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LANDMANN, GEORGE THOMAS, army officer, military engineer, and author; b., probably on 11 April 1780, in Woolwich (London), son of Isaac Landmann; d. 27 Aug. 1854 in Shacklewell (London).

George Thomas Landmann was raised within the precincts of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, where his father was professor of artillery and fortification. He entered the academy as a cadet on 16 April 1793 and was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on 1 May 1795. Two years later he was promoted first lieutenant, on 3 June, and was posted to the Canadas. Arriving in Halifax, probably in late October, he reached Quebec by 31 December. He was made welcome by some of the most prominent members of military and colonial society, including in Halifax, Prince Edward* Augustus, to whom his father was a well-known and respected figure. Young Landmann’s carefree attitude and immaturity, however, were to mark his first posting in the Canadas and to create difficulties for his superiors.

In the spring of 1798 Landmann was posted to St Joseph Island in upper Lake Huron, the westernmost military post in Upper Canada, where he was to complete fortifications begun in 1797. He travelled there in canoes owned by the North West Company, the first year with William McGillivray* and the second year with McGillivray, Alexander Mackenzie*, and Roderick McKenzie*. When he took command of the works on 24 May 1798, one of his first tasks, assumed with others at Fort St Joseph, including the commander, Captain Peter Drummond of the Royal Canadian Volunteer Regiment, was to witness the deed of sale of St Joseph Island by the Ojibwa Indians to the British government on 30 June 1798.

Landmann, on instructions from commanding engineer Gother Mann*, was to construct a wharf, guardhouse, and temporary powder-magazine, and to surround the post with picketing. The work took longer than expected and was still not completed at the end of the second summer. Furthermore, whether through his youthfulness and inexperience or through the complex system of accounting, his books were not in order when the time came to leave the island. He arrived in Quebec in late November 1799 to find that the new commander-in-chief of the forces in the Canadas, Lieutenant-General Peter Hunter*, refused to accept his accounts. All work at St Joseph was suspended and he was ordered to return immediately to the island to correct his errors. Hunter’s decision led to a further prolonged delay in the fortification of the island, major work not being resumed until 1804. Although the isolation of the post and the difficulties experienced in obtaining supplies may explain some of Landmann’s problems, he must bear a share of the responsibility for the delay. While at St Joseph in 1799 he had been occupied for at least part of the summer in building a store and house for the use of the NWC. On his way back to the island in early 1800 he tarried until spring in York (Toronto), called on Peter Russell*, receiver general of Upper Canada, and purchased a block of land in Norwich. Leaving St Joseph in early July 1800, he reached Montreal in less than eight days, yet he did not report to Quebec until the following month.

After a winter in Quebec, during which time the problem of his accounts was resolved, Landmann was posted to the Cascades (near Île des Cascades), Lower Canada. Working under the direction of Captain Ralph Henry Bruyeres*, and following instructions laid down by Mann, a more mature Landmann levelled and prepared the ground for the construction of a new canal at the Cascades and for the widening of the existing canal at Coteau-du-Lac. In 1802 he supervised the cutting of the canal at the Cascades, under the direction of Captain Robert Pilkington*. Promoted captain-lieutenant on 13 July of that year, he returned to England the following autumn.

Landmann shared with his contemporaries an active social life in both Quebec and Montreal. Despite a rather superior attitude as an affluent young officer with influential contacts, he exhibited a lively curiosity about the people and the customs of the country. These he depicted in Adventures and recollections of Colonel Landmann, published 50 years after he left the Canadas. The work follows his movements in detail and demonstrates that his interest stemmed not so much from intellectual or scientific curiosity as from the curiosity of youth for which each day offers a new adventure. One such event concerned the earliest known instance of vaccination against smallpox in the Canadas.

