Over the weekend I had the English Premier League on in the background while I was writing and taking care of some stuff around the house. Friday and Saturday nights I watched the Norfolk Admirals play the Manchester Monarchs in minor-league hockey. At the end of each game, the Premier League names a Man of the Match (or as Americans call it, Most Valuable Player/MVP). The East Coast Hockey League does something similar at the end of each game, naming the Three Stars of the Game, a list not limited to the winning team.
The term “Man of the Match” triggered a memory of how this concept can be applied to staff rides on Civil War battlefields.
Years ago, I accompanied some British officers and NCOs around Chancellorsville Battlefield. At the end of the tour, the commander asked his group to debate and decide the “Man of the Match” for the battle. (If I recall correctly, Stonewall Jackson got the nod.) It was a very interesting thought experiment, and helped focus on the decisive leaders and actors in these engagements. It helps define how people can and did make a difference – as Napoleon said, “In war, one man . . . is everything.”
Next time you read about a battle or visit a battlefield, I invite you to think about who you would pick as the Three Stars or the sole Man of the Match. It will help you better understand the dynamics of the armies and the battle itself.
Top: Wayne Gretzky (seen after his 1988 trade to the Los Angeles Kings) was MVP of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985 and 1988 for the Edmonton Oilers.