This Day In History, May 13th

What happened on this day in history: Mary, Queen of Scots is defeated at the Battle of Langside, Jamestown settlers arrive in Virginia, and more important events from this date.

1568: Mary, Queen of Scots Is Defeated By Scottish Protestants

Mary, Queen of Scots is defeated at the Battle of Langside in Glasgow. At just six days old, Mary became Queen of Scotland after the death of her father, King James V. Raised in France, Mary returned to Scotland to claim the throne after the death of her first husband. In 1567, Mary married the Earl of Bothwell, enraging the nobility and forcing her to abdicate the throne.

In 1568, she returned to Scotland with an army but was defeated and forced to flee to England. While under the protection of Queen Elizabeth I, Mary was executed under suspicion of concocting a plot alongside other Catholics to murder and overthrow Queen Elizabeth.

1607: Settlers Arrive In Virginia

Cultivation Of Tobacco At Jamestown

Public DomainCultivation of tobacco at Jamestown in 1615.

The first 100 settlers arrive in Virginia. As the first permanent English settlement in America, Jamestown posed many challenges for its occupants, including attacks by warriors from the local Algonquian confederacy. One notable settler, Captain John Smith, was famously captured by the Algonquians and later saved from execution by Chief Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas.

During the first two years of the settlement, Jamestown residents faced starvation, disease, and the constant threat of attack. Little improvement was made until John Rolfe cultivated the first tobacco plant, sparking an economic boom. On April 5, 1614, Rolfe married Pocahontas, establishing a short-lived peace between the settlers and Native Americans.

1846: The U.S. Declares War On Mexico

The United States declares war on Mexico as part of a bitter clash over control of what’s now Texas. After war was declared, American troops moved into the disputed territory and eventually marched on to Mexico City. In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, establishing the Rio Grande as the U.S.-Mexican border. As part of the treaty, Mexico recognized the annexation of Texas and agreed to sell California to America for $15 million. The U.S. gained roughly 525,000 square miles (1,359,743.76 square kilometers) as a result of the treaty.

1862: Robert Smalls Escapes Slavery By Stealing A Ship

Robert Smalls

Library of CongressA photograph of Robert Smalls taken sometime between 1870 and 1880.

Robert Smalls escapes slavery by stealing a ship off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. Born into slavery in 1839, Robert Smalls spent most of his childhood working as a house slave and hotel waiter. During the U.S. Civil War, Smalls was an enslaved crewmember working as a pilot on a ship called the Planter.

The owners of the ship contracted the vessel for use by the Confederate Army in Charleston, and Smalls used his position to his advantage, sailing the Planter away with its enslaved crew while the white crewmembers were ashore. Sailing to a nearby wharf, Smalls met with 16 family members of the enslaved crew and allowed them to board. The crew then sailed north where they were legally free and surrendered the ship to the U.S. Navy. Smalls remained an influential figure throughout the war and the Reconstruction era.

1985: The MOVE Bombing In Philadelphia

Today In History May 13

Bettmann/Getty ImagesAerial view of smoke rising from the smoldering rubble of the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia on May 13, 1985.

The MOVE bombing takes place in Philadelphia, resulting in extensive damage and several fatalities. MOVE, originally called the Christian Movement for Life, was a West Philadelphia commune that advocated for natural living as well as Black liberation.

The group had prior run-ins with local law enforcement, but in 1985, tensions reached a boiling point when neighbors of the MOVE commune complained of unsanitary conditions, loud noise, and violence in the neighborhood. Police obtained arrest warrants for various members of MOVE, and 500 police officers descended on the commune, resulting in a shoot-out between the two groups. The conflict ended when police dropped two bombs on the compound’s roof, sparking a fire that killed 11 MOVE members and destroyed 65 homes in the neighborhood. MOVE then filed a lawsuit against the city and were awarded almost $13 million in damages.