The mission station at Crook's Drift was not designed for defence and indeed, was only used as a staging post for reinforcements to bivouac in before heading to the front. It was prudent to wait until a reasonable number of men had accumulated before setting out into enemy territory and so the occupants could consist of troops from any number of parent units. On this occasion the garrison consisted of the following troops:
Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead: Seven officers including surgeon, commissaries and so on; Adendorff now I suppose; wounded and sick 36, fit for duty 97 from B company and with a Gatling Gun and crew from H.M.S. Gannet. Not much of an army for you.
Lieutenant John Chard had already settled the issue of command with Bromhead (his commission was dated slightly earlier, therefore he had seniority) and had issued orders for the perimeter of the mission station to fortified with spare wagons, mealie bags and anything else that could be used as a barrier. Originally he had planned to construct a redoubt in the centre but decided to use the power of the Gatling Gun to sweep the forward perimeter if needed. The small detachment out to the northwest would form a mobile reserve, to be deployed as and when needed.
The Zulus, under their fearless commander, Chief UpaNunda had adopted the classic war formation of the fighting bull buffalo. The young unmarried regiments were deployed on the hills in the west whilst the the junior married men were in the east. The white shielded veterans were under his direct command in the centre.