SHIPMATES from the last American ship that was named for Daniel David Turner came to Baltimore the other day to extend the 19th-century naval hero one more honor - a stone on his unmarked grave in Green Mount Cemetery.
No one knows how or why Turner ended up in Baltimore--buried in 1850 in a plot he had purchased for his family 10 years earlier. It’s a bit of a mystery.
His heroics in the War of 1812 did not take place in the port of Baltimore. Instead, he commanded a small ship with big guns that played a pivotal role against a squadron of six British vessels in the Battle of Lake Erie. He served for two years as commanding officer of the USS Constitution--not the Baltimore berthed Constellation. Turner’s name does not show up in the archives of The Sun or in reliable books of Maryland history.
“Nothing in my research pops up to explain why he was buried in Baltimore,” says Peter Varley, a veteran from Illinois who traced Turner to Green Mount Cemetery while conducting research in the Navy’s archives for the 1,200-member USS Turner Reunion Association. “His son, James Alexander, died in Baltimore in 1842, so he may have been living there at the time. But I can’t say for sure, or why.”
The Navy has a tradition of naming destroyers after its heroes. Three were named to honor Commodore Turner. The first, commissioned shortly before World War 1, was transformed into a training vessel and given another name. The second Turner, which served in World War 11, sank in New York Harbor after a mysterious explosion in which 123 crewmen and 15 officers died. The third Turner destroyer was in service from 1945 until 1969.
Varley, who served on the third destroyer in the 1960s, and others from the reunion association raised funds for a gravestone memorializing Turner. Thursday morning, after a rainstorm, they gathered at the long-gone commodore’s grave, now clearly and honorably marked.
Varley gave a brief history of Turner and the ships that carried his name to sea. Then he and his comrades saluted the grave and said a prayer.
By Dan Rodricks