There are selected runs of this title (what adds to the confusion is that the title varies) that allow us to glimpse the workings of the US Navy from the early part of the 19th century into the 20th. The Annual reports of the Secretary of the Navy contains the volumes for 1821-1843; the Annual Reports of the Naval Department run from 1855 to 1932; and the Annual reports of the Navy Department. Report of the Secretary of the Navy. Miscellaneous reports covers the same time period. They are not just dry recitations but hold fascinating historical value; for example, the volume for 1823 details the Navy’s involvement in the suppression of the slave trade in Africa along with letters recounting the Navy’s role; the 1851 volume has a passing mention of the “disastrous” invasion of Cuba; and the 1917 tome discusses the Navy’s anti-submarine efforts.
Each volume is a goldmine of information: personnel statistics; funding; reports of the various departments within the Navy, including the Marines; and contemporary primary source documents, such as reports and letters.