The colonists were divided over breaking away from British rule and split into two factions: Patriots who rejected British rule, and Loyalists who desired to remain subject to the King. General Thomas Gage was commander of British forces in America at the beginning of the war. Upon hearing the shocking news of the onset of war, Washington was "sobered and dismayed", and he hastily departed Mount Vernon on May 4, 1775, to join the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
In February 1821, Napoleon's health began to deteriorate rapidly, and he reconciled with the Catholic Church. He died on 5 May 1821, after confession, Extreme Unction and Viaticum in the presence of Father Ange Vignali. His last words were, France, l'armée, tête d'armée, Joséphine ("France, the army, head of the army, Joséphine").
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan issued a proclamation calling for "Decoration Day" to be observed annually and nationwide; he was commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of and for Union Civil War veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois. With his proclamation, Logan adopted the Memorial Day practice that had begun in the Southern states three years earlier.
American inventor Thomas Edison started research soon after Röntgen's discovery and investigated materials' ability to fluoresce when exposed to X-rays, finding that calcium tungstate was the most effective substance. In May 1896 he developed the first mass-produced live imaging device, his "Vitascope", later called the fluoroscope, which became the standard for medical X-ray examinations.
The National Conference on Lynching took place in Carnegie Hall, New York City, May 5–6, 1919. The goal of the conference was to pressure Congress to pass the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill. It was a project of the new NAACP, which in April released a report, Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States, 1889-1918.
Although despising Chiang Kai-shek as a "traitor to the nation", on May 5, he telegrammed the Military Council of the Nanking National Government proposing a military alliance, a course of action advocated by Stalin.
In early May 1942, Japan initiated operations to capture Port Moresby by amphibious assault and thus sever communications and supply lines between the United States and Australia. The planned invasion was thwarted when an Allied task force, centered on two American fleet carriers, fought Japanese naval forces to a draw in the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Gandhi was released before the end of the war on 6 May 1944 because of his failing health and necessary surgery; the Raj did not want him to die in prison and enrage the nation. He came out of detention to an altered political scene – the Muslim League for example, which a few years earlier had appeared marginal, "now occupied the centre of the political stage".
Kennedy gave a speech at Saint Anselm College on May 5, 1960, regarding America's conduct in the emerging Cold War. The address detailed how the American foreign policy should be conducted towards African nations, noting a hint of support for modern African nationalism by saying, "For we, too, founded a new nation on revolt from colonial rule".