May 19, 1780 was a memorable one in the history of New England. Darkness descended for several hours in New England and parts of New York. The cause of the darkness has been blamed on everything from volcanoes to dust storms. The most commonly accepted explanation today is that the darkness was caused by forest fires. An excellent overview of the Dark Day and its possible causes is presented by John Horrigan here.
Darkness in the middle of the day of course caused quite a bit of alarm, with more than a few people thinking that the Day of Judgment had arrived. In the Connecticut legislature a motion to adjourn was proposed and passed. Members of the Council of Safety of the legislature wanted to go to their homes. Senator Abraham Davenport would have none of it. “The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.” John Greenleaf Whittier immortalized this archetypal stubborn Yankee with this poem: