HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION, THIRD CORPS,
Seminary, September 17, 1862
Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Defenses, &c.:
SIR: I have the honor to report the return of the party sent with flag of truce to recover the bodies of officers killed at Bristoe Station and Bull Run. The last party proceeded, without molestation or meeting with any of the Confederate forces, to the Bull Run battle-field, and succeeded in obtaining the bodies, or most of them. As they were about to return, a company of the Sixth Virginia Cavalry came to them, and, without interrupting them, spoke of the impropriety of an armed force escorting the flag, and that they would not have permitted it. The company was permitted to return.
The battle-field and vicinity had many stragglers upon it, and the dead of both sides were not buried. The stragglers, sick, wounded, were all going to Winchester, Va.
The flag of truce to Bristoe Station met a party of Confederates on the railroad, 3 1/2 miles this side of the station, beyond Manassas Station. The cavalry was the Thirteenth Virginia. Major W. H. Stewart was in command at Bristoe Station, and said it would take some three days to communicate with their general, and declined to receive the flag or to permit the officer to approach neared Bristoe Station. After the flag was dismissed, being detained three hours, the road from Bristoe Station to Fairfax was found picketed. Several spiked field pieces were seen this side of Bull Run, and matters very much in same state as after the battle. The force at Bristoe Station is thought to be small, perhaps a squadron of cavalry.
The main line of pickets seem to be from Warrenton, through White Plains, to Leesburg, and the parties near Centreville and Fairfax Court-House were scouting parties. I have received information of a rebel recruiting or cavalry guerrilla company between Fairfax and Centreville, and have ordered the cavalry's reconnaissance to capture the recruits and officer.
I think that valuable information will be obtained by this party, and would suggest the propriety of surprising the party at Bristoe Station by a raid of the cavalry sent out. I could order them to do so by an orderly.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
D. B. BIRNEY,
HEADQUARTERS DEFENSES SOUTH OF THE POTOMAC,
Arlington, September 18, 1862.
Respectfully forwarded [to General Banks].
Since I received the above I received your telegram 10.10 a. m. I do not think that anything can be done by a flag of truce, as the enemy will not receive it. The only way to accomplish the object will be to occupy Fairfax Court-House in force and push forward a strong armed party.
S. P. HEINTZELMAN,