Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Deprat's House

Marker at Deprat's House
The house of the French merchant, Deprat was a two storied building with a veranda along the front. A mud wall was built along the veranda to protect it and pierced to allow for musketry fire. The house overlooked Johannes wall, and had three large rooms under which was a tyekhanna that mirrored the rooms above. Another tyekhanna was present under the veranda. A mud wall of about 9 feet in height had been built leading in straight line to the wall of the Martiniere Post next door. The wall, though not very strong, provided adequate protection for a small yard in the centre of which was a well.  

By the 10th of August, Deprat’s House was almost completely in ruins - first the veranda was destroyed, followed shortly after by the outer wall. It is unfortunate that Captain Hayes, who was said to possess the finest library in India, had chosen Deprat’s House in which to store his valuable collection and it too was destroyed having been used as a part of the defences!

View from the ruins of the Thugee jail, the marker of Deprat's house is in the background.
Deprat himself was something of an enigma, in life and remains so, in death.  Before coming to India, he had been an officer in the Chasseurs d’Afrique seeing active service in Algiers under  LamoriciĆ©re, Cavaignac, Changarnier, Pelissier and Canrobert. During the siege, Deprat served both as an artillery officer and as a rifleman, not only at his own post but at Gubbin’s Battery. He owned a heavy large bore rifle which he used with considerable skill and had fought alongside the army at Chinhat. He performed deeds of bootless boldness which none but a Frenchman or a madman would think of. “ One of his acts was to hold lengthy conversations with the enemy during exchanges of musketry fire, to the point where he would show himself to his aggressors, tempting them to take a shot. He was “generous in the extreme, hospitable, warm-hearted, kind, - one could forgive his faults though they were many.” His generosity drove Rees to despair, that Deprat gave away his stores of provisions to “whoever wanted any…The consequence was that poor D. had soon nothing for left for himself; and the thousand and one cannon balls and musket balls…smashed to atoms whatever was not taken away.”  (Rees, p.218)

Today there is no trace of the Frenchman at the Residency today. His house was destroyed to the very foundations, only a marker remains. In the graveyard, he lies interred, albeit nameless, in the same grave as Captain Cunliffe, sharing the same epitaph, “Thy Will Be Done.” 

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