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In the spring of 1861 he opened a general store in Shelbyville, Ill., where he was in business at the time he entered the service. He made his store a recruiting office, and soon led to the field Company G, of which he was chosen captain. Captain Espy's ability in the management of his company soon pointed him out as a suitable officer for staff duty, and he was detailed as brigade commissary of subsistence, in which capacity he was serving at the time of the battle of Chickamauga. Major George Hicks, of the 96th Illinois, in a letter to the New York Tribune soon after the battle, thus speaks of Captain Espy's conduct in the battle:
"Captain S. B. Espy, of General Whitaker's staff, was a very lion that day. He was advised to remain with his trains, but too noble spirited for that, he forthwith went on the field, and, fearless of danger, did wonders in cheering and rallying the men under the destructive fire of the enemy. He was one of Illinois' noble sons, and his loss is severely felt."
While thus gallantly discharging his duty, Captain Espy received his death wounds. It is probable that his body lies in the National Cemetery at Chattanooga, with thousands of others marked "unknown." Our country cannot do too much in honor of such heroes. He was the father of five children, the eldest of whom is the wife of Col. J. B. Morrison, of Fort Madison, Iowa. Two of his daughters, Florence Mercy and Georgiana, now reside with their mother at the same place.