Hero's name graced 3 ships, now it finally marks his grave

This Just In...

May 06, 2002|By Dan Rodricks

SHIPMATES from two of three American ships that were 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 had a tradition of naming destroyers after its heroes. Three were named to honor Commodore Turner. The first, commissioned shortly after World War I, was transformed into a training vessel and given another name. The second Turner, which served as a convoy escort in World War II, 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.

Morning prayer

Cereal Mom reports from Ritchie Highway: "Every morning I take a little shortcut and pass behind the Value Village Store in Brooklyn. A little after 8, the drivers of the yellow National Children's Center trucks meet and get their schedules for the day. But, before they leave, they stand in a circle, holding hands, heads bowed, saying a prayer to start their day. They look so solemn that I almost feel it's irreverent to keep driving past them."

Sweet package

They want to give this Eric Smith $300,000 in salary and benefits to be superintendent of Anne Arundel County schools. That's a sweet package (though I think Smith should have held out for an official residence on Gibson Island). County Executive Janet Owens thinks Smith's compensation package is "excessive," and she has a point. For that kind of money, they could have had former Towson U. prez Mark Perkins.

Lexington music

There are so many fine musicians lined up to perform at Lexington Market over the next couple of months, I cruise for bruise by singling out a select few. Call me a fool, but when I see certain bands performing -- for free -- in one of my favorite places, I think attention should be paid. So if you have a mind to go to Lexington Market on a Friday or Saturday soon, try May 11, when Tony Berry and New Money set up in the arcade, or May 25, when the Crawdaddies unpack their accordions. You wouldn't hurt your ears June 21, with the Todd Butler Group, either. The music series at Lexington Market is one of the unheralded bonuses of city life.

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