Ship Island Incidents
On the 1st of April 1884, the Ship Island Pilot Commissioners met at Biloxi to settle controversies concerning the actions of their pilots. Antoine V. Bellande was a party to these hearings. In the first incident, Captain Harry C. James (1848-1923) spotted the British vessel, Superior, and immediately went to meet her in his schooner. In his sail to the incoming ship, his skiff became adrift. James put about to recover the small boat. Captain Bellande’s boat was astern of H.C. James and when he observed that James had turned back to recover his skiff, he proceeded towards the British vessel south of Ship Island. Bellande reached the Superior first, but according to her captain did not hail the vessel. Pilot Bellande also failed to secure a line to board her. Meanwhile Captain James came along side, hailed the English captain, as required, and inquired as to whether he needed a pilot. When an affirmative came fourth, Captain H.C. James boarded the vessel, took command, and brought her into safe anchorage north of Ship Island. The Ship Island Pilot Commissioners ruled for Antoine V. Bellande implying that the omission to hail was not truly relevant. (The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, April 18, 1884, p. 1)
The other contested action involved Antoine V. Bellande and Pilot Fritz Abbley (1846-1905), who was his brother-in-law, the spouse of Margaret Harvey (1847-1886). The rule in question was that which granted the pilot who brought a ship into port, the option of taking her out to sea. The outbound vessel was required to fly the departure flag, twenty-four hours before weighing anchor, as notification to the pilot of its intent to sail. If the pilot did not board the departing ship during the notification period, he lost his right to pilot the vessel. Its leaving port was then open to any other certified Ship Island bar pilot. In this particular episode, Captain Abbley failed his appointment to board a departing vessel, which he had berthed earlier. Pilot Bellande took the ship safely across the Ship Island bar. Fritz Abbley protested that the time had not expired for him to be in charge of the departure. The Pilot Commissioners recused themselves stating that they had no jurisdiction in this matter. Experts in attendance at this hearing, were critical of both decisions.(The Pascagoula Democrat-Star, April 18, 1884, p. 1)
The Biloxi Herald of November 16, 1889 related the following about Antoine V. Bellande: "Our party could not think of returning from Biloxi, eithout first visiting Ship Island, which has connected with it much of interest, especially to those whowere in the service of Uncle Sam from 1862 to 1865. It was here [General] Ben Butler had his 80,000 troops. While the party were all busy fishing for red fish off the old dilapidated wharf, the writer wandered out upon the island, and accidentally ran across an old sea pilot by the name of Bellante [sic], who was walking up and down the shore looking for seashells. We did not wait for any formal introduction but at once oprnrf the conversation with him and found he was a U.S.pilot during the war.