Joseph Bulloch Coghlan was born at Frankfort, Kentucky, 9 December 1844, and was graduated from the Naval Academy in 1963.

He served in Sacramento during the Civil War and led the expedition which captured the batteries at Cavite (2 May 1898) and at Isla Grande, Subic bay (7 July) during the Spanish-American War.

He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1902 and died at New Rochelle, New York, 5 December 1908.