What was Napoleon's role in the Battle of the Cowshed? 

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This is a great question. Napoleon is conspicuously missing in the battle of Cowshed. In chapter 4, where the battle takes place, he is mentioned only once. The text says that Napoleon and Snowball sent out pigeons to broadcast the story of the rebellion. After this, Napoleon falls into the recess. The one who takes charge is Snowball. In fact, Snowball is awarded a medal of honor for his role in the battle. The chapter ends with these words:

The animals decided unanimously to create a military decoration, ‘Animal Hero, First Class,’ which was conferred there and then on Snowball and Boxer.

This shows that the heroes of the battle and chapter were Snowball and Boxer. 

All of this begs the question of where Napoleon was. The answer to this question is actually found in the previous chapter. There we see Napoleon's view. He did not believe in any of the committees that Snowball set up. He believed that he needed to start with the young. So, he took the pups of Jessie and Bluebell. Later in the book, these pups would become his muscle, that is, guard dogs. 

Here is what the text says:

Napoleon took no interest in Snowball’s committees. He said that the education of the young was more important than anything that could be done for those who were already grown up. It happened that Jessie and Bluebell had both whelped soon after the hay harvest, giving birth between them to nine sturdy puppies.

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Napoleon is strangely absent during the Battle of the Cowshed. We see no sign of him during the fighting. It is Snowball who charges bravely at the humans, accompanied by all 35 pigeons, all the sheep, Muriel, Benjamin and Boxer. At the end of the battle, Snowball and Boxer, who both fought bravely, are awarded the honor Animal hero, first class, but Napoleon is conspicuously missing from the honor roll. The conclusion one is led to draw is that Napoleon was carefully taking cover in the background while the other animals risked life and limb for the cause. We can assume Napoleon was there, somewhere, during the battle, because at the end of the battle Molly is noticed to be missing and everyone goes in alarm to search for her. Later, Napoleon will use propaganda to try to change the other animals' memories of what happened in this battle. 

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Napoleon is not mentioned during the battle of the cowshed. It is unclear if he was involved in the fighting or if he was off to the side watching. Suffice to say, even if he was involved in the fighting, he did nothing significant. Napoleon is not mentioned during the battle for precisely this reason; he didn't do anything worth noting. Snowball and Boxer were the heroes of the battle. Subsequently, Napoleon and Squealer would spread propaganda that Snowball's actions were more traitorous than courageous. This had the effect of brainwashing the animals that Snowball acted cowardly and Napoleon, by default, was the only righteous leader they ever had. 

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