Augustus Paul Cooke
Dates of Service: 9/5/1877 - 1/9/1878
Birth Date: 6/1836
Death Date: 9/7/1896
August Paul Cooke was born in Cooperstown, New York in June 1836. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1856 and was assigned to the new screw frigate Wabash in the Home Squadron until May 1858. Cooke was promoted to master in 1859 and to lieutenant in 1861. He was assigned to the screw frigate San Jacinto in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron, and then transferred to the steam gunboat Pinola. Promoted to lieutenant commander in August 1862, he next commanded Estrella,a newly commissioned sidewheel steamer acquired from the army. With Estrella, Cooke led operations along the Atchafalaya River that destroyed the Confederate steamer Queen of the West and captured batteries controlling the river. In 1864, he took an active part in the attack on Mobile, Alabama. Cooke was transferred to the Naval Academy in 1865. He served on the steam frigate Franklin in the European Squadron between 1867 and 1868, and in the steam sloop Ticonderoga from 1868 to 1869. He returned to the Naval Academy in 1870 and was promoted to commander in August.
In 1871, Constitution ended her service as a stationary school ship at the Naval Academy and was ordered to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Cooke was given orders as “job captain” to sail the old frigate out of the Chesapeake and up the coast. He stayed in command from September 19 to 26, 1871.
Cooke returned to the Naval Academy where he authored a textbook on naval gunnery. On July 31, 1874, he commissioned the screw steamer Intrepid, the first ship in the U.S. Navy to carry torpedo armament. Subsequent trials proved unsuccessful and the ship was decommissioned on October 24. Cooke was once again ordered to Constitution in August 1877, when she was being used as a school ship for apprentice boys. Later that year, Constitution was used to carry the United States exhibits to the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris, and in January a more senior officer replaced Cooke.
Cooke was promoted to captain on November 25, 1881 and retired on May 27, 1892. He was the first Naval Academy graduate to command “Old Ironsides.” He died on September 7, 1896 in Paris, France.