This is indeed achievable. The following example should clear things up. You can use ComponentMetaFactory (passing in the publication ID), and then use it to retrieve the metadata for the component (passing in the Items ID). This can be used to gather all sorts of information about the components metadata such as creation dates, custom metadata, initial publication date, author, schema ID, title and more.
ComponentMetaFactory metaFactory = new ComponentMetaFactory(pubId);
ComponentMeta compMeta = metaFactory.getMeta(itemID);
Date lastPublished = compMeta.getLastPublicationDate();
Note that the item ID is not the TCM URI, it is the unique ID of the item (which is contained within the TCM URI). The format of TCM URIs is as follows: 'tcm:publicationID-itemID-itemType'. You can write a small snippet of code to strip it out, and pass it into the getMeta(..) method. Hopefully this helps.