The Year 1809 began with Napoleon’s departure from the Iberian Peninsula, to face the Austrian threat on the Danube. He left his brother, Joseph, in nominal command of his armies in Spain, as puppet king in Madrid. Fighting flared on several fronts simultaneously, and the French occupation had some successes, notably at the siege of Saragossa, concluded by Marshal Lannes just before his departure to join the Emperor.
In 1809 the French under Joseph nearly mastered the plains of Old and New Castile. However, the Napoleonic magic could not work at such distances (a dispatch sent from Vienna to Madrid, would travel 2,400 km in 12 to 14 days); when dispatches arrived they were often days or weeks out of date. A series of battles were fought during the course of the year along the approaches to Madrid from Portugal, where the future Duke of Wellington had just arrived with a small British Army to second the Spanish Army of Extremadura.