasion from Northern troops stationed on Ship Island, Biloxians flanked their pier with "Quaker cannons." They looked real from the spy glasses of the Yankee commanders, but in fact they were tree trunks painted black.
Sixteen months into the war, the Union troops did land, of course with no shots fired. Because all the men who could go off to war had done so, the city was basically defenseless. A letter written by a federal officer at Ship Island provides insight: "The people appear to be in a very destitute condition, some wanting shoes, some clothing and others bread. One smart-looking lad said to his mother, in the hearing of the officers, 'I don't care if I do get taken prisoner,' to which the other replied, 'Nor I either, for then I shall be sure to get enough to eat.'
"Another chap of rebellious tendencies said: 'I've heard some talk of starving us into submission, but they'll have to put a blockade on the mullet (that's some kind of fish) before they can do this.'
That, of course, is a reference to Biloxi Bacon, the mullet still caught in a cast net from that pier. That hasn't been possible since Hurricane Katrina, but those days will return, according to Mayor A.J. Holloway.
"We know that waterfront access is very important to not only our residents, but our visitors as well," he said. "The waterfront is a great backdrop for life and for pictures. As we move forward, you're going to see better access than we had before the storm.
"The Lighthouse Pier is in the shadow of this city's signature landmark, so rest assured that you're going to see something in its place and it's going to be something built to better standards.
"The federal government had told us the last time that we rebuilt the Lighthouse Pier that they weren't going to keep paying for wooden piers, which they call repetitive losses. I agree, but we want it to be an inviting pier, and something we can all be proud of. We'll try to get it done sooner rather than later, too."
- KAT BERGERON