Bayou-Diversity (28 April 2019) Many people along the rivers and bayous of Louisiana got hell scared out of them on the early morning of November 13, 1833. Clergymen reported widespread, sudden confessions followed by conversion of sinners as definitive signs of the Apocalypse engulfed their world. Indeed, every living human east of the Rocky Mountains in North America was exposed to phenomena with heavenly origins never since repeated in history. It is noted in the chronicles of scientists of the day, Native Americans, and Deep South slaves. It was "the night the stars fell."
On this date a record-breaking meteor storm of such intensity as to be nearly unimaginable occurred. We now know that the event was part of the annual Leonid meteor shower that occurs each autumn when Earth passes through the debris field of particles left by comet Tempel-Tuttle. The meteor shower got its name because the bright streaks of light seem to originate in the constellation Leo. At the peak of the 1833 incident, reliable sources reported over 200,000 meteors per hour. Night was turned to day.
A Louisiana man wrote, "There came on a complete shower of stars. They fell for two hours from the clouds, as thick and fast as a July shower of rain, and continued until the sun destroyed their light . . . the earth was so illuminated at intervals that a pin could be seen at any moderate distance." Lakota Indians recorded the event on their buffalo skin calendars. Afterwards, slaves in different areas of the South reckoned their age from "the year the stars fell." One slave woman remembered, "Somebody in the quarters started yellin' in the middle of the night to come out and to look up at the sky. We went outside and there they was a fallin' everywhere! Big stars coming down real close to the groun' and just before they hit the ground they would burn up! We was all scared. Some o' the folks was screamin' and some was prayin'. We all made so much noise, the white folks came out to see what was happenin'. They looked up and then they got scared, too. But then the white folks started callin' all the slaves together, and for no reason, they started tellin' some of the slaves who their mothers and fathers was, and who they'd been sold to and where. The old folks was so glad to hear where their people went. They made sure we all knew what happened . . . you see, they thought it was the Judgment Day." There are no records to determine if the religious convictions were lasting, but history suggests that most were as ephemeral as the meteors.