CSS Tallahassee, formerly the blockade runner Atalanta built on the Thames River in England, had passed through the blockade at Wilmington, N.C., several times before being purchased in 1864 by the Confederate States Navy.
Twin-screw ferry Atalanta had the name of an "admirable sea boat," very stable yet fast, having made the Dover-Calais crossing in 77 minutes on an even keel. She had been turned out by J. & W. Dudgeon of Millwall for London, Chatham & Dover Rly. Co. to the design of Capt. T. E. Symonds, RN, with twin 100-h.p. engines.
After she was commissioned and prepared for sea Tallahassee was placed under Comdr. J. T. Wood, CSN, who took her through the blockade on 6 August 1864 and made a brilliant 19-day raid off the Atlantic coast as far north as Halifax, N.S. Being unable to procure enough coal to continue, Cdr. John Taylor Wood was forced to return to Wilmington where he arrived safely on the 26th. During this short cruise Tallahassee destroyed 26 vessels and captured 7 others which were bonded or released.
Renamed Olustee and placed under the command of Lt. W. H. Ward, CSN, she ran through the blockade off Wilmington again on 29 October, but suffered some damage from Federal guns. She captured and destroyed six ships off the Capes of Delaware before having to return for coal. She thwarted attempts by Sassacus to capture her on 6 November and by four other United States ships on 7 November, finally passing into the safety of Wilmington harbor.
Following these cruises Olustee's battery was removed and she was renamed Chameleon. With Lt. J. Wilkinson, CSN, in command she ran through the blockade on 24 December 1864 while the United States fleet was preoccupied with bombarding Fort Fisher, and she proceeded to Bermuda to obtain provisions for the Confederate army. Upon his return to the Confederate States,
Wilkinson made two attempts to enter one of the southern ports, but finding it impossible, he took Chameleon to Liverpool, England, and turned her over to Comdr. J. D. Bullock, CSN, financial agent of the Confederate Navy Department.
On her arrival in England on 9 April 1865 Chameleon was seized and sold by the British authorities and was about to enter the merchant service when the United States instituted suit for possession. She was awarded to the United States Government and handed over to the consul at Liverpool on 26 April 1866.
Part of the text is incorporated from the United States Navy's Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, a work in the public domain.