Commodore Daniel Turner

Miniature portrait (2 x 1.75 inches) on ivory of Commodore Daniel Turner, depicted in a black jacket with gold buttons and a white ascot.
Miniature portrait (2 x 1.75 inches) on ivory of Commodore Daniel Turner, depicted in a black jacket with gold buttons and a white ascot.

Daniel David Turner Foster (Staten Island; 1794 - Philadelphia; February 4, 1850) was an officer of the United States Navy with an outstanding performance in the Anglo-American War of 1812 who served as commander of the Naval Station of his country in the South Atlantic in the middle of the 19th century.


Son of Captain Daniel Turner (1750-1837) and Sarah Foster (1754-1809), Commodore Daniel Turner began his career in the United States Navy as a midshipman at the age of fourteen, subsequently obtaining the rank of lieutenant on 12 March 1813.Two days later, he joined the squad of Oliver Hazard Perry (1785-1819) in the port of Sackett, New York, where he took command of the brig Caledonia in the Battle of Lake Erie. On September 10, 1813, Turner distinguished himself by providing suppressive fire for Perry's flagship Lawrence, earning him a Congressional medal and a New York State sword.


Turner was appointed a midshipman in the Navy on 1 January 1808. Following brief duty at the New York Naval Station, he served in Constitution on the North Atlantic Station. On 8 June 1812, he received orders to Norwich, Connecticut, where he took command of the gunboats located there.

On 14 March 1813, two days after receiving his commission as a lieutenant, Turner was sent to Sackett's Harbor, New York, located on the shores of Lake Erie. There, he took command of Niagara, a brig in Oliver Hazard Perry's squadron. However, just before the Battle of Lake Erie, he relinquished command to Captain Jesse D. Elliott and assumed command of Caledonia. The little brig played an important role in the battle on 10 September 1813 because, at one point in the action, her two 24-pounder long guns were the only ones in Perry's flotilla capable of returning the distant fire of the three heaviest Royal Navy ships then in the process of pounding Perry's flagship Lawrence. For his part in the American victory at Lake Erie, Lt. Turner received the praise of Perry, a vote of thanks and a medal from Congress, and a sword from the state of New York.

In the summer of 1814, Turner succeeded to the command of schooner Scorpion, and he cruised Lakes Erie and Huron in her supporting army operations around Detroit and blockading British forces at the Nottawasaga River and Lake Simcoe. On 6 September 1814, Turner and his command were captured by the British when he brought Scorpion alongside the former American schooner Tigress which, unbeknownst to him, had been captured a few days earlier. After a period of imprisonment at Fort Mackinac, Lt. Turner returned to the United States in exchange for a British prisoner of war.

Between 1815 and 1817, Turner cruised the Mediterranean in the frigate Java commanded by his old superior on the Great Lakes, Oliver Hazard Perry. During that deployment, Java visited Algiers and Tripoli in a show of American naval strength calculated to impress the Barbary pirates and intimidate them into honoring their treaties with the United States. In 1817, Java returned to Newport, Rhode Island, to be laid up.

Between 1819 and 1824, Turner returned to sea in the schooner Nonsuch attached to a squadron commanded again by Oliver Hazard Perry. In addition to hunting West Indian pirates, his ship sailed up the Orinoco River to carry Perry on a diplomatic mission to the Venezuelan government under Simon Bolivar. During the return downriver, Perry and many of the crew contracted yellow fever. Turner was close at hand when his mentor died at Trinidad on 23 August 1819. During the remaining years of Turner's assignment to Nonsuch, his ship worked along the east coast of the United States, patrolled in the West Indies to suppress piracy, and made a brief cruise to the Mediterranean in 1824.

Following shore duty at Boston, Massachusetts, Turner returned to sea in 1827 for a three-year assignment with the West India Squadron, as the commanding officer of Erie. In 1830, he came ashore again for three years at the Portsmouth Navy Yard.

Promoted to captain on 3 March 1835, Turner spent a long period waiting orders before returning to sea in 1839 in command of USS Constitution. He sailed the Pacific Squadron in "Old Ironsides," until he was relieved in 1841. From 1843 to 1846, he commanded the American squadron which operated along the Brazilian coast. From that duty, he reported ashore again as Commandant, Portsmouth Navy Yard.

Undated photo of USS Turner on the East River in New York City near the Williamsburg Bridge.
Undated photo of USS Turner on the East River in New York City near the Williamsburg Bridge.


Capt. Turner died suddenly on 4 February 1850 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and he was buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. 


Three United States Navy destroyers have been named USS Turner in honor of Captain Turner, including USS Turner (DD-648) which was probably sunk by a German U-boat off of New York City in 1944.

There is a portrait of Captain Turner in the collection of the Redwood Library in Newport, Rhode Island.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.