The British physician Edward Jenner had made public the use of cowpox matter for inoculation against smallpox in 1798 and the procedure was introduced into Newfoundland the same year by the Reverend John Clinch*. On 28 Nov. 1801, while stationed at Quebec, Landmann received a packet from England containing cowpox matter between two plates of glass, together with instructions for its use and drawings to illustrate the expected stages of reaction. In Landmann’s own words, “no time was lost” in vaccinating the two children of a fellow engineer, Captain William Backwell. Although there is no confirming evidence, it is probable that other children were vaccinated and even, as Landmann later claimed, that medical men came from the United States to procure vaccine material from the Backwell children. However, the first formal promotion of vaccination in Lower Canada was undertaken by Dr George Longmore* in the spring of 1802.

Landmann’s career advanced rapidly after his return to England. In December 1805 he was posted to Gibraltar where he was promoted captain on 1 July 1806. From Gibraltar he embarked for Portugal as commanding royal engineer in the summer of 1808. His services during the Peninsular War brought him recognition from the king of Spain and commissions in the Spanish engineers and the Spanish army. Wounded in Spain in 1811, he was forced to return to England. He was appointed lieutenant-colonel on 16 May 1814 and served as commanding engineer in the Thames and Yorkshire districts successively. He was granted leave of absence in 1819 and retired from the engineering corps by sale of his commission on 29 Dec. 1824. Between 1831 and 1845 he was responsible for engineering plans for several railways in Britain. He was elected a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1835, a position he held until his death.

It was his later military career that made George Thomas Landmann noted in England. In Canada he is remembered for his exuberance, his curiosity, and his youthful adventure as a pioneer vaccinator.

Barbara R. Tunis

George Thomas Landmann is the author of Adventures and recollections of Colonel Landmann, late of the Corps of Royal Engineers (2v., London, 1852), an autobiography based on a journal that has not been located. A listing of his publications is available in the DNB and some of his maps, plans, and drawings are listed in The British Museum catalogue of printed maps, charts and plans: photolithographic edition to 1964 (15v., London, 1967), 8: 771.

ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 28 nov. 1801. Central Library, Royal Military Academy (Sandhurst, Eng.), Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, reg. of cadets. PAC, MG 19, B1, 1: 110–11; MG 23, GII, 17, ser.1, vols.17–18; RG 1, L1, 22: 478, 531; RG 8, I (C ser.), 38, 223, 252–53, 382–83, 512, 724, 1207–10, 1705; RG 10, D10, 661. Gentleman’s Magazine, January–June 1855: 422–23. Harmon, Sixteen years in the Indian country (Lamb). Alexander Mackenzie, The journals and letters of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, ed. W. K. Lamb (Toronto, 1970). Quebec Gazette, 11 Aug. 1803. G.B., WO, Army list, 1793–1803. Roll of officers of the Corps of Royal Engineers from 1660 to 1898 . . . , ed. R. F. Edwards (Chatham, Eng., 1898). Abbott, Hist. of medicine. J. E. and E. L. Bayliss, Historic St. Joseph Island (Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1938). J. J. Heagerty, Four centuries of medical history in Canada and a sketch of the medical history of Newfoundland (2v., Toronto, 1928). Whitworth Porter et al., History of the Corps of Royal Engineers (9v. to date, London and Chatham, 1889–  ; vols.1–3 repr., Chatham, 1951–54). Elizabeth Vincent, Fort St. Joseph (Can., National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Manuscript report, no.335, Ottawa, 1978), 3–7, 78–95, 279–81. R. J. Young, A comparative report and catalogue of blockhouses in Canada (Can., National Historic Parks and Sites Branch, Manuscript report, no.155, Ottawa, 1973). R. C. Stewart, “Early vaccinations in British North America,” Canadian Medical Assoc., Journal (Toronto), 39 (1938): 181–83. “Le vaccin à Québec,” BRH, 44 (1938): 349.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Barbara R. Tunis, “LANDMANN, GEORGE THOMAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 23, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/landmann_george_thomas_8E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/landmann_george_thomas_8E.html
Author of Article:   Barbara R. Tunis
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1985
Year of revision:   1985
Access Date:   June 23, 2024