Where is Napoleon during the Battle of the Cowshed in Animal Farm?
Napoleon is conspicuously absent during the battle of the Cowshed in Orwell's Animal Farm. Orwell makes a point to show that though nobody spoke more fiercely about the danger of the humans and their imminent threat of reappearing on the farm, when it came to actually going to war with them, Napoleon left the fighting to the other animals. Meanwhile, his political opponent, Snowball, led the charge against the humans and got wounded in the process, earning him great acclaim among the animals. This is another example of Napoleon's hypocritcal stance on the farm. He wants all the reward with no sacrifice. He stresses the importance of animal continuity, yet he puts himself above the others.
In Animal Farm, The Battle of the Cowshed is significant as Snowball is hailed as an "Animal Hero, First Class," receiving a medal, along with Boxer. These medals are to be worn on Sundays and holidays. It will not be long before the very same achievement will be used against Snowball when Napoleon attempts to discredit him and suggest that he is a traitor and instrumental in the attack by the humans.
Before the battle takes place, Snowball and Napoleon send out pigeons to ensure that other farm animals know about the Rebellion on the former Manor Farm, now Animal Farm. This appears to be Napoleon's only involvement in this. Farmers struggle to manage the animals on these other farms as the animals are familiar with the rebellion and even know the song "Beasts of England."
Jones eventually returns, with some of the other farmers, to try and retake Animal (Manor) Farm but the animals have been expecting them and Snowball has a plan and gives the orders. Napoleon is not mentioned because he "took no interest in Snowball's committees" nor has he been involved in Snowball's plan if there ever is an attack; a plan that Snowball has developed by studying the strategy of Julius Caesar.
Jones leaves eventually when the animals get the better of him and the animals celebrate but still there is no mention of Napoleon. It seems that Napoleon is busy training the puppies that he took from Jessie and Bluebell because "the education of the young was more important than anything..." He will use the same puppies to chase Snowball off the farm: "Though not yet full-grown, they were huge dogs, and as fierce-looking as wolves."
For much of the early part of the story, Napoleon is not a key player in the revolution personally, other than to criticize Snowball. Napoleon is conspicuously absent at the battle. This should not be a surprise, as the day after the revolution, he disposed of the cow's milk which logically should have gone to the calves or to the animals as a whole. Snowball leads the charge against the humans and is even wounded for his efforts. Napoleon rewrites history when he decides that Snowball is too much of a threat, and places himself in Snowball's place and even makes Snowball the leader of the humans. This is characteristic of Napoleon's leadership style. He rewrites history so that he is always the hero and he uses fear and browbeating to make the other animals fall into line.