My strategy at the outset was two-fold, to rapidly seize the border states, and get a port to operate my blockade out of. My secondary objectives were then to take Tennessee and North Carolina, as they are the 2nd and 3rd biggest states in population and supply, and that plus my blockade should isolate Richmond. I was very aggressive initially, as I told Jonathan, I basically played as U.S. Grant in 1861.
I opened the game with a “rolling start” offensive in Kentucky, using the starting garrisons to take Kentucky, from Cairo to Columbus, Evansville (amphib) to take Ft. Donelson, and Cincinnati to Frankfort, so Kentucky fell. Meanwhile, new divisions were formed with the garrisons at the capitals and moved up to the border (Springfield-Cairo, Indianapolis-Evansville, and Columbus-Cincinnati).
One twist here was since my main effort was going to be against Nashville, I pulled Hunter's corps from DC by rail to Pittsburgh. On the following turn, he added a couple new brigades from the east, and moved by rail to Cincinnati, so that I transfered about 20,000 troops from east to west. Meanwhile, Lyons used rail movement to get within two hexes of Jeff City, to be in position to take it on turn 2. I figured best case, the South could probably only raise a brigade there. I did take Missouri, and hold off his counterattacks. I also moved up to take the rest of Kentucky, and moved to build an army to attack Nashville.
In the east, I attacked to Fredericksburg, and down the Valley through Strasburg. Fredericksburg fell in December of 61, although it had cost me a lot. But the real meat grinder was at Charlottesville. I launched a series of all-out attacks, but he was well-fortified, and I was taking heavy losses.
The same was happening at Nashville, which was also heavily fortified. I was attacking with 2-1 odds, but it wasn't enough against the forts. From my notes, December 61 was particularly bloody. The first turn I lost 23,500 to his 14,700, and 21st was another 10,000 to his 6,000.
Meanwhile, Louisville had rebelled behind me, and I didn't react right away. Jonathan built up a division, and fortified it. When I did attack, I lost my first group of 16,000 troops completely. I eventually had to pull my army from Nashville, over 52,000 troops, vs his 24,000, as well as all my river fleet sunk taking down his forts.
The result was it was November of 62 before I could attack Nashville again, and even with 130,000 to 31,000, I was repeatedly repelled. By then I was throwing everything I had. I had taken Decatur, AL by river early in the war, and used an army from there to attack Chattanooga and try to block reinforcements. I even got desperate and was force-marching broken divisions into the path of his reinforcements, but I failed again, losing 40,000+ over a month and a half.
Finally, in May of 63, I had built up over 150,000 troops, and a fleet with 4 ironclads and 14 gunboats to take out his fortifications, and I took Nashville, at a cost of another 19,000 casualties. That was pretty much my high-water mark, although I did eventually rebuild my river fleet and take Memphis. But by now Jonathan had fortified the remaining cities in range, and we went into a WWI stalemate for the last year or so, training our troops, but I, at least, was afraid to attack a fortified city. Every target I could see had 30,000+ troops, and fortified to level 8 or 9.
Meanwhile, there was another revolt at Louisville, then one at St. Louis, and I was tied up keeping what I had.
All the casualties hammered at my prestige, triggered intervention in September of 62, and also I think hurt my production, as the number of recruits for a given level dropped off dramatically.
On the naval front, I sent 6 ships to blockade Charleston, but my other ships moved to support an amphibious attack on New Bern. This is where I started running into trouble, as repeated fleets diverted to Norfolk instead of New Bern. I did eventually get New Bern, but even reinforcement voyages would often throw themselves at the guns of Norfolk, and I eventually put together a fleet to assault Norfolk directly, taking it in June 62.
I also tried expanding from New Bern, and took Beaufort, but lost several battles at Plymouth, and was rebuffed from Raleigh frequently. This is where I had a lot of trouble with wayward fleets and floating divisions, as I tried to send reinforcing divisions/corps by sea several times, and had difficulty getting the forces amassed for a good assault. My troops at Norfolk also tried several breakout assaults, but Jonathan had good commanders in Petersburg and moving N from Raleigh, and defeated them repeatedly. He eventually retook Norfolk, and was attacking New Bern as the game ended.
Beaufort was critical, not only to deny him a port for running, but so my blockaders would have a shorter trip to return and resupply. Once it was in place, my naval production started to crank up. I had an ocean capacity of 36 wooden, and 10 ironclad, and river was 12 and 4 — I thought it was a lot, but not enough as it turned out once France and Britain entered.
My goal was to first blockade all ports in the Eastern theater, to block that portion of his cotton, or force him to rail it around. Then I focused on Brunswick, St. Aug, and Jacksonville, since they were 1 turn shipping from Nassau. I never really blockaded the gulf coast ports, I would occasionally send groups down there, and they had their best luck in transit, as they would round Florida and block the “canal” there. Each round they fought, they would remain in place. When they did get through, sometimes I would just abort their orders, and they would come back through the straits, hitting more fleets on the way. Overall, I was pretty happy with the blockades in the early part of the war, even though many engagements ended in no effect. But I did get to a point in late 62 when it seemed he was only sailing from the gulf, which increased travel times, and decreased throughput, so I was pretty satisfied.
Then Intervention happened. I had been building up for it, as his prestige had been in the 90s for 6 months or better. I had 60+ wooden ships and a dozen ironclads, and sent large groups to blockade St. George and Nassau, engaging the European fleets en route. After the first few turns, I had control again, and blockading the two ports was actually easier than all of his ports. This lasted for nearly a year, as an occasional squadron of British or French ships would appear, and I would destroy them.
Then Jonathan shocked me in August, 1863 with 7 ironclads. I had seen no CSA warships before then. He used them to break my hold on their bases, then gradually amassed his Grand Armada (he somehow figured out how to control the British and French fleets, and grouped them with his!). After that it was a matter of time before I was swept from the seas, and his supplies flowed freely again. I knew that was the beginning of the end for me, since I was already stalemated on land.
Jonathan made a strategic decision early on, which it took me a while to realize. He built only infantry, no cav and minimal artillery, if any. This allowed him to generate more brigades for the limited supplies/manpower than I would have expected, and so often I would be surprised to see garrisons in towns, or corps of 6 brigades where I would have expected one or two (too much playing against the AI!). It also meant he could make good his losses as well as I could, so my attrition-based attacks were counterproductive, as all they did was hurt my prestige (got to 6% by the election).
He was also able to afford fortifications, which turned out to be far deadlier than I had expected, especially at level 6 and up. 3-1 or even 4-1 odds wasn't sufficient there, as even if I got the victory and his unit was broken, it would often remain in the city, and miraculously recover some morale. Since they were usually river cities or capitals, cutting them off from supply wasn't a good option.
I did in fact put a good deal of effort into cavalry, about 10%, much higher initially to generate some early brigades. While they were good at scouting, when I would use them to cut supply lines, invariably Jonathan would track them down with infantry (ironically using Shelby, Forrest, and Stuart with corps of infantry to hunt down my cavalry!!) and annihilate them. So I tend to agree with Jonathan, that if countered with infantry, cavalry are not good value for money.