War is presented as a conflict between Mr Jones and his men against the animals of the farm when the humans launch an attack with the purpose of recapturing the farm. The entire battle is presented as a skirmish during a war. The text is quite dramatic in its depiction:
Early in October, when the corn was cut and stacked and some of it was already threshed, a flight of pigeons came whirling through the air and alighted in the yard of Animal Farm in the wildest excitement. Jones and all his men, with half a dozen others from Foxwood and Pinchfield, had entered the five barred gate and were coming up the cart-track that led to the farm. They were all carrying sticks, except Jones, who was marching ahead with a gun in his hands. Obviously they were going to attempt the recapture of the farm.
The men were armoured, albeit with unconventional weapons. These, however, were suited for the purpose since they did not expect much resistance from the animals. They could not be more wrong in this assumption, for the animals had long expected such an attack and had planned ahead. Snowball, like a military general, had already planned a defensive campaign which was based on his studies of Julius Caesar's military operations. When the incursion began, he quickly gave his orders and the animals were deployed to their positions.
True to the nature of a carefully formulated military strategy, Snowball launched a systematic attack, based on different forms of attack. The first strike was from the air, much as in a war when planes are used to bomb the enemy and weaken their resolve.
All the pigeons, to the number of thirty-five, flew to and fro over the men’s heads and muted upon them from mid-air
The second part was a ground attack in the form of the ducks pecking at the men's heels - a perfect manoeuvre to 'create a little disorder' since it was easy for the men to drive the ducks off with their sticks. Snowball then started his second line of attack.
Muriel, Benjamin, and all the sheep, with Snowball at the head of them, rushed forward and prodded and butted the men from every side, while Benjamin turned around and lashed at them with his small hoofs. But once again the men, with their sticks and their hobnailed boots, were too strong for them; and suddenly, at a squeal from Snowball, which was the signal for retreat, all the animals turned and fled through the gateway into the yard.
The men were encouraged by their little triumph and rushed after the animals in disarray, believing that victory was at hand. They had not contended with the crafty Snowball's military expertise since this was exactly what he wanted.
As soon as they were well inside the yard, the three horses, the three cows, and the rest of the pigs, who had been lying in ambush in the cowshed, suddenly emerged in their rear, cutting them off. Snowball now gave the signal for the charge.
Just as in a war, Snowball had carefully planned his main offensive and had drawn the unsuspecting enemy into a trap. He used the larger animals for this attack and personally charged at Mr Jones who fired his gun. Shotgun pellets grazed Snowball and left a bloody trail on his back. A sheep was hit directly and died on the spot. Boxer displayed great courage and presented a terrifying image as he reared up on his hind legs and struck out at the humans, laying a stable lad out cold. When the men saw this, they dropped their sticks and started to run. They were petrified.
... the next moment all the animals together were chasing them round and round the yard. They were gored, kicked, bitten, trampled on. There was not an animal on the farm that did not take vengeance on them after his own fashion. Even the cat suddenly leapt off a roof onto a cowman’s shoulders and sank her claws in his neck, at which he yelled horribly.
As soon as the men saw an opening, they fled towards the main road with a flock of geese pecking at their calves the entire distance. Their attack had lasted only five minutes and they were in humiliating retreat. The animals, through Snowball's clever military tactics, had driven them off.
After the battle, it was decided unanimously to create a military decoration, 'Animal Hero, First Class', the first recipients of which were Snowball and Boxer. A second decoration, 'Animal Hero, Second Class' was posthumously awarded to the dead sheep. It was also decided to name the battle 'The Battle of the Cowshed' and its memory would be celebrated every year. All these actions are true to the spirit of military tradition.