© 2020

Jean-Charles Houzeau's Escape from Texas

A Belgian Astronomer Caught in the American Civil War


Part of the Springer Biographies book series (SPRINGERBIOGS)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Jean-Charles Houzeau: His Work, His Travels and His Letters

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 1-1
    2. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 3-24
    3. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 25-34
    4. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 35-50
    5. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 51-65
  3. Part II Selected Letters and Transcripts of Official Documents

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 67-67
    2. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 69-79
    3. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 81-89
  4. Part III Jean-Charles Houzeau’s White Terror in Texas

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 91-93
    2. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 95-98
    3. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 99-117
    4. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 119-131
    5. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 133-146
    6. Christiaan Sterken, Amy Abercrombie King
      Pages 147-152
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 153-161

About this book


Translated from the original French and annotated with figures, historical maps and commentary from the translators, this work is Jean-Charles Houzeau's account of his escape from Texas during the American Civil War. Houzeau was a Belgian astronomer who worked a couple of years as assistant astronomer at the Brussels Observatory, but eventually moved to the United States. He was living as a frontierman in Texas when the Civil War broke out, and because he took an abolitionist stance and helped slaves escape, he was forced to flee to Mexico, from where he sailed to New Orleans on board of a US military vessel. Originally titled La terreur blanche au Texas et mon 'evasion, Houzeau captured the details of his escape in 1862. The editors, an astronomer and a French language  teacher, have added supplementary material to give the readers more depth and historical context to the story.


Abolition of Slavery Abolitionists Astronomy Biography Belgian Astronomer American Civil War Civil War Texas Jean-Charles Houzeau San Antonio History Texas History

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of BrusselsMerelbekeBelgium
  2. 2.San AntonioUSA

About the authors

Christiaan Sterken obtained an MSc degree in Mathematics at the University of Ghent (Belgium), his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Brussels, and his Habilitation degree at the University of Liège. He is Emeritus Research Director at the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research, and Emeritus Guest Professor at the University of Brussels. His principal field of research is the photometry of variable stars (luminous blue variables, massive binaries, pulsating main sequence stars, and cataclysmic variables), and comets. He also taught courses in observational astronomy, and on the history of natural sciences at the Universities of Brussels and Ghent. Christiaan Sterken is Vice-President of Commission C3 History of Astronomy, of the International Astronomical Union. 

Amy Abercrombie King has a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from the University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Arts degree in French from The University of Texas at San Antonio. She holds a lifetime certification as a secondary school teacher in Texas, with certifications in French, English, English as Second Language (ESL), Social Studies and  Information Technology. She was awarded Fulbright-Hays and American Association of Teachers of French scholarships to study the French language and culture, completing postgraduate programs at Université  Laval and Université  de Montréal. She also studied French language, culture, and teaching methods in Cameroon, Africa. A fifth-generation Texan, she was born in Victoria, Texas and grew up in Uvalde, near Fort Clark. She currently resides in San Antonio, and has recently retired from teaching French at Douglas MacArthur High School.



Bibliographic information


“This book is extremely well documented and written in a very clear and concise way. … I strongly recommend this book to people interested in history of astronomy, but also to historians who find some interest in the US Civil War and, in a more general way, in the history of the United States.” (Emile Biémont, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, Vol. 23 (2), 2020)