HALDIMAND, PETER FREDERICK, military officer, surveyor; b. 1741 or 1742, probably in Switzerland, son of Jean-Abraham Haldimand; d. 16 Dec. 1765 off Cape Breton Island.
When less than 15 years old, Peter Frederick Haldimand left Switzerland to join his uncle, Sir Frederick Haldimand*, and was commissioned an ensign in the Royal American Regiment by General James Abercromby*, who commented on his small size. He served throughout the Seven Years’ War in America and took part in the capture of Montreal in 1760. Promoted lieutenant, he was engaged on survey work in 1762 and 1763, with instructions to prepare sectional maps of the province of Canada. He was also to draw up historical accounts of the towns of Montreal and Trois-Rivières and collect details of their present administration. In a letter to his uncle in June 1762 Peter Haldimand mentioned the difficulties of this task and his determination to elicit an “exact description” from local officials. He is described at this time as a young man of no vices but expensive tastes, to whom General James Murray* had given a year’s pay in advance to settle his debts.
After the war Peter Haldimand became an assistant to Captain Samuel Holland*, who had been appointed to survey the northern district in the great survey of British possessions in North America. In October 1764 Haldimand was landed with a week’s provisions on the Island of St John (Prince Edward Island), in charge of an exploring party. So little appreciated were the distances and the obstacles of the terrain that the party had to be rescued after three days without food. The following summer Haldimand surveyed the Magdalen Islands and also wrote for the Board of Trade a valuable account of the “sea-cow” (walrus) fisheries. In December 1765, while making soundings off Cape Breton, he fell through breaking ice and was drowned. Captain Holland, like many others, had a high opinion of Peter Haldimand’s abilities and described him, young though he was, as a most accomplished mathematician and his principal assistant in astronomy.
BM, Add. mss, 21661, 21679, 21687, 21728 (calendared in PAC Report, 1884; 1885; 1886). Holland’s description of Cape Breton Island and other documents, ed. D. C. Harvey (PANS pub., no.2, Halifax, 1935). J. N. McIlwraith, Sir Frederick Haldimand (2nd ed., London, Toronto, 1926). Willis Chipman, “The life and times of Major Samuel Holland, surveyor-general, 1764–1801,” Ontario Hist. Soc., Papers and records (Toronto), XXI (1924), 11–90. “Place-names on Magdalen Islands, Que.,” comp. R. Douglas, Canadian Geographic Board 17th Report (Ottawa, 1922), 66–67.