Andrew Johnson is a president who I first remember learning about in the fourth grade. I remember learning about him and trying to understand what impeachment is.
Andrew Johnson, like many of the other presidents is someone given to us by swirling, crazy circumstances. Abraham Lincoln choose him as his running mate largely as a gesture toward the south, a gesture of unity. Johnson, really, was the only southerner he could have chosen. Johnson remained a senator even after Tennessee seceded from the Union. Johnson did not believe that the states had the right to leave the union.
While Lincoln and Johnson had some things in common. Both were self-made men who rose out of less-than-ideal circumstances. Both of them lost parents at a young age. They were not really political allies. Lincoln was a Republican, Johnson a Democrat. Their allegiance came of difficult times, and things never really did look up from there.
When it came time for Andrew Johnson to be inaugurated as Vice President of the United States, he was sick. Long story short, he sought some relief in whiskey. After this, he needed to perform in a hot and overcrowded Senate chamber. His speech was less than stellar, and he had to surrender other duties to a clerk. No one would have done well under those circumstances. Unfortunately, this is one of the more vivid stories history leaves us about President Johnson.
His position as president was by no means enviable. He had to follow a martyr. He was to reconstruct a nation following a devastating war. He has a hostile congress to deal with. The tragedies of the Civil War era did not stop in 1965. History is not kind to Andrew Johnson whose circumstances were difficult from his humble beginnings to his end.
Tennessee did not only give us President Johnson, (and Jackson and Polk before him). Tennessee also brought us the Moon Pie. This treat was born in Chattanooga, long after President Johnson has left this earth. As a nod to Johnson’s home state, though, I wanted to play with the flavors of this other Tennessee creation. The Moon Pie consists of graham cracker cookies, a marshmallow layer and a flavored coating. This cupcake features a homemade marshmallow cream filling. However, a nod to Johnson’s whiskey inaugural speech, the marshmallow is spiked with Jack Daniels, a Tennessee whiskey. Graham cracker crumbs top the cupcake. Moon Pies and RC Cola became a regional treat in Tennessee, and this cupcake pays homage to that as well. The frosting is RC Cola flavored buttercream and there is a cola glaze on top of that frosting. Finally, one of Johnson’s favorite foods was the sweet potato, so the actual cake is sweet potato flavored.