William Robert Lancaster was born March 15, 1840 in West Springs, Union County, South Carolina, the oldest child of William and Cassandra West Lancaster. His great-grandfather, Benjamin West, was a revolutionary war soldier and a victim of the brutality of Patrick Ferguson’s Loyalist Raiders. In 1854, William Lancaster Sr. moved his family from South Carolina to Pickens County, Alabama. On August 1, 1862, William Robert Lancaster married Catherine Sanders, daughter of James and Sarah Stewart Sanders in Pickens County, Alabama.
On April 16, 1862, the C.S.A. government passed the Conscription Act, pursuant to which able-bodied men in the southern states were subject to conscription into the confederate army. William Robert Lancaster was drafted into the Confederate army and traveled to Mobile, where he was enrolled in Company G, 40th Alabama Infantry on October 1, 1862. He remained in Mobile until December 1862, training and receiving drill instruction. In December, the 40th Alabama moved to Vicksburg to assist in the defense of that city. Upon arrival in Vicksburg, the 40th Alabama was brigaded with the 37th Alabama, 42nd Alabama, and 2nd Texas, under the command of Brigadier General John Creed Moore. William Robert was detached from his company and served as a wagoner for the battalion. Company G of the 40th Alabama served in the garrison of Vicksburg during the siege of that city. When Lt. General John C. Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to the army of U.S. Grant on Independence Day 1863, the men of the 40th Alabama, including Lancaster were captured. Lancaster was paroled on July 9, 1863 after signing an oath stating that he would not take up arms against the United States. Confederate service records list his status as absent without leave following his parole. It is possible that he honored his oath and returned home to Pickens County to rejoin his wife.
W.R. Lancaster Service Records
Records on the Alabama Civil War Service Database, however, indicate that Lancaster rejoined his regiment, serving thereafter in Company B (known as the “Pickens Planters”), after his parole and fought until the conclusion of the war. Also serving in the Pickens Planters company were a Joseph Lancaster and Eli J. Lancaster, likely relatives of William Robert Lancaster, and John William Sanders, William Robert Lancaster’s brother-in-law. If Lancaster served in Company B following his parole, he likely saw action at Mission Ridge, Lookout Mountain, the Atlanta campaign, Mobile and in North Carolina. The authority for this information comes from a personal statement from Lancaster in a 1907 tax assessment and from the 1921 census of Alabama confederate veterans. In the 1921 census, Lancaster states that he was wounded during the war. Notwithstanding the lack of service records backing up his claim, it is highly likely that Lancaster was telling the truth and served for the duration of the war. Circumstantial evidence supporting this claim is that Catherine Sanders did not have any children during the period beginning when her husband left for war and ending upon termination of the war. Robert Lee Lancaster, his eldest son, was born in April 1866. This supports the notion that Lancaster was away for the duration of the war.
At any rate, William Robert Lancaster survived the war and returned home to Pickens County, Alabama, where he lived until his late 80′s. He died on October 14, 1928. He and Catherine had nine children: Mary Francis, Robert Lee, James Lonnie, William Thomas, John Henry, Sallie C., James Ambus, Lona R. and E.P.
W.R. Lancaster Family Group Sheet