A beautiful huntress in Greek mythology who could outrun and outwrestle all men. During the Calydonian boar hunt, Atalanta first wounded a dreaded boar and, for her part in the beast's slaughter, received its head and skin as a prize. Since a soothsayer had warned her against marriage, she lived alone in the forest, avoiding her suitors by announcing that she would,only wed the man who could best her in a footrace. This stratagem kept her single until Hippomenes tricked her into losing by dropping three golden apples in her path during his dash for her hand. While she stopped to pick up the fruit, he crossed the finish line ahead of the fleet huntress. However, in his happiness over the victory, the youth failed to thank Aphrodite who punished the couple by changing them into lions.
The Continental frigate Alliance—commanded by Capt. John Barry—captured sloops of war Atalanta and Trepassey after a long and bloody battle on 27 May 1781. After repairs, Atalanta sailed for Boston under a prize crew but was captured by British blockading warships near Cape Cod on 7 June 1781.
Some naval records indicate that Atalanta was the name of a screw gunboat chartered by the Navy in the autumn of 1858 for operations on the Parana River during the American expedition to Paraguay seeking redress for damage incurred by USS Water Witch when that small steamer was shelled by Paraguayan guns. However, stronger evidence suggests that this vessel—which was later purchased outright by the Navy and renamed Sumpter (q.v.)—was actually called Atlanta.