Obviously You and I differ on the smaller points, and I wondered how much of the recently concluded Vicksburg NPS Campaign Study materials had gone into yours and Terry's new book. However, the point of my question is still the Ponchartrain.
While most historian have sweep the Ponchartrain under the carpet of unimportant history, and it may well deserve to be there, from the Correspondants between Lt Commander Thomas Selfridge and Admiral David Porter the presence of the Ponchartrain at Little Rock and it's destruction was of some importance to them.
My question really boils down to why were they concerned?
Selfridge made it a clear point to keep tabs on the activities of the Ponchartrain through his spy networks to make sure she remained tied to the docks at Little Rock. And that is good military tactics to watch your enemy. But Also he recieved regular reports about the river conditions, water levels at Fort Smith, in order to be able to be in a position to make a lighting dash, in his words "to run the defences" to Little Rock to destroy the Ponchartrain. That seems like a rash and dangerous Planned move to destroy a seemingly unimportant, leaking boat. He requested this at least twice in February and April of 1863 and was denied both time by Admiral Porter. Yet in August 1863 Porter expressed pleasure at the possibility to final get at the Ponchartrain and insure her destruction.
As for the Union Navy having control of the White River This is not exactly correct. While the Union Gunboats did make forays up the White mainly because it was more navigatable that the Lower Arkansas, it is a military axium that you do not control what you do not hold.
The presence of these gunboats occationally on the White did little to imped the Confederates from using them. In fact the USS Conastoga Patrols of the Mouth of the Arkansas and White Rivers, because of the distance between the mouths of these two rivers and the multiply ways of traveling by boat between the two rivers, did little to stop even confederate riverboat traffic between these two rivers or even the opposite bank of the Mississippi. I'll not go into all the multiple reports in the Naval OR's that give this indication. Union Gen. Sam Curtis made several forays from Helena to Clarendon and other locations along the White River even in 1862, but never stayed there more than a few days. Nor did they stay long after the Battle of Arkansas Post.
In any case neither Selfridge nor Porter were blessed with the 20/20 hindsight that we presently are graced with, to make the determination that the Ponchartrain was an unimportant element of the Confederate war effort until the Capture of Little Rock, Sept. 10, '63 when the Ponchartrain was burned and no longer a threat. Clearly from the reports of Selfridge and Porter, they wanted her sunk before the fall of Little Rock, but were unable to do so because of a number of factors, Water levels, Lack of Boats, Confederate Defences fortifications, timing and other. My question comes down to again if they really felt she was no threat then why did they worry seemingly so much over her presence? Even to the point of having a reinforced fleet of seven boats at one time stationed at the Mouth of the Arkansas in order to meet a reported "breakout?" for lack of a better word.
I hope this is contain in yours and Terry's Book. I's shut up because this is getting to be too long of an explaination of my original question